Iberian Ham

Extremadura ham


Hams and shoulders come from Iberian pure pigs race or coming from crossings between the Iberian race with ” Duroc-Jersey”, with a 75% and 25% respectively.

Pigs, depending on their feeding, are classified in:

  • Cerdo de bellota o terminado en montanera: that pig with an initial weight between 80 and 105 kg, replaces in this regime, at least the 60% or 65% of its initial weight depending if it’s pure Iberian or crossing with the 75% of Iberian respectively.
  • Cerdo de recebo: that pig which replaces in montanera regime at least the 3O% of its initial weight, being helped on its fatten up with authorized fodders.
  • Cerdo de pienso o terminado en pienso: that pig which feeding is carried out with authorized fodders.

At the end of the maturation process hams and shoulders Guarantee of Origin “Dehesa de Extremadura” present the next characteristics:

  • Appearance:

– Exterior shape: elongated, slender, outlined through the called Serrano cut in ‘V’. Preserving the hoof.

– Weight: of not less than 4,5 Kg. for hams and 3,5 Kg. for shoulders.

  • Sensories:

– Color and cut aspect: characteristic color from pink to purpled red and aspect in the cut with infiltrated fat in the muscular mass.

– Flavor and aroma: meat of delicate flavor, a bit salted or sweet. Nice and characteristic aroma.

– Texture: little fibrous.

– Fat: brilliant, white to yellow coloration, aromatic and nice flavor. The consistency varies depending on the percentage of acorn-feeding.

  • Physics-Chemistries:

– Dehydration index with a maximum watery content of 50% in surface and 55% in depth.

– Maximum sodium chloride of 5%


The production zone is formed by the wooded pastures with holm oaks and/or cork oaks, located in the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz.

The elaboration and maturation zone is integrated by 40 municipalities of Badajoz and 45 of Cáceres, located mainly in the regions of the mountain ranges of the southwest of Badajoz, Ibor-Villuercas, south Cáceres-Gredos, Sierra Montánchez and Sierra de San Pedro.


The pigs arrive to the slaughterhouse at least 12 hours before their sacrifice, with the purpose of eliminating the transport fatigue and to regain the muscular level of glycogen. The sacrifice will be realised in accordance with the technical-healthy regulation for slaughterhouses, obtained the hams and forelegs, will be maintained during 36 to 48 hours in a temperature between 1ºC and 4ºC.

They will be rejected all the hams with a weight of less than 6 kg. and the forelegs with a weight of less than 4 kg.

Their clasification depending on the weight will be:

  • Hams:
  • From 6 to 8 Kg.
  • From 8 to Kg.
  • More than 11 Kg.
  • Shoulders:
  • From 4 to 5 Kg.
  • More than 5 Kg.

Ham and shoulders elaboration consist on the next phases:

  • Salting.

It has as aim the incorporation of common salt and nitrification salts to the muscular mass, with the purpose of favouring the dehydration and conservation of the pieces, contributing in this way to the development of the color and typical aromas of cured products.

This process takes place in temperatures between 1ºC and 5ºC and relative humidity around 80%-90%. The salting duration will vary depending on the pieces weight and its purity degree. In an information way, we may say that this duration is approximately a day per kilo of weight. At the half of the process period the pieces are turned to obtain a homogeneus distribution of the salt.

  • Washing.

Finished the salting phase it’s proceeded with the elimination of the salt adhered to the pieces surface, through cold or warm water, leaving them draining during two days at 30ºC aproximately.

  • Settlement.

In this phase the salt is homogeneously spreaded in all the pieces and is produced a slow and gradual removing of the superficial water. This process is realised in chambers with temperatures between 3ºC to 6ºC and with relative humidity of 80%-90%. The time of staying in this chambers, depends on the pieces weight, oscillating between the 35 and 45 days.

  • Drying.

This operation is realized in natural dryers equiped with large windows with adjustable opening allowing the ventilation control, giving place to the optimal conditions of relative humidity and temperature. In this phase continues the gradual product dehydration, taking place the exudation (diffusion of the fat which is introduced between muscular fibers, retaining this way the ham aroma).

  • Aging in cellars.

After classifying the pieces by weight, quality and conformation, they are moved to cellars, where they continue the biochemical processes initiated in the previous phase, with the intervention of the microbial flora, which confers its peculiar aroma and flavor; the staying time in cellars depends on the weight in blood of the piece in the slaughterhouse.


b) Natural

– Orography.

Extremadura is crossed by three mountain systems: in the north, the Central system with the foothill of the Sierra de Gredos; in the center between the Tajo and Guadiana rivers, the continuation of the Montes de Toledo and in the south the foothill of the Sierra Morena.

The average altitude of the region is of 400 ms. The higher peak is the Calvitero (in Gredos) with 2,041 ms.

– Grounds.

Most of the grounds of the province of Caceres have been formed on silicean materials, mainly granite rocks and wide sandstone and slate extensions. The grounds of the province of Badajoz belong to the following orders: Entisols, Inceptisols,Alfisols y Vertísols.

– Climate.

Continental climate with moderate Atlantic influence. The annual average of rainfall is 500 mm, reaching the 1,200 mm in mountains in the NE; the annual period of covered days is of 77 and of cleared is 140; the annual average temperature is between 16º and 17ºC and less than 1OºC in the north zone; the extreme temperatures usually are 41ºC (in July and August) and 3ºC to 4ºC (December-January) the oscillation of the average temperatures between summer and winter is of 16º to 17ºC, being the free frosts period the one between of February and half-full of November.

– Hydrography.

Extremadura is crossed from east to west by two big rivers:

Tajo (Cáceres): it presents an irregular flow with maximum of 350 m3/sg in february and minimum of 11 m3/sg in august and september..

Guadiana (Badajoz): it has a length, inside the provice of 357,7 km.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *