The Paleta Iberica de Bellota (Iberico acorn-fed ham) is the jewel of the "ham shoulder" in terms of quality and flavour. As its name suggests by the word "Bellota" (that means acorn), this Iberico breed of swine has eaten acorns during the "Montanera" (period of fall and winter where the iberico pigs are released to gaze and feed on the humble but healthy acorns) to fatten up.
Feeding is a key issue. The iberico swine, that have already reached 100 kg, are moved to the "Dehesa". That is a magnificent Mediterranean forest/pasture where the pigs find big grass fields, trees and acorns above all. They will spend here the last four months of their lives and fatten up 50% of their weight by the time they started the "Montanera". For instance, if they weighted 100 kg at the beginning of the "Montanera", by the end they must have reached 150 kg.
When these ibérico pigs have their ideal weight, they leave the "Dehesas" and are ready to become the best ham shoulders of the world after 24 months of dry curing time.
The taste and flavour of the Paleta Iberica de Bellota will rely on where it has been dry-cured. In Spain, there are four ham production areas where the best "Paleta iberica" is produced. The special touch of the "cook" of each one of these regions will determine the specific flavour nuances of each place of origin.
We call origin to the location where the ham or ham shoulder were produced. Their flavour nuances and characteristics are to be found in the production process of each geographic area. For this reason, in Enrique Tomas we are pioneers in explaining and classifying the hams and ham shoulders by place of origin, so that you may find easily the ham flavour that suits you best. In Enrique Tomas, we classify them according to the four most relevant production areas:
Of gentle pleasant flavour (it bears the yellow "G" letter in our product catalogue. You are maybe more familiar with the terms "Designation of origin" (Guijuelo, etc.), yet not all the ham shoulders produced within this region are under this designation.
The ham shoulder from this origin has a strong lasting taste (it bears the red "J" letter in our product catalogue). In this case, the Designation of Origin mostly known is "Jabugo".
The ham shoulder from this origin is aromatic and strong (it bears the blue "E" letter in our product catalogue). The Designation of origin "Dehesa" of Extremadura refers to the forests where the tree components are holm and cork oaks and are basically located in the region of Cáceres and Badajoz.
The ham shoulder from this origin is savoury tasty and intense (it bears the orange "P" letter). The Designation of Origin Pedroches is the newest one and refers to a group of locations in the Valley of Los Pedroches (North of Córdoba).
The difference among all the origins can basically be explained by factors like the climate, the humidity and the local methodology employed in the dry-curing process.
The purity of the iberico pig breed relies obviously in the purity of the parents. It is considered Iberian (Iberico) pig when it exceeds the 50% of iberico pure breed. For this, the mother must be 100 % of iberico pure breed. Therefore, for a pig to be considered 100% iberico pure breed, its parents must be both 100% iberico pure breed as well.