Iberian pigs, black in colour, come from a long line of pigs going back to wild boars imported by the Phoenicians. Today, there are dozens of varieties scattered throughout the peninsula. In Spain, there are 5 main designations of origin for ham and Iberian cured meats, of which Denominación de Origen (D.O.) " is particularly special Jamón de Jabugo".
Cured meats, indicated below, come from the DO of Jabugo and Los Pedroches. The area of the denomination extends into the Natural Park of the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche, near the town of Jabugo. The climate is ideal for curing, since the summer is dry but not too hot and the winter is mild with moist and salty air coming from the Atlantic Ocean, 100km further south.
What is Jabugo ham?
Jabugo is a village in Andalusia, in the heart of the Sierra de Aracena in the province of Huelva. It has given its name to one of the 4 designations of Iberian ham. Today it is a protected and controlled quality label that groups together breeders and producers in 31 municipalities where the best hams in Spain come from.
Iberian acorn ham - Jamón ibérico de bellota
This is a product par excellence, also called Pata Negra, recognised as one of the best hams in the world by the most prestigious gourmets. These are hams that come only from free-range Iberian pigs, raised in the "Dehesa" (meadow) and fed exclusively acorns and natural herbs during the fattening period.
The hams are prepared slowly and traditionally, with a curing process in unique conditions - in the microclimate of the Sierra de Huelva. Fully controlled by the Denominación de Origen, all hams are numbered and certified.
Iberian acorn ham Denominación SUMMUM
As the name suggests, "Summum" ham represents the highest level of hams called Pata Negra. Coming only from Iberian pigs, raised in freedom in the Dehesa and fed exclusively acorns and natural herbs during the fattening period, they are chosen from each producer's hams. Each year, the Jabugo Denominación de Origen awards a fixed number of pieces to the best producers. In 2013, only 20,000 pieces were prepared in the dryers and were awarded this label.
Iberian acorn paleta
The paleta is the front end of the pig, prepared and cured in the same way as the ham. This way of preparing the meat is very rarely used for white pigs, as there is a difference in size and weight. A paleta does not exceed 6 kilos, while a ham can reach 10 kilos. The paleta is a classic of Spanish cured meats. It is made exclusively from Iberian pigs raised in the open air and in total freedom. It is drier and a little less fatty than Iberian acorn ham.
Iberian cereal ham
This is ham made only from Iberian pigs (black pigs), raised in freedom in the Dehesa, but whose food, in addition to acorns, consists of cereals and legumes. In fact, the category of "acorn" is attributed according to the number of pigs per hectare established by regulation (up to one hectare per pig for some ranchers), since there are not enough oaks with enough acorns.
Iberian cereal paleta
Paletas made from Iberian pigs, raised in freedom in the Dehesa, but whose food, along with acorns, is based on cereals and legumes. Pieces between 4 and 6 kilos. This is lower quality than that of the Iberian acorn paleta.
Iberian acorn tenderloin
Acorn tenderloin is shaped like a sausage, but it is made from a particular piece of the Iberian pig, called the "Presa". It is a cut of meat located near the paleta which is seasoned with spices before being stuffed into gut casings and cured. The tenderloins come from Iberian acorn-fed pigs.
Iberian acorn loin
Acorn loin is made from the back of the Iberian pig, as its name indicates. Larger than the tenderloin, this cut of meat is also seasoned with spices before being stuffed into gut casings and cured. It is made from Iberian acorn-fed pigs. It is one of the star products of Andalusian tapas bars.
Iberian dry salchichón is made from lean meat from Iberian pigs. It is seasoned with salt and sometimes with some spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves or coriander.
Iberian chorizo is made exclusively from Iberian pigs. It is shaped like a sausage of 50 to 60cm in length. Naturally cured and lightly smoked. It consists of 80% meat and 20% fat. Each producer has their own recipe, but in general, salt, paprika, garlic, oregano and white wine are added. Red paprika is the spice that gives the chorizo its reddish color.
Loin morcón is a specialty of the Sierra de Jabugo. It is made from lean meats like the loin, which are seasoned before the curing process. It is the shape of a sausage of diameter 10 to 12cm.
Things to know
With the 2014 law on the standard of quality of Iberian products, the term "Pata Negra" cannot appear on the labels of 100% Iberian acorn ham. Also, the term "de recebo" (cereal-fed) has been replaced with the terms "de cebo de campo ibérico" and "cebo ibérico". For more information, see the GourMag article on the 2014 quality standard.