Development of the Iberian hams:
It´s important to know that when we talk about hams Ibéricos, we mean a race of pigs that are reared only in the Iberian Peninsula. There are people who confuse these terms and talk of "pata negra" (black leg) ham, when in reality the Iberian pork as such race, there are several colors, as well as in the human race there are several skin colors too.
The colors of the pig vary according to the 4 races ibéricas that exist, although it is also frequent that a pig has the mixture of these colors.
It also noted that there are slaughterhouses that its hams are not 100 percent Ibéricos, but they are mixed in the ratio of 75%-25% or 80%-20% this means the following, the first figure refers to the % of iberian and the second to the % of "Duro" (this last is a race of pork from english origin that the quality that has is that it is larger than the Ibérco and therefore often take much more weight)
Another important thing, and I am sure that any of you have you heard about, is that there are hams Ibéricos sweeter than others. The sweetness is given by having eaten acorns. Although there is another form to be sweeter, which is having been less time in salt, and you will surely have noticed that also, generally, these hams are a little fresher.
The pigs are reared on plots of several hectareas, when it comes the time of the "montanera" they are left vacant by the pasture for the fed acorns, although they often eat anything. When they reach the ideal weight, are trucked to the slaughter, left during a day in the corrales not feeding them, this is for that to the pigs not killed by be stressed by the trip.
* Those that do not reach the weight suitable are completed to feed with feed, corn and grain until they get the weight, (normally these latest are the ones who then called as "recebo").
When the pens have gone to kill the hanging by a hook of one of its hind legs and by a kind of production chain, each killers is going cutting each one of the pieces, pallets, lomo, loin, fillet...etc
At the end of the production chain what remains of pig is the backbone and the tail.
Once you have the hams fresh, they are bleeded off, outlined and are moved to the salt mangers. They will remain there a day in salt for each kilo of weight.
Past this time, the hams are drawed, washed with warm water removing the excess of salt and hanged in some hangers for them until the curing, which are usually in some caves or chambers enormous that are in the same factory. By a system of natural ventilation, on the basis of opening and closing certain windows to run the air of the "sierra", ( both the cold, and % of moisture are essential) are dried during the time to be determined by each piece, and by each company, until its optimal maturation.
Done all this, that can last from two to four years or more, we have this delicacy so wonderful that is the Iberian ham and that in order to taste all its flavor is necessary for the cut a person specialized in this to cut into very thin slices and get the maximum benefit and flavor.
*** IMPORTANT NOTE:
The Ibéricos hams have three types according to their food:
1.- Iberian ham of "Bellota" (acorn): pigs that are fed with natural pastures, but during the time of the "montanera" (which is often the time of the bellota) are fed with this fruit. After this are moved to the slaughterhouse.
2.- Iberian ham of "Recebo": Are those that have not got during the montanera weight suitable for killing and are completed to feed (fatten) with fodden, corn and cereals.
3.- Iberian ham "Cebo": They are those who still being "ibericos" have never eaten acorn, and had just been fed with fodden.
TIPS TO DISTINGUISH A IBERIAN HAM: The cane (what the human call wrist) has to be extremely thin compared with the rest of the ham. The color of bacon abroad is bright yellow, bright and sweaty, while once removed this outer layer of bacon, once clean, bacon tends to be a pink color, and once cutted it´s almost transparent.