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• from a breed of pig with a very unusual metabolism : the Iberian • plus a special kind of feel: bellotas (acorns) • followed by long, natural curing
The famous Iberian pig, commonly known as the «pata negra», is the last in the line of the Mediterranean strain, fully adapted to its environment and capable of fasting during the scorching hot summers when no food is available. In response to these harsh conditions, the breed has developed an unrivalled capacity to store fat that is laid down as a delicate marbling in the meat.
This is dictated by the seasons and the Iberian pig has learned how to thrive on it. The pig’s natural habitat is the dehesa, a Mediterranean style forest made up primaily og holm oaks; acorns form on the trees during the spring, ripen over the summer and fall to the ground in autumn. This is the manna from heaven for the Iberian pigs, which have spent the summer fasting: the pigs cannot get enough of the bellotas, the Spanish name for these acorns. In a fattening period (known as the montanera) lasting just two or three months, the finest specimens will have wolfed down anything up to 800 kg of bellotas and increased in weight from an average of around 100 kg at the start of the montanera to 170 kg, on this diet alone.
Production and curing
In the end, Jamón ibérico comes down to just three ingredients: ham, salt and time! After the equivalent of one day’s salting per kilo (so around 10 to 12 days), then around three months of post-salting in temperature and hygrometry controlled store, the finest Iberian hams will continue curing by wholly natural processes, first in driers and then in underground cellars, for over 40 and sometimes even over 50 months.
Such, at least, is the theory...
In practice, it turns out to be a little more complicated than that. First you have to track down «the finest Iberico hams», and only the finest! Then, once this «heritage product of world gastronomy» is before you, how do you slice, store or recommend it, when it is so rich, so expensive and yet still called ham? Because we have devoted all our attentions to this amazing product for over 20 years, because we work with it every day through 10 sales and tasting outlets, we are in the ideal position to provide answers to all these questions.
We’d like to share our knowledge with you, so here is the lowdown on how exactly «Bellota-Bellota® starts where other iberian pigs stop».