Jamon: Shoulder -v- Hind Leg

There are a vast number of different types of Spanish Jamon.  The main things which set the different varieties apart are:

  1. The area of Spain from which they are sourced
  2. The breed of the pigs
  3. The diet of the pigs and how they were cured
  4. Whether the Jamon is from the smaller shoulder (paleta) or the larger hind leg

This article spells out the differences between Jamon sourced from the shoulder versus the rump.

NB: Below we assume that “all other things are equal”  – ie we are comparing cured meats which are both “Ibérico de Bellota”, from the same producer and breed.  The Iberian pig from Beher which Spanish Deli sells is an animal adapted to the “Dehesa” – the Mediterranean forests populated by oaks and cork trees which has been cured using the best, traditional methods.

So what’s the difference?

The most debated theme amongst Jamon connoisseurs is the flavour.  Some say it is very similar between the front and hind legs, as they have undergone the same processes of ham-making.  The come from the same pig, are fed the same acorn-rich diet and are cured in the same facilities after all!  It really is a matter of opinion, but more specifically, the paleta usually has a little more outer fat and the taste a is little more stronger and distinct.

Basically, the shoulder is much smaller than the hind leg.  In Spanish, a shoulder of Jamon is specifically referred to as a paleta or paletilla; and  the big leg, sometimes known as whole, full or hind leg, and in Spain known as the jamón.

Hind legs of jamón typically weigh between 7kg and yield around 3.5kg of succulent meat once deboned.  Their smaller brothers, the paletas, weigh 4-5kg and yield around 2.5kg of meat.

For most quadrupeds, the hind legs are where the power is located which means you have lots of big, well-worked muscles there.

The smaller shoulders of jamon require less time to cure as they are smaller:

Gold Label Shoulder:  32-36 months curing
Gold Label Hind Leg:  30-44 months curing
Black Label Shoulder:  24-36 months curing
Black Label Hind Leg:  32-36 months curing

A shoulder is cheaper than a hind leg since there has been less time curing and care-taking the product and it has a little more fat content.

To ensure Spanish Deli offers the best Jamon Iberico de Bellota available, we only stock the Gold label paletas, which works out to be a similar price as the larger Black Label hind legs.  The Gold Label is the highest quality Jamon produced by Beher, with the Black label being the 2nd best.  These have both been raised on an acorn-rich diet and have been cured for the up to 3 years.

A quality shoulder of Jamon is a smaller, entry point to the world of Jamon, ideal for smaller families or special occasions.

Spanish Deli only sells the best boneless jamons and paletas, produced by Beher in Salamanca, Spain.