Ham from its origins to the present day

The word ham comes from the French jambon, meat from the back leg of the pig, also called haunch or hind leg, salted raw and cured naturally, has been consumed since ancient times in many European countries. The front legs of the pig are also cured, after an identical production process, but are called shoulder or shoulder. 

Among the varieties of ham at the international level, those produced in Spain and Italy, where it is called prosciutto, stand out, although there are many others.

Ham, and consequently pork, has been part of the human diet since ancient times. The pig became the mainstay of the diet, as a large number of essential foodstuffs for human beings were derived from the production of its meat, due to its vitamin and protein content.

Ham and other pork products obtained from the pig became a currency of exchange thanks to their nutritional importance, and hams from the Iberian Peninsula traveled to the best tables in Greece and Rome, whose owners paid astronomical amounts to consume the best pieces.

From Roman times to the present day, hams have been among the most popular products used in Spanish kitchens. In times of famine and scarcity, only the feudal lords could afford the luxury of consuming hams and this fact turned the hams into a symbol of nobility and lordship. However, the slaughter of pigs remained in the hands of the common people, who turned it into a rite of abundance.

The Greeks and the origin of ham

The consumption of ham, as mentioned above, dates back several centuries, but the lack of documents prevents the exact chronology of its production and consumption. The Académie Culinaire de France, founded by Joseph Favre in 1883, attributes the origin of ham to the French, as it has been demonstrated that hams imported from Gaul were sold in Rome. In Gaul Comata or Melenuda, as comma in Latin means hair or mane, so called because of the long hair worn by its inhabitants, a territory that extended over part of present-day France and Belgium, there were large pastures of holm oaks and the Gauls or Celts of that region raised semi-wild pigs in them to obtain hams after a salting and smoking process. 

Once the hams were cured, they were smeared with oil to prevent them from being parasitized and exported to Rome. However, ham curing was also practiced by the Iberians in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, especially by the Ceretans in the Pyrenees area, whose main town was Julia Libyca and whose hams were more appreciated by the Romans than those produced in Galia Comata. However, according to several documents, many centuries before the Gauls and the Ceretans, the Greeks were already salting pork legs.