Serano ham or serrano ham?
In many English-speaking countries it is common for consumers to write “serano ham” with a single “r” when referring to the most famous Spanish cured ham, instead of “Serrano ham”, which is the correct spelling. This is because, unlike Spanish, it is not common for English nouns to be spelled with a double “r” (although it is used in some verb tenses).
The correct way to write the name of the most famous Spanish ham is “Serrano ham” with a double “r” rather than “serano ham” with only one “r”. But where does the word “Serrano” come from?
Origin of the words sierra and serrano
Etymologically, Serrano comes from the word “sierra”, which comes from the Latin “serra”, which in the beginning did not refer to the Serrano ham itself but rather to a cutting tool with triangular spikes. Later, as it evolved into late Latin it was also used to describe the small triangular-shaped mountain chains, similar to the peaks of the cutting instrument, as the word appears in the “Cantar del Mío Cid” composed at the end of the 12th century.
From there, “Serrano” also transitioned from an adjective to a noun, initially associated with the shepherds who lived in the mountains south of Avila and Salamanca in the area now known as Batuercas and Sierra de Gredos. They were the “Serranos” who came down from the mountains with their herds, similar to the French “gavaches” who came down from the areas in the Pyrenees where the “gaves” or torrents were located.
Serrano, cold air and cured ham
In Spanish, the word “Serrano” came to describe anything and everything related to mountains, especially the weather, the air and the cold, so important in the process of curing Spanish ham, which requires fresh air and cool temperatures. Indeed, Serrano ham is cured with the passage of time and exposure to fresh air. The natural curing process is what gives the cured ham its aroma, flavour and organoleptic qualities.
This cold, dry climate is one of the keys to producing our cured ham, the Spanish ham known around the word, Serrano ham with a double “r”, which explains why “serano ham” is not the right way to spell the name of this famous delicacy.