An introduction to the Iberian Pig and our exquisite Jamón Bellota

Posted on 12th February 2015 by serranomanchegoadmin

The iberian pig is one extraordinary pig not to be confused with the mass produced pig of the supermarkets. The origin of the Ibérico pig goes back millennia, even to the time of the cavemen who decorated the caves of Spain with their art. These are the original swine of Spain, tamed over the centuries. Only in the last couple of hundred years have the pink pigs of our imagination invaded their territory. The Ibérico hog is big, with slender legs and a very long snout. Ibérico pigs are black, with very little hair. They have black hooves as well, which is the source of the phrase “pata negra” which describes the black hoof that remains on the ham throughout the curing process and distinguishes it from a Serrano ham. They are also much fatter animals with veins of fat running through the muscle of the pig. This, along with the large amount of fat layering each ham, allows the Ibérico hams to be cured much longer, resulting in a much more complex, intense flavor, with a note of sweetness that is unparalleled.

Here we must make a very important point – not all Ibérico pigs win the Jamón Ibérico lottery and live free in the Spanish countryside. Most Jamón Ibérico is made from Ibérico pigs who live normal pig lives eating corn and other feed. It is still an excellent ham, benefiting from the noble lineage of the Ibérico pig. But for the ultimate ham, you must add ‘bellota’, or acorns. As an indication of the difference, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota can cost twice as much as a normal Ibérico ham. So note well the difference between the two main types of Ibérico ham: there is Jamón Ibérico , and then there is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, or acorn fed. If they are lucky enough to be destined for Bellota status, the Ibérico pigs finish their lives on the dehesa (more on this later), in small family clans, until their day of “sacrifice” arrives. The favorite pastime of Ibérico hogs is rooting around the pastures in the dehesa, foraging for acorns as well as herbs and grasses. All this running around feasting, especially during the acorn season, does more than make for a well rounded, happy pig. It makes for exquisitely marbled raw material, packed with natural antioxidants – a key ingredient for extended curing of the ham (more about this in the next blog)

The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least twelve months, although some producers cure their jamones ibéricos for up to 36 months.

Next blog we write about the health benefits of Iberico Bellota🙂

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