The Iberian Peninsula has the correct weather, landscapes and perfect conditions to offer us tasty cultivated products (vegetables, fruits and cereals), juicy meat and in addition, Spain is surrounded by water what makes it also rich in fishes as you can find there loads of different variety of them. All of these ingredients are what make the Mediterranean food so succulent and delicious.
But if we think about the most important ambassadors of this Mediterranean food probably we name the olive oil, the Rioja wine and the Iberian ham.
Today I would like to focus on this last product: the Spanish Iberian ham. If you are one of the lucky people that have ever taste the Spanish ham you know what I mean, even the cheapest ham you are able to find in a Spanish market are tastier than the most expensive ham in other countries.
As you know the ham is the back leg of the pig, being the shoulder ham its front leg. But for being certified as Iberian ham it should be cured and produced in Spain or Portugal and only made with black Iberian pigs. This kind of pigs are mostly located in south and western Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal, especially in Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla and Alentejo (this last one in Portugal).
To get the certification as truly Iberian Ham is needed to have the black pigs living free in pasture lands and woods. Firstly, the pigs are located in a farm with their moms while they are breast-feeding and after that the piglets eat only barley and maize for a few weeks. Then is the time to give them freedom and let the pigs eat grass, acorns and roots in the lands and do some exercise, which is crucial if we want to obtain the best ham. Shortly before their slaughtering they should be only fed by acorns for the most quality ham or, for lower qualities, they can be fed by a mix of acorns and other commercial cereals and food.
After the slaughtering the fresh ham is cured with salt and left for two months in order to be dried. When the ham is dried the salt is removed by washing the piece and again the ham need to be drying for other 4 or 6 months. This process can last a year or even it can continue after two years.
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