The artisanal production of Iberico ham
Oct 15, 2021
The jamón ibérico de bellota goes through a lengthy manual maturation process that can take up to more than three years. Like the best wines, Iberico ham takes time, care and patience to mature into what many consider to be the best ham in the world.
The ripening process of jamón ibérico takes place in specific places in the high altitude regions of southwestern Spain. There, at more than 800m above sea level, the freshness and purity of the mountain air contribute significantly to the curing of the ham. The production process of the Iberico ham takes place in three steps:
After cutting the pork and loosening the ham, the individual hams are first salted in coarse-grained sea salt. The duration of the salt storage depends on the weight of the ham - a traditional rule of thumb is: one day of salt storage per kg of weight.
After salt storage, the hams are washed, desalted and stored for 1 to 2 months at controlled temperature and humidity to allow the salt to penetrate evenly throughout the ham.
After salting, the hams are hung in special drying chambers, the so-called secaderos. The hams hang there for six months to a year and lose the desired amount of moisture through sweating.
During this time, the ham master varies the microclimate, the air supply, the humidity and the temperature in the chambers in such a way that the whole air drying process promotes the distribution of the fats, also obtained by the diet of acorns. The fats penetrate the muscle fibers and imbue the ham with an incomparable aroma.
Just like a good wine, the jamon bellota also matures during the final ripening phase in traditional aging houses (bodegas). The hams are hung in the dark and quiet bodegas for 9 to 12 months at a constant air temperature of 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. Storage in the bodegas ensures that the fat in the ham stabilizes and gives an exact texture and taste.
At the end of the ripening period, each bellota undergoes another decisive test: great specialists use their sense of smell to determine whether the ham has the necessary ripening and aroma characteristics.