Traditionally it is said Pata Negra ham to the Iberian hams for its black hoof.
Over the time it has been a term that assign quality for many products, say that a product is "Pata negra" is to say that is highest quality.
There are many people, especially outside Spain referred to Pata negra as the Bellota Iberian ham, for being the highest quality.
After the entry of the labeling rules for hams in 2014, the term "Pata negra" is only officially applicable to the Iberian Bellota hams 100% pure.
Pure Pata Negra ham comes from pigs raised in freedom in the pastures Iberian 100% and fed with natural grass and acorns.
The result is more fat around hams and less fat infiltrated, a darker color and higher price because their production is lower.
Iberian crossed breed could also be of the highest quality, they have simply been crossed in a grade between 50% and 99% with another similar race.
The result is Bellota hams or cebo with more fat infiltration in the meat, it makes them very mellow and perhaps less strong flavor.
Still, the Iberians hams quality, pure or not, depends on:
The first is how the pigs have been raised and the second the curing process of the ham. This last stage can make the 50% Iberian ham tastier than the 100% Iberian ham.
The outer shape of pata negra hams quality is stylized, thin and elongated. The color range goes from pink to purple red. Its aromas are intense, pleasant and full of nuances, and its very delicate flavor and slightly salty.
The meat is less fibrous and fat has a shiny appearance.
It is important the texture of the fat. To the touch, the 100% Iberian acorn-fed quality is so subtle that it is easy to merge smoothly with the palm of the hand.
Also at time to cut it, something that only experts cutters can recognize, the finest ones always are easier to cut.
In Spain it is very common name the pata negra ham as Jabugo ham, but this rating is only valid for certain hams from that area.
That is, not because the ham comes from Jabugo is 100% or pure Iberian pata negra, as Jabugo is one of 31 municipalities that are part of the D.O. Jabugo-Huelva hams and produce different qualities and types.
The pata negra hams are produced in four areas of Spain, such as Extremadura (D.O. Dehesas de Extremadura), Salamanca (D.O. Guijuelo), Huelva (D.O. Jabugo-Huelva) and Pedroches (D.O. Los Pedroches), with pigs raised on the peninsula and the indicated race.
Every ham has his time depending on the quality and weight. The more bigger they are, the more curing process and time they need. Usually, this period ranges about 36 months. Concerning the shoulder hams, the minimum time to consider the ham as good quality, is about 24 months. Obviously, if the weight is greater, so curing process must be. A 8Kg ham entails a longer curing process than one with 6kg.
The Iberian ham pata negra reaches its peak immediately after the “montanera” period (the period where the pig goes through the mountain to feed on acorns), and reach a minimum age of entry in montanera of 10 months. Their average weight to enter in montanera between 80.5 and 115 kilos and during this period earn at least 46 kilos.
100% Iberian pigs are a breed of animal with Mediterranean origin. Pigs are blacks, with almost hairless: “lampiños”. Usually thinner than other similar races, in part because they move more, they walk around 14 km per day in search of acorns. They have long straight nose and a thin skeleton.