When you talk about Spain it's unthinkable not to make reference to one of its high quality products: Jamón Ibérico (bellota maximum quality). Characteristic of many regions of Spain, this delicacy has been the reference icon of this country for many years.
Obviously, there are many different kinds of Jamón Ibérico, and not all of them have the same quality. The nourishment of the pig is essential to define the status of the product. The texture, taste and strength are several signs of their place of origin.
The legend says that the Jamón Ibérico was born when a pig fell and drowned in a river with a high level of salt. That poor pig was found by a couple of shepherds that cooked it and they realized how tasty was this salty meat, especially the legs. Thereafter, when a pig was sacrificed, they covered the legs in salt to improve the taste that, eventually, the nature had shown to them.
Anyway, the reality is much different from this story The real origins of the Jamón Ibérico is the Roman empire, where they used to salt the meat to keep it conserved for a long time. The treatment given to the Jamón Ibérico by salting and curing process in the past appeared as a system to protect the good health of the people.
It was the need of preserving the meat which gave rise to the origin of the Jamón Ibérico we know today. Centuries later, the Jamón Ibérico became a high class product, since only the wealthy could afford its consumption.
Most of the growing places of Jamón Ibérico (bellota maximum quality) are located in the Salamanca, Andalucía and Extremadura regions where the vast meadows are ideal for raising this product. Certain areas were created by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, as appellations of origin.
This areas, often require several controls and Iberian pigs that respect an amount of rules, so the final product receives the corresponding quality label.
Each region has its own type of Jamón Ibérico with a special taste that helps to distinguish one type of product from another one. Of course, the nourishment of the pigs is determinant for the final taste as the acorns are not the same in the diferents regions of Spain.
"The nourishment of the pigs is determinant for the final taste"
Many products have the denomination of origin. This denomination awards the products that belong to it as premium quality products, delicacies that prove that the Jamón Ibérico is unique. These are some of the most known typical denomination of origin in Spain:
Jamón Ibérico "de Huelva"
Jamón Ibérico "Los Pedroches"
Jamón Ibérico "de Guijuelo"
Jamón Ibérico "de Extremadura"
Last year, the Council of Ministers of the Government of Spain, approved the new Quality Standard of the Jamón Ibérico. This new standard is used to make the difference based on the purity of the breed, how they have grown and the feed they receive.
"Jamón Ibérico means that the animal has 100% genetic purity"
100% Jamón Ibérico it's a distinction than means that they are from animals with 100% genetic purity of the Iberian breed, and whose parents have the same 100% Iberian racial purity. There are several types of Jamón Ibérico depending on the characteristics we talk about below.
"Jamón Raza Ibérica", minimum of 50% of Iberian race, is also a typical product from Spain. This kind of Jamón Ibérico must have at least 50% of the amount of the Iberian pig breed genetic percentage. The different distinctions showed above are also available for this kind of product as well.
In the South of Spain, men have shaped the natural forest to exploit mainly to livestock. After many centuries of intervention, man and nature have created an ecosystem where trees (oaks mainly) and grazing areas, get distributed resources. We refer to the vast meadows where the premium quality pigs are fed.
In this regions there are no real pig farms. The pigs are grown in the pastures in semi freedom. The production method respects the environment and has generated synergies between industry and forest conservation legacy.
The raising of the animals is not only respectful with the tradition and taste, but also with the environment. This process assures an awesome taste and the best texture and quality of the products belonging to Spain and its typical ham raising regions.