The Montanera Season is a period in which pigs are free in the pastures doing a lot of exercise and feeding on grass and acorns. According to the success of this fattening season, we will know the number of hams and ham shoulders that we will have during the following season. In short, this is the last phase of the breeding of the Iberian pig.
What is the Montanera?
The montanera is the last stage of the breeding of Iberian pigs. The animals from which we will obtain different Iberian products and the famous acorn-fed Iberian (Iberico Bellota) ham. During this phase, the pigs graze freely in the pastures, fattening naturally among the forests of cork oaks and holm oaks; trees whose fruit, the precious acorn, will be the star food.
The Montanera takes place from October to February and this date coincides directly with the time of maturation of the acorn. It is almost always the middle of October when the pigs are taken to the Dehesa (iberian pastureland) to graze and if the season is good, the phase extends until the end of March. It is necessary to have time to take the pigs to the pastures at another time, because without acorns it will not be possible to create products with the “Ibérico de Bellota” certificate.
At the beginning, the pigs usually weigh about 90 kilograms. When they have reached the ideal weight, that is between 170 and 180 kilograms, that is to say, the daily weight increase due to a free feeding with grasses, herbs and acorns can be about 0.67 kilograms. Pigs that do not reach this weight at the end of the fattening period will be fattened during the next fattening period. Yet, these animals will no longer produce’Iberico de Bellota’ products but will have to feed back on fodder again, which is given on the same farm until it reaches its slaughter weight. Because of this, their hams and ham shoulders will no longer be considered “Iberico de Bellota”, but “Iberico de Cebo de Campo pigs” or what used to be known as “recebo”. (See recebo)
What pigs make the Montanera?
The only animals that are considered to make the Montanera are the Iberian pigs, regardless of the purity of their breed, as long as they are destined to produce Iberico de Bellota hams and sausages. The Iberian pig is the only animal with the ability to infiltrate fat into the muscle. Therefore, exercise and feeding on acorns during this period will give their meat those nuances in flavor and texture so characteristic.
During the Montanera the quantity of pigs will be certified optimal to produce Iberico de Bellota products divided into:
Iberico Bellota Ham 100% Iberian – Black Seal
Iberico Bellota Ham 75% Iberian – Red Seal
Iberico Bellota Ham 50% Iberian – Red Seal
As you can see, in the elaboration of the most exquisite Iberian products, many factors come into play and one of them, as important as the others, is the free feeding in the pastures. See for yourself the difference in flavour between the different qualities of Iberian ham and decide which is the best: