- What are the production areas of the Iberian pig?
There are 4 production areas of the Iberian pig, each of them protected under a Denomination of Origin, being these the only ones recognized in the world. The Iberian term refers to a product quality that can be found in these areas:
D.O. Iberian Ham Dehesa de Extremadura. Pigs raised and fed in the dehesas of cork oaks and oaks of Extremadura. Extremadura groups around 65% of the acorn-fed Iberian pig hut.
D.O. Iberian Ham of Huelva. Pigs raised and fed in the Sierra de Huelva, in the towns of Aracena, Cortegana, Cumbres Mayores, Jabugo, etc ...
D.O. Iberian Ham The Pedroches. Pigs raised and fed in the province of Córdoba, in the towns of Pedroche, Biélmez, Dos Torres, Espiel, etc.
D.O. Iberian Ham Guijuelo ham Pigs raised and fed in the foothills of the mountains of Gredos and Béjar and accepts pigs from other regions.
Appellations of origin are legally protected by European Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of the Council of the European Union.
- What are the differences between Serrano ham and Iberian ham?
The Serrano ham is the leg of the white pig, fed exclusively with fodder on a farm. The Iberian ham proceeds at least 50% of the Iberian pig, being able to become 100% Iberian. Its feeding and aging can be both intensive and extensive, in the latter case based on the acorn in the montanera phase giving rise to the excellent Iberian ham.
- How to correctly use the term Pata Negra ham?
Since 2014, the Quality Regulation of the Iberian Pig has ordered the use of the term "ham / shoulder Pata Negra", recognizing its commercial link to the highest quality and restricting its use only for 100% acorn-fed Iberian ham. Previously it was called black leg to any ham or shoulder, regardless of its racial or alimentary purity, whether or not 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham or 100% Iberian acorn-fed shoulder.
- What is the food of the pig to obtain the Iberian ham of Bellota?
The pig needs to develop cereals that contribute to its normal growth. When its weight is between 80 and 105 kilos begins its montanera phase, pasturing in the pasture, where it will replenish about 60% of its weight with acorns and herbs.
- What is montanera?
The montanera is the last phase of the Iberian acorn pig breeding and consists of letting it graze in the pasture, where the traditional fattening takes place between forests of cork oaks and holm oaks, being its fruit, the acorn, the fundamental food.
The montanera phase goes from October to March, coinciding with the period of maturation of the acorn. The animals enter this stage with about 90 kilograms of weight and can end up finishing it with more than 160, in years of a good acorn campaign.
In the montanera Iberian pig lives in freedom in this space and remains in motion, which is at the basis of the quality of their meats and Iberian ham. During the montanera each pig requires more than two hectares of dehesa. The acorn, due to its high content of carbohydrates, provides energy to the animal, and will become the famous fat that together with the herbs add the peculiar perfume of all the Iberian pork products, especially the Iberian ham of Bellota.
- How much time does it pass since the pig is born until the Iberian ham is cured?
The time that elapses since the pig is born until the Iberian ham is cured is directly related to the food it receives, therefore each of the 4 qualities recognized in the Iberian Standard and found in the Iberian ham market and The Iberian palette are:
Black label (100% Iberian acorn-fed ham): 4.5 - 6 years.
Red label (Ham of acorn 50% / 75% Iberian): 4,5 - 6 years.
Green label (Ham of field bait 50% / 75% Iberian): 3 - 3.5 years.
White label (50% / 75% Iberian bait ham): 3 - 3.5 years.
- How much bone and how much fat does a ham and a shoulder have?
Between 45% and 52% (ham or hind leg) and 45% and 60% (shoulder or front leg) of the weight of a ham, is bone and fat.
An excess of fat in Iberian ham should not make you suspect in any case of its quality. The pig, being a monogastric animal, does not transform fats, so the fat coming from the acorn is accumulated in the piece. This fat is the one that with the processes suffered during the maturation in the cellar will give the characteristic and unique flavour of an Iberian ham of Bellota.
- What are the white dots that appear in the ham?
They are crystallizations formed mainly by an amino acid called tyrosine, which appear during the degradation of proteins. They are not harmful at all, on the contrary, they are proof of optimum curing and ripening, as well as a fair point of salt. In no case are they a reason for returning the product.
- Does ham and shoulder taste the same?
Each of the parts of the Iberian pig tastes different and therefore the shoulder tastes different from the ham, but just as the loin tastes different from the loin. The shoulder has more intramuscular fat and less subcutaneous fat than ham, which together with a different healing process gives rise to a different flavour.
- The curing of the ham and the shoulder in the cellar
Each piece of ham needs a different healing time depending on its breed, diet and weight, but also on the location it has had in the dryer or cellar. The essentials are not the months of healing, but the healing is optimal for that piece. An Iberian ham requires an average of 42 months to be cured compared to 26 for a bacon ham. A Serrano ham will require an average of 14 months of healing. The smaller hams and shoulders will take less than the larger ones to reach their optimum cure point.
- How should the ham be kept at home?
The whole ham or shoulder can be kept at room temperature, without exposing them to extreme temperatures, in a ventilated and dry place and away from intense odors. The cut area should be covered with the skin and the outer fat of the ham itself to prevent it from drying out and losing its aroma and flavor. Sliced ham or shoulder should be kept in the refrigerator. The ham and the shoulder should be consumed at room temperature. Remember to take the sliced from the refrigerator twenty minutes before consumption to avoid serving cold. You can also temper them using hot water and aerate them before consumption.
- What do I do if my ham gets mold?
Molds and yeasts develop naturally in the ham during its process of curing in the cellar. To remove the excess, it is sufficient to apply new seed oil (never used or olive) with a cloth on the surface of the bark.
- How to distinguish an Iberian Bellota ham?
Through the seal of guarantee, it is compulsory in the Iberian pieces, according to the norm of the Iberian pig. An Iberian acorn ham stands out for its flavour. Outwardly it is difficult to know if the pig has fed in its last phase only with acorns and herbs or if it has been supplemented with feed, although we can recognize:
- The tip grease is shiny and malleable, to the point that it allows introducing the finger. The fat of the bacon ham is much stronger, stiffer and more resistant.
- The ham is elongated, about 90 cm.
- The cane (ankle) is very narrow.
- The hoof is usually black, although 50% Iberian pigs also have it. Some Iberian hams have a striped hoof, but they are very unusual.
- How is an Iberian Bellota ham different from an Iberian Cebo ham?
The difference between both is the feeding. The breed is the same, Iberian pig 50%, 75%, 100%. The Iberian acorn-fed pig is fed in its montanera phase with acorns and natural herbs. The Iberian Cebo and field pig feeds on cereals, legumes and herbs.