The ‘montanera’ constitutes the final and crucial stage in the pig’s life, where is developed the traditional fatten up. It consist on subject the pig to the pastures’ ecosystem where it will spend its last life months among cork oak, holm oak and ‘quejigos’ forests, and which fruit, the acorn, is the fundamental nourishment before the sacrifice. To this fatten up method only are destined the purest specimens which have culminate the previous stages in a satisfactory way.
The ‘montanera’ period takes place from September to February, coinciding with the acorn ripening period. The animals begin this stage with 90 kilograms and finish it with 160 in years of acorn’s good harvest.
In the ‘montanera’, the animal uses not only the acorn but also herb, bulbs and gramineous plants. The wild pulses and their seeds have, at the same time, an important role in the pig’s diet balance. In fact, this feeding phase and its correct manage, together with a healthy life in contact with the aire and nature, integrated in the spot which constitutes its natural space as usual, results esential to make the pig develop all its genetic capacity and could produces the best meat and fat known among its fellows.
Gains importance, at this point in the iberian pig fatten up process, the figure of the ‘vareador’. Unlike other ham zones, in Sierra de Huelva, here still remains this old trade which improves the correct pig feeding. Using a long stick (‘vara’) finishing with a rope, the ‘vareador’ shakes the holm oaks to make easier to the pigs the search of their feeding. So, the herd, follows the ‘vadeador’, through the pastures, who will rationalize the consum depending on the interest on the tree, giving priority to the most far-off and rippen over the most nearby and accessible, so when pig weight increases it wouldn’t be advisable excessive movement. This system also will provoke a controlled rithm exercise over the pig, trascendental for the formation of the muscular packages which compounds the iberian ham.
Opposite to the intensive production systems, the iberian pig lives in liberty in this space and remains in movement, which is in the quality base of its meats. In fact, during the ‘montanera’ each pig needs over an hectare of the pasture for itself. In this esential phase, the acorn, because of its high carbohydrates content, gives energy to the animal and will be transform to the famous interspersed fat. And the herbs add the peculiar perfume of all iberian derived.