Did you know that just a few gens separate humans from pigs? (in some cases, even less! lol!). Yes, we're that much similar. Our bone structure is almost identical, so our arms (the shoulder, or Paleta in "pig terms") are thinner, less muscled and with larger bones than our legs (or ham -jamon-, referred to pig).
Since shoulder/paleta is thinner, it's also lighter than ham and it'll cure faster: that makes the price be much lower than jamon's, of course. But there is a fact that helps maintain that price point: the yield of Paleta is much lower than ham's, so you'll pay less, but will eat less also.
While the yield of ham is around 55% (what you eat Vs what you dont), in case of the Paleta this % goes down to 40% . Having said that, remember that we should maximize the use of your ham/shoulder: render the fat and cook with it, and make soups/stocks with the bone.
So, when should I get jamon and when should I get shoulder?
Well, to be honest, my advice is: as long as your budget allows you to get ham/jamon, go for it! Jamon is the jewel of the Spanish cuisine for a reason, easier to carve and since it's larger and has more fat, it lasts longer. We offer a wide variety of hams on https://www.lajamoteca.com/collections/ham-jamon
Now, if you're not an avid jamon eater or are afraid to invest a little more in a ham, Paleta/shoulder is your safest bet (in fact, I take paleta home, rarely jamon, since I live by myself and a ham would last me for ages!). Find different qualities and prices here: https://www.lajamoteca.com/collections/shoulder-paleta
But...is there any difference in terms of quality?
When the pig is 100% iberico, it's from the nose to the tail. When it feasts on acorns, all those healthy acids from the acorn diet distributes equally all around the body, so in terms of taste or quality, when it's carved properly, there is not a huge difference between jamon and paleta.
And in terms of carving and the way to preserve it?
Also the same but, in the case of paleta, keep in mind that you'll have to carve around the scapula bone, making the carving more challenging.
To preserve them, use the same technique for both: place them in a dry and cool place, keep it moisture with its own fat and never place clothes, towels or anything alike that your friend from Spain tells you directly on the meat.
Check the 10 basic rules when carving jamon or paleta in a previous post "https://www.lajamoteca.com/blogs/news/10-commandments-when-carving-spanish-ham"
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