DIFFERENCES IN HAM ACCORDING TO THE IBERIAN PIG´S DIET
The hams are labeled according to the pigs’ diet, with an acorn diet being
1. The finest Iberian ham is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn).
This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called la
dehesa) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only
acorns during this last period. It is also known as “Jamón Iberico de
Montanera”. The exercise and the diet have a significant impact on
the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months.
2. The next grade of Iberian ham is called jamón ibérico de recebo.
This ham is from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of
acorns and natural compound feed.
3. The third type of Iberian ham is called jamón ibérico de cebo de campo.
This ham is from pigs raised in the countryside, where it feeds on grass
and natural compound feed (legumes and cereals). In the acorn season
of the year they can also enjoy the fruit of the oaks (acorns/bellotas).
4. The fourth type of Iberian ham is called jamón ibérico de cebo, or
simply, jamón ibérico. This ham is from pigs that are fed only grain.
The ham is cured for 24 months.
Additionally, the word “puro” (pure, referring to the breed) can be added
to the previous qualities when both the father and mother of the
slaughtered animal are of pure breed and duly registered on the pedigree
books held by official breeders.
The term pata negra is also used to refer to Iberian ham in general and
may refer to any one of the above four types.
The term “pata negra” refers to the color of the pig’s nails which are white
in the traditional pork (Sus domesticus) but black for the Black Iberian Pig.
While as a general rule a black nail should indicate an Iberian ham, there
are cases of counterfeits with nails being manually painted.
Iberian hams are prized both for their smooth texture and rich savory
taste. A good Iberian ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat. Because
of the pig’s diet of acorns, much of the jamón’s fat is oleic acid, a
monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol
and raise HDL cholesterol.
LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) is the bad cholesterol.
HDL (High-density lipoprotein) is the good cholesterol.