It is well known that the most important factors in determining the degree of quality of a Spanish ham are the genes of the pig and the type of food provided during the fattening period. But these can only be understood on the basis of the place of origin of the best Spanish hams in the world.
We are referring to the Dehesa (Meadow).
The term La Dehesa refers to a very particular ecosystem, a large area of Southern Spain, characterized by savanna-like grassland and made up of an important quantity of trees such as Holm oak, and Cork oak trees which produce acorns and are considered a treasure by the Iberico product producers.
These are the element that give Iberico ham de bellota its identity - to such an extent that the acorn has become an symbol of a job well done.
The dehesa is a result of harmonious respect of nature on the part of its settlers, who have used for farming purposes and a source of highly valued resources such as cork and wood.
This balance has been maintained for centuries, on the basis of respect for the seasonal rhythms and to the preservation of resources for the future, making the dehesa today one of the most exemplary ecosystems in the world.
Both the holm oaks and the cork oak provide shade, acorns and the ideal microclimate for the pigs. The period of greatest production occurs between the months of September and February. This coupled with the fact that the temperatures are lower, makes it the best time when the majority of pigs come to scurry around the grass land.
During the rest of the year the pigs consume other resources such as grass, roots, and left over acorns, which are also beneficial to their nutrition.
You might be asking: why are acorn so important to obtain high quality Spanish hams? The answer is found in the high concentration of oleic acid found in acorns (up to 93%), in combination with the pig's disposition to accumulating fat. This fat will be infiltrated in the meat, an effect which is cherished by consumers.
Without a doubt the reason for Iberico ham's success is its juiciness and the unbeatable flavor the acorn provides, making Iberico ham de bellota a unique product.
We can affirm there is a perfect relationship between the pigs and the dehesa, which is why the conservation of it and good business practices will ensure sustainable production in the future.
Also worth noting are the ramification in regards to health issues. In fact, numerous scientific studies claim that Iberico pigs fed on acorns produce hams that are healthier than hams from white pigs. Iberico hams contain lower cholesterol and a high concentration of oleic acid which aids in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Iberico hams have a large amount of vitamins and minerals which makes them a healthy product to consume with a balanced diet. However it is important to remember that these parameters are only present in pigs fattened in the Dehesa and fed exclusively on acorns.
All these aspects are only possible thanks to the dehesa, which provides excellence on its treasures in the Iberico sector. For centuries pigs have been rigorously selected, raised on an open range, and feeding in the healthiest way possible to achieve the best condition for their butchering and the production of higher quality Iberico products.