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Iberian Ham: The Crown of Spanish Iberian Charcuterie

Mar 13th 2014 at 5:14 AM

Jamón ibérico is one of the best ham products around the world. Prepared with time-tested curing processes, the taste of Iberian ham defines the country’s charcuterie, the embutido ibérico. Just one slice of this acorn-rich ham will take you into a savory dream world, something that only a few other food items in the world can offer.

A Word about Spanish Ham
Being the largest jamón ibérico producing region in the world, Spain produces an unmatched 40 million hams every year. One of the premier varieties is the jamón Serrano, which is produced from the dry-cured legs of the white pig mostly found in eastern Spain, particularly in areas like Trevelez and Teruel.

However, the finest jamón ( without a doubt comes from black pig primarily found in the west around regions like Andalucía, Salamanca, Extremadura, and even near the border with Portugal. This area has an abundance of the ‘Dehesa’, which are grazing lands. Once these covered the whole of Spain but now, they only remain in the areas mentioned above.

These grazing lands feed the Iberian pigs, who especially consume the sweet ‘bellota’ acorns that fall from the encina trees. These pigs are known by different names, such as ‘porco de raça Alentejan’ in Portugal, while at home they are known as ‘pata negra’ owing to their distinct black hooves.

More on the Iberian Pig’s Diet
When they are piglets, the pata negra are fed a diet of cereals and acorns till the age of 18 months. It is then that they are left to graze in the Dehesa. This period is known as the montanera and it falls between October and January. This is the time when acorns are falling from oak trees, and the pigs eat them till they are fattened and reach a weight of 160kg. This weight has to be regulated if the meat of the pig is to be sold as jamón ibérico de bellota (more on this below). Their weight and body size allows the Iberian pig to be cured for a period of almost 5 years.

Regulating Jamón Production
The production of jamón ibérico is strictly regulated, perhaps more than any other pork product in the world, by the Denomination of Origin (DO). The DO covers 4 regions:

  • Salamanca and Guijuelo in the north
  • Huelva and Jabugo in the west
  • The Valle de Los Pedroches in the east
  • Andalucía, which borders Portugal

The regulations specify, for instance, that there should be no more than 2 pigs per hectare of land to control each pig’s diet, which should be between 6 and 7kg of acorns a day.

Note: Even though each region will call its ham quality the best, it is more or the less the same throughout the country owing to uniform regulation.

Suffice to say, jamón ibérico is the best pork out there. If you haven’t tried it out, you are truly missing out one of the finest eating experiences. Visit to place your order!

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