THE IBERIAN PIG

The Iberian pig

The Iberian pig is a special, unique breed with obvious differences from the others that already surprised the Romans when they arrived in Hispania. It exists only in our peninsula, which undoubtedly represents a great Spanish contribution to the world’s genetic heritage.

The breed "Sus Ibericus"

It comes from the wild boar and specifically from the European Swiss breed, which has given it the name of its ibericus. This breed was in serious danger of extinction, due to three fundamental reasons:

1) The swine fever that haunted the peninsula in the sixties.
2) The breeding of the white pig, cheaper and less delicate than the Iberian pig.
3) The continuous crosses with other races that caused a serious danger for the maintenance of the purity of the Iberian race.

But the meat of the Iberian pig began to be valued by the most exquisite palates in such a way that it recovered the interest of its breeders, who not only took care of it to reproduce, but also to preserve its pure breed.

The external and unique characteristics of the Iberian pig are the following:

– Dark skin (hence the name “Pata Negra” or black leg is used to refer to it)
– Small head
– Short neck
– Convex snout
– Black and hairless hoof
– Fine and well muscled legs

Iberian pigs in the pastures of Jabugo

In Jabugo, there is also a type of autochthonous specimen of the municipality called Jabugo spotted, whose skin, as its name indicates, has white spots. The meat of this animal is red and its fat is very soft and greyish yellow in color.

The natural habitat of the Iberian pig is the Mediterranean highlands, specifically the pasture, curd of holm oaks and cork oaks that provide the basis of its diet: the acorn.

The pasture requires exhaustive care on the part of man, so that both holm oaks and cork oaks have the necessary space to grow strong and leafy, in addition to allowing the Iberian pig to move freely between trees and bushes.

Life and feeding of the Iberian pig of Jabugo: Montanera Stage

The feeding process of the Iberian pig of Jabugo, is not far from how it was done in the past.

In spring, when the acorn is still germinating, the Iberian pig feeds on the different types of pasture and crops, for between seven or eight months. (The life of the Iberian pig lasts between 15 and 21 months).

Montanera stage

It is between October and November, when the acorn falls, the time when it feeds on this fruit, as well as the wild grasses and the bulbs of the grasses that grow around it, during the three or four months before slaughter. . This montanera stage is called and it constitutes one of the reasons why the Iberian ham from Jabugo acquires some special and unrepeatable nuances in any other place.

Their way of life is another fundamental characteristic of the Iberian pigs of this municipality. Life outdoors in the pasture enhances the development of all their genetic capacity.

Swineherd from Jabugo

At this stage, the work of the figure of the swineherd, which would be equivalent to the pig shepherd, is essential. The swineherd ensures that the herd does the appropriate exercise every day so that their muscles, already highly developed, become stronger, and the fat infiltrates their meat, giving their hams that juiciness that characterizes them.
The swineherd shakes the branches of the holm oaks and cork oaks with a long stick, so that their ripe fruits fall to the ground and serve as food for the pigs. The acorn of the holm oak is sweet and preferred by pigs; that of the cork oak is more bitter and they leave it for the end.
Each pig usually eats about 400 kilos of acorn and another as many of grass along the montanera.

Pata Negra Ham

When the Iberian pig has reached its ideal weight, that is, around 170 kg (never more than 180, since this would mean an excess of fat in the ham and consequently an unwanted flavor), it is time for the slaughter, between the months of January-February.

Once the pieces are slaughtered, they are dissected and the legs that will give the ham rest for two days at 0 ° C. From this moment on, the process of making the Jamón de Jabugo is carried out.

When we use the term Pata Negra, we refer to the acorn-fed Iberian ham, because most of these pigs have the coloration and the black hoof, although there are also other shades and even a variety “manchado de jabugo” that also has a white hoof. , there are white pigs, called “Hungarians” with black hoofs.

A process connected to nature

The Iberian pig is the example of perfect cattle breeding: totally free and based on natural products. In this growth, we can distinguish two phases.
The first or “preparation” phase, in which, after its suckling phase, the pig begins to feed on herbs, seeds, bulbs and grain, mainly, until it reaches a weight between 90 and 110 kg. Next, the fattening or “montanera” phase begins where the pig bases its diet on acorn, the fruit of holm oaks and cork oaks. This fruit is rich in carbohydrates and fats, especially oleic acid, hence the healthy character of its prized meat.

During the montanera, the Iberian pig can increase its weight by more than one kilogram per day, thanks to the consumption of about 10 kilos of acorns per day. However, to carry out this ingestion, continuous exercise is necessary in search of them, which allows raising the quality of this animal’s meat, until it becomes the juiciest and most famous by consumers of it. In addition to acorns, in his tours of the pasture, he ingests various aromatic plants, resulting in hams with an unmistakable perfume.

The product thus obtained reaches the qualification of “Iberian acorn-fed ham”, distinguishing itself from “Iberico ham of recebo”, which is obtained from those pigs to which a contribution of natural feed (mainly corn) has been made in their rearing and fattening phase.

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