History of Iberian Ham

History of Spanish Ham

Data on cured hams in China are known during the Sung dynasty (year 960-1279). A time in which economic and cultural development, astronomy, science, technology and printing were promoted. And as they were so clever … they cured the ham with a technology kept in great secrecy.
The use of salt in conservation is earlier than 5,000 years of Chinese written history. Around 2,700 years before Christ, the earliest writings known in pharmacy, Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, were already talking about more than 40 kinds of salt.

In addition there are also data on the use of salt and salting technology in Egyptian culture and imported into ancient Greece. From here it passed to the Italian Peninsula, where Etrusca was used to increase its use, proof of this is the discovery in an archaeological excavations corresponding to the fifth century BC where were found about 50000 remains of animals of which approximately 30,000 corresponded to The hind legs of the pig. Porcine cattle in the north of the Italian peninsula weigh heavily, and written references already mention pork salted pigs in the second century BC. The historian and geographer Strabo (64 BCE – AD 24) documents the large number of pigs for feeding the army of the Roman Empire. As are the praises of the poet Marco Valerio Marcial for the hams cured of Sardinia or as the historian Polybius speaks of the exquisite hams of the Cisalpine Gaul.

Of how it was elaborated, we have literary sources; The Cadmium Columela, in the first century describes the process of elaboration when he explains how to prepare the pork in salting, in addition to talking about food based on different varieties of acorns. It basically consisted of cleaning and cutting it, placing it in a ceramic container or amphoras, on successive layers of salt “cooked and slightly fragmented”, covering them completely, placing a weight on top, covering it and leaving it in brine, and in this way Could consume over time.

Salt was an international currency used to trade, even as a complement to the salary of Roman soldiers (salarium argentum). It was traditionally expensive, so it was used to distinguish social levels. Would all Ham eat?

Iberian Peninsula

And we arrived in the Iberian Peninsula where there are cave paintings and sculptures from the prehistoric period, with representations of the pig. Possibly there already existed some system of craftsmanship to heal and salar the meat.

In the Iberian Peninsula, it was much appreciated as a food in Hispania Visigoda (mid-fifth and early eighth century) and later in the Christian kingdoms, whose borders move to the Peninsular South (XII and XIII centuries) increasing pigs By the extension and forests of the Extremadura dehesas.

In the fourteenth century mention is made in the Castilian literature of Hispanic ham and in the seventeenth century appear in writings of Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Gongora, etc. From the middle of the eighteenth century the ham of Spain has had an international recognition. And from the end of the nineteenth century the search for selected breeds begins. The concern for the conservation and differentiation of races in Spain is a phenomenon that, with few exceptions, has developed throughout the twentieth century, mainly from the second half of the same. For this reason, the written ethnological references on Iberian porcine animals prior to this century are not abundant.

And we reached the twenty-first century, with so much history … Who says that a ham dish is expensive?


Our ancestors could not get up in the morning every day with the unconcern of having the food on the table. Maybe in the summer they could sometimes afford that luxury, but during the raw winter things were very different, especially during the glaciation. As important as looking for food is to know how to preserve it for worse times and to be able to live until spring. If everything went well during the summer-autumn and enough reserves have accumulated, they certainly would have risen with the certainty that they would have a good roast that day.

It is not known when food was stored and stored in order to be eaten without spoiling. Although the hunter-gatherers moved for food and better shelters, the truly pressing need began during the Neolithic period. From this time, the increase in population forced the use of agriculture and livestock as the support of societies, which had to store large quantities of food for times of scarcity. The surpluses of good harvests were exchanged with other products of distant peoples, with trade becoming increasingly important.

The drying was done outdoors, in the sun or in a closed place under the action of the sun. In the Arctic regions of America the drying of the meat of cervix was realized and soon it was reduced to dust. Fish were also dried in many regions. The cereals also have to be dried, as well as many other plants, leaving them outdoors.

Smoke, of all kinds of animals, has not been as frequent as drying. The areas where most have been carried out are in Europe, North America and Polynesia. It consists of placing the remains of the animals under a bonfire that gives off a lot of smoke. And, finally, the salty one, was very restricted to the coastal zones or places where salt deposits existed.


On the other hand, containers are very important to conserve food. The granaries appeared during the Neolithic period and consisted, as you know, in an isolated and independent construction. Silos were performed at or below ground level and were impenetrable to rodents and insects. In prehistoric Egypt they were already used. The bottoms of some caves, where it was colder, were also used, as well as pits dug into the ground and then covered with stones to protect them from animals. Drying the meat and plants outdoors fastened to posts was the most frequent. Also the recipients of daily life were extremely important, so many permeable (baskets, boxes, coffers …), as waterproof. In the latter, the invention of pottery was basic, but leather or wood was used earlier to make containers that withstand liquids.