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Jamon Iberico: The Journey from the Fields to Your Plate

Mar 6th 2014 at 5:28 AM

The Jamon Iberico almost has a cult like following around the world, in particular Spain, thanks to its soft texture, rich taste and melting in mouth qualities. While other varieties of pork such as Serrano may cost as little as under $10 per pound, the Iberico can cost more than $50 per lb. Why the exclusivity and hike in price? Well, in order to fully appreciate the Jamon Iberico variety, you need to understand the extensive regulation and steps that go into the production of one of the tastiest meats on the planet.

The Prerequisites

Though the Jamon Iberico is available in other parts of the world, including Portugal, we would be focusing on Spain since it is the most well known and highly reputed producer of the particular variety. The Spanish government heavily regulates the production of Iberico pork due to the cultural significance it boasts.

In order to legally be classified and sold as Jamon Iberico, the source must come from these 4 areas; Dehesa de Extremadura, Guijuelo, Jabugo and Jamón los Pedroches. The pig must be at least 80% Iberico purebred.

There’s a common misconception that the Iberico is identified by the black hooves, which is why they are also referred to as the Pata Negra. While a majority of Iberico pigs do contain black hooves, it is not compulsory that all Iberico breeds may have these.

Another commonly unknown fact is that the Jamon Iberico doesn’t come from the whole pig; it is cut only from the hind leg.


The pigs are allowed to roam freely into vast fields along the lines of the above mentioned areas. However, their growing method, diet and surroundings also divide them into two classifications; the Recebo and the Bellota

Difference between Jamon Iberico de Recebo and de Bellota

The Bellota and Recebo are the two classifications of Iberico ( The former is the rarer and more revered out of the two; while the Iberico constitutes to just under 6% of the total pork production in Spain, the Iberico de Bellota constituents just 10% of the Iberico production, which means around 0.6% of the total pork available!

While the Recebo are fed on acorns for the beginning of their lives, being fed with fodder for the rest of the time, the de Bellota are given dedicated wide fields of pasture to graze on, constantly being fed on acorns. This accounts for a nutty flavor in the Bellota, along with a surge in price for their production.

Curing and Drying

Before curing, the pork is salted in sea salt. Curing takes place, after which the pork is washed and hung for more than 18 months. The drying period depends on the quality of the Iberico in question. During the period, golden moulds tend to form around the meat, which are then trimmed down to avoid a rancid taste. The Jamon also reduces significantly in weight due to the loss of fat before they are served on your plate.

To enjoy a slice of these wonderful delicacies from heaven, visit

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