Jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham)
Spanish ham comes in many forms, but to be defined as jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham), which is what the clients want, it must first come from Iberian blackfoot pigs.
Iberico Pig (Cerdo Iberico)
These iberian pigs must spend several months of the year roaming the dehesa, a pasture planted with oaks, feeding on grass and acorns. During the last few months before being slaughtered (Montanera) they must live exclusively on this acorn diet.
Not only are there relatively small areas of dehesa – mostly in north-west and western Spain – but each pig needs about two hectares (five acres) to fulfil its needs. Once slaughtered, the animals’ legs are plunged into vats of salt and hung and dry-cured over a range of temperatures for a minimum of 36 months cured jamon iberico, with the best iberico ham cured for about 48 months cured in a natural dryers.