The Iberian ham produced in Spain is famous worldwide thanks to its quality and characteristic flavour. This product is highly valued per important cooks from all over the world and it is served in some of the best restaurants of the world. Behind each piece of ibérico ham and shoulder, there are some strict requisites should be accomplished, as minimum curing time and strict quality controls.
The main producing areas of iberico hams and shoulders are placed at southern and south-western Spain. Those areas should accomplish some specific requisites, as the sort of pastures where pigs are raised, pasture areas, weather, etc. Weather, geographical and orographical characteristics in the production areas are very important for the hams production and drying as those factors are determining to get its characteristic quality.
The main iberico hams producing areas are the following: Jabugo (Huelva), Extremadura, Guijuelo (Salamanca) and Los Pedroches (Córdoba).
Extremadura is the main producing area of iberico hams and shoulders, main reason why Designation of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura has been created. This is one of the most depopulated areas in Spain and extensive pasture areas, perfect for the iberian pig breeding, consecrated to produce the ibérico bellota ham. The ham Designation of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura is characterised by its sweet and fruity flavour, slightly strong, perfect for slightly intense flavour lovers.
This area has a continental weather, characterised by dry, hot summers with few rainfalls, and long and soft winters, with heaviest rainfalls than in summer. The geography of this area is characterised by its mountain ground placed in Sistema Central, next to Sierra de Gredos, Sierra de Béjar and Sierra de Gata, Sierra Morena and Montes de Toledo. Its average altitude is 400 metres over the sea and abundant rivers, which Tajo and Guadiana are the most important.
About the pasture areas, those are mainly conformed by corks and oaks, distributed along the production area in D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura, which happens to meat with Extremadura. Its ecosystem is considered among the better preserve in Europe as there are different three species and pig breeds, as iberian pig. Grounds are conformed by siliceous materials, mainly formed by granitic rocks, slate and sandstone.
The pastures are placed in Cáceres and Badajoz and they have around a million hectares. Those places are perfect to encourage iberian pig exercise while the pig consume acorns. Thanks to the specificity of the iberian pig breed, the exercise and breed; the fat is infiltrated in the meat, having a juicy lean as a result. Due to its high number of hectares, the exercise of the pig is encouraged, and the infiltrated fat percentage in muscle will be higher.
In the area of Guijuelo (Salamanca) iberico ham pieces produces some of the best valued pieces in Spain. In this area, there is the Designation of Origin Guijuelo, one of the better known in our country. It has been the first Designation of Origin of ibérico ham in Spain, encouraged by the overproduction of ibérico ham pieces in the 1980s with the aim of protect the pieces produced in that area. The Designation of Origin of Guijuelo is characterised by its soft, fruity and sweet flavour.
The weather in Salamanca is characterized by being Mediterranean continentalized, as it has very cold winters and very hot and dry summers, perfect for the breeding and cured of the ibérico ham. The precipitations are not abundant and the average temperature varies between 25º and 35º. Geography and orography of the area is characterised by its mountainous landscape, surrounded by Sistema Central, Montes de Toledo and Sierra Morena, contrasting with some plains, valleys and little Sierras. Its average altitude is of 1000 meters over the sea, creating the perfect weather for the drying of the pieces.
Regarding the pasture areas, they are placed in Salamanca, Toledo and Zamora, close to Gredos and Béjar sierras. Hams curying area is placed southwest Salamanca, conformed by 78 municipalities placed at south-western Salamanca. Mediterranean forest groves, mixed with corks and oaks encourage the preservation of Guijuelo's ecosystem. About the ground materials, they are mainly conformed by siliceous rocks, made by granitic, slates and sandstone rocks.
Guijuelo is placed in Salamanca. There are numerous companies of iberian products. Few years ago, this industry become one of the most important in Guijuelo, being the 65% of the working population there.
Jabugo is placed in Huelva and the famous "Jamón de Jabugo" is produced there, on of the most important in Spain. Traditionally, ibérico ham was sometime wrongly named as "Jamon de Jabugo" due to its high popularity. This ham used to be protected by the D.O. Huelva, becomed D.O. Jabugo in 2017. Designation of Origin of Jabugo's ham is characterized per its strong flavour and the less fruity among ibérico bellota hams.
Its weather is characterised per its hot summers and Easter and winter with heavy rainfalls, giving more balance between temperatures and humidity of drying places and cellars. Geography and orography are characterised by rough mid-mountain landscape and average altitude of 572 metres over the sea.
The elaboration area is formed by 31 towns inside La Sierra, at north-western Huelva. The flora of the area is characterised by being leafy, mainly conformed by corks, oaks, pines and chestnut groves, among others. In Huelva is our most famous Designation of Origin worldwide, even being confused with ibérico ham. This Designation of Origin gives a great recognition to ibérico hams in Jabugo, as well as a great recognition of pieces, guaranteeing its quality.
The Designation of Origin Los Pedroches is placed in Córdoba. This Designation of Origin has been created in 2010, which is the most recently created Designation of Origin in our country, but the cattle-raising tradition started long ago. Furthermore, in 2002 this area of Sierra Morena has been declared "Biosphere Reserve" by UNESCO. Hams protected by Designation of Origin Los Pedroches are characterised by its sweet flavour, greasy texture and characteristic aroma of ibérico bellota hams.
Its Mediterranean weather and southern sub-plateau, with cold winters and hot summers. Its average temperature is around 18º-19º with frequent heavy rainfalls, which contributes to the drying process of the pieces.
About the production area of Los Pedroches, it is placed in Córdoba, joining Ademuz, Hornachuelos, Posadas, Obejo, Montoro, Villaharta and Villaviciosa de Córdoba.