La Dehesa de Extremadura: birthplace of Iberian Bellota ham

La Dehesa de Extremadura: birthplace of Iberian Bellota ham

With an area of 2.2 million hectares, the Dehesa de Extremadura is a unique ecosystem for the breeding of the Iberian pig and one of the most unique in the Iberian Peninsula. It constitutes the largest European region of this type of clear holm oak and cork oak forest derived from human activity as it gains ground to the forest for its pastures.

The climate and the characteristics of the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz are enviable for the Iberian pig farms, which makes many consider Extremadura as “the paradise of the Iberian pig”. The Romans living near the Vía de la Plata already used the pasture of Extremadura for the grazing of Iberian pigs, being expert curators of hams and Iberian pork derivatives.

The entire region of Extremadura is full of pastures where pigs can graze and feed in a unique environment. The fields of Extremadura are populated by oaks, oaks and olive trees and have a rich flora composed of rockrose, rosemary and wild herbs such as thyme, which contributes to the good nutrition of the Iberian acorn-fed pig. This rich and balanced diet makes the ham obtain the organoleptic properties so characteristic of Iberian Bellota ham.

The Iberian pig feeds mainly on this fruit, although they complete their diet with the grass and even wild legumes. In the montanera phase, they replace more than 60% of their weight from this feeding.

The production and elaboration of hams, shoulders and other Iberian pork derivatives in Extremadura is done in a traditional way. Besides the feeding of the pigs, all the phases of the production of the ham are covered by a strict quality control, which also ensures that the pieces have a minimum time of curing in the cellar, of 20 months for hams and 12 months for the pallets

In 1990, the Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin “Dehesa de Extremadura” was constituted, receiving in 1996 the qualification of the European Union of Protected Designation of Origin. The products of the D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura are classified according to the breed and feeding of the pig. Thus you can find 100% Iberian pigs or Iberian pigs, which are those animals crossed but have at least 75% of Iberian breed.

More than 50% of the production of Iberian Bellota hams and Iberian Bellota shoulders come from Dehesas of Extremadura.

According to feeding criteria, hams and Iberian pigs from Dehesa de Extremadura can be acorn-fed, when the animals have been fed free of acorns and herbs, or field bait when the pigs have been fed freely with grass and also with a food supplement in the form of feed.

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