This is a great time of the year to go on an Iberian ham tour as it’s when the “montanera” takes place. This is the time when Iberian pigs are released onto large tracts of land so that they can feed on acorns that are provided by holm oaks and cork oaks. For most pigs this is a period of around 3 months when they will eat 10-12 kilos of acorn as well as grasses, clover, etc. and gain around 1 kilo of weight each day. It is quite possible for a pig to double in weight during this time!
Acorns are rich in oleic acid, giving meat produced from acorn-fed Iberian pigs a fat content that is between 55 and 65% mono-unsaturated. This means that not only is acorn-fed Iberian ham wonderful to eat but that it is also good for you. It’s almost too good to be true!
I ran an Iberian ham tour today and on the farm that we visited we had to search for the pigs as there were 70 of them on a 20 hectare area of hilly terrain. After walking for 25 minutes we found them rummaging around for acorns.
On the farm we saw a number of cork oaks that had had part of their outer bark removed earlier this year in August. These trees have a reddish hue for some months after the cork has been taken off.
After visiting the farm we visited a ham-curing facility in the town of Jabugo and then went for a gourmet lunch in Aracena starting with a wonderful plate of cured meats including acorn-fed Iberian ham, acorn-fed Iberain cured loin, Iberian salchichon, Iberian chorizo and Iberian blood sausage. They were absolutely delicious.