From Jamones y Embutidos Artesanos we want to show you what are those typical white spots that appear in the best Iberian Hams. There are many myths about the typical white spots that can be found in the cut of the ham, since it is an indication that the pig has eaten acorns, until the pig have stress, … neither the one nor the other. These white spots, are tyrosine crystals that are formed during the maturation of the ham, indicative of maximum quality due to the long healing process of the same. Tyrosine is one of the amino acids that are part of the proteins and therefore present in the meat of the Iberian pig.
During the healing phase of the ham, the enzymes with proteolytic capacity break the proteins, obtaining peptides (union of two amino acids, and free amino acids.
One of the properties of tyrosine is its low solubility, so when the water of the ham tends to be lost, the tyrosine regroups forming the white crystals present in the hams of good quality. Hence, the maturation time is so important in these products.
These tyrosine crystals are perfectly edible, they do not suppose any sanitary problem.
To finalize, the appearance of tyrosine crystals in Iberian ham, as well as some sausages and cured cheeses, is simply the result of a series of natural chemical processes that happen inside the piece and that are capable of transforming a meat raw in one of the most exquisite products of our Spanish gastronomy.