What is Montanera? Acorns and fattening
Today we want to talk about the last fattening period of Iberian pigs, famous as "Montanera".
Montanera is very important to obtain an ibérico bellota high quality ham. However, it may be difficult to define it with accuracy.
What is “La montanera”?
“La montanera” is the fattening period of Iberian pigs. Pigs put on considerable weight more than 40 kilos in two or three months. Traditional fattening takes place in the pastures, where the pigs look for the fruit of the oaks and corks. This period happens at the same time of the acorn’s maturation, between October and March approximately.
After montanera, pigs are slaughtered. The slaughter happens when the pigs have gained enough weight to obtain good pieces of ham. This point happens when pigs exceed 180 kilos, between January and February.
Why is “La montanera” so important for Iberian hams?
The purpose of “la montanera” is to fatten up Iberian pigs with a diet based in acorns and natural pastures. In addition watering points are several meters away from each other so exercise of the pig and fat infiltration into the muscle are encouraged.
At the end of the day, the reason why montanera is that important is the feeding of the pig. The consumption of acorns is essential to obtain nutritional and organoleptic features for the meat. This makes the fat to infiltrate into the muscles and helps the ham to have such a healthy composition.
Which is the importance of pastures in “La montanera”?
Pastures are tract of lands in where pigs have traditionally been bred during “La montanera”. These tracts of lands are located in west and southwest Spain. Its ecosystem derives from Mediterranean forests, where we can find oaks, corks, beeches, pines and other tree species.
The fruit which predominates and with which the pig mainly feeds is the acorn. In addition, an area of land per pig is delimited so pig can move freely. For pigs fed with acorns, this area is one hectare with a minimum amount of trees.
In conclusion, the montanera season is essential to obtain a good quality Iberian ham. Thanks to the fattening and movement of the pig during montanera, it is possible to obtain such juicy hams, with its characteristic intense flavour.