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Our Pig

Nuestros Cerdos

At Juan Pedro Domecq, we breed

- Unique animals: The pigs are not only 100% pure Iberico (both mother and father are 100% pure Iberico breed), we go one step further, selecting within the 100% Iberico breed, what we consider to be the best, the Lampiño Iberico family. Our pigs are different: hairless, small and fine limbed, selected on the basis of our founder's genetic studies. Juan Pedro Domecq Solís, reputed genetist, identified this type of 100% Iberico pig as the one with the ideal characters for producing the best ham.

 

Cerdo Ibérico, alimentándose de lo que encuentran

 

- Exclusive:  our production is limited to 3,000 pigs,  the result of a thorough selection process, in search of the best quality and the greatest consistency.

- Free roaming: our pigs are wild animals that live free roaming in vast extensions of the "dehesa", having an average of 5 acres per animal.

- Bellota fed: Throughout their lives, our pigs eat natural products, directly from the fields and acorn woods.. Our "Montanera" (Acorn feeding season) extends for nearly four months, from November to February each year (compared to the minimum 2 months required for the “Bellota” quality by the applicable regulations). On top of this, as our pigs are set free when they are very young, they also benefit from the last acorns of the previous acorn feeding season.

- Nearly two years old: Our pigs are slaughtered with an average age of 21 months (compared to the required 12 months of Iberico cross breeds). We have a one to one selection process: on top of the purity of the breed, we control the development of each animal so that it is only sacrificed once it reaches what we consider to be the perfect weight (average 165 kg.) and age to obtain the ideal fat infiltration for the hams

Ham making tradition in Jabugo goes back nearly 150 years; along which, the name "Jabugo Ham" has become a synonym of best quality ham, "100% Iberico bellota ham". This success is mainly due to two factors: the climate conditions of the area and the traditional manufacturing process employed by the ham industry there.

The town of Jabugo, in the heart of the Sierra de Huelva, is famous worldwide as the home to one of the best hams in the world. There are two areas in Spain whose name is renowned for the excellent quality of their ham: Guijuelo, in Salamanca, and Jabugo, in Huelva. Both areas produce fantastic hams, with subtle differences in their flavor and aroma; for which, each area has its own fans! In Juan Pedro Domecq we chose Jabugo: the strength of its flavor, its personality, the intensity of its aroma...

As regards the climate, the "Sierra de Huelva" and even more so, the area between Cortegana and Aracena, has a special microclimate, due to its altitude (700-900 meters) and the fact that it is the first mountain range that the storms and areas of low pressure find when they enter Spain from the Atlantic. This microclimate is defined by its high rainfall average (being the rainy season mainly in autumn and spring), its cold and dry winters and mild and short summers. These conditions are the best for the manufacturing of best quality ham, for which you need the correct combination of both temperature and humidity in each season.

It is also this special climate that makes it possible for the industry in Jabugo to continue to use its traditional methods, which are a key to its success. The Sierra de Huelva microclimate allows the use of natural cellars and drying areas. Therefore, most ham industries in the area avoid the use of artificial mechanisms for humidity or temperature adjustment during the curing process, which continues to be totally natural and traditional.

Additionally, we must take into account that the area around Jabugo is home to large extensions of "Dehesa" or oak woods, ideal for the breeding of the pigs that are the basis of the ham industry. 100% Iberico pigs bred free roaming and acorn fed in the Dehesa, the perfect ingredient for the making of the best hams.

 

For us, at Juan Pedro Domecq, Jabugo was a natural choice: the Dehesa "Lo Alvaro", where we breed our 100% Iberico pigs, is located in the foothills of the Sierra de Huelva, just about half an hour away from the town of Jabugo. On top of this, our company has always believed in the importance of maintaining the unique traditional procedures in ham making that are typical in this area: the natural drying process that gives such a special fragrance and taste to our hams. That is why our drying cellars are located in the Jabugo area, in search of the best conditions to obtain the most delicious ham, a true jewel for its flavor and aroma, 100% Iberico bellota ham, from Jabugo.

 

The defining characteristic in our manufacturing process at Juan Pedro Domecq, is the permanent and personalised care of each piece. Just as we take the best care of our pigs, keeping traceability of each of them, we keep the same control on the hams. This detailed monitoring process, allows us to offer not only the best quality, but a great homogeneity in our products.

The manufacturing process has 6 stages:

1. End of the "Montanera" (acorn feeding season). Approximately 4 months after the beginning of the "Montanera" (October), we start selecting the pigs that must be slaughtered. Weekly, the pigs are weighed one by one, so that only once they have the perfect weigh (approx. 160kg) and the physical maturity for the making of ham (which entails mainly the growth of the necessary fat covering of the legs), they are sent to the slaughter house. The animals are in average 21 months old at this time.

2. Slaughter and quartering. Once at the slaughter house, and always before the eyes of our own personnel, the quartering takes place. Here our personnel puts a special seal on the ankle bone on each piece, that allows their identification and traceability. The hams are then refrigerated in a special room for this purpose, in order to avoid any type of fermentation or microbial growth.

24 hours later, with a temperature between 2-3 ºC, takes place the shaping of the hams (the fat excess and part of the skin are eliminated to give the pieces the correct shape). The "shaping" for our hams is always done by the same qualified personnel, always the same 4 persons, so that the uniformity of the hams is preserved.

3. Salting and stabilizing. Once shaped, the pieces are sent to the salting premises. There, under a strict temperature control, the hams are weighed and classified so that each of them is covered in salt only the right amount of time, depending on its initial weigh.

After classification, the hams go to the salting rooms, with controlled temperature and humidity. There, the hams are stacked in successive layers, keeping the bigger pieces below and separating each layer by a salt covering. The time spent in these rooms depends on the initial weigh of the ham, and varies from 1 to 1 ½ days per kg.

Once the salting is finished, the salt excess is washed away with warm water. The hams are then put in a stabilizing room. The stabilizing process entails that the salt, which initially remains just in the external layers of the piece, is diffused through the whole of it, and the internal humidity is reduced. This process will avoid future fermentations. Temperature and humidity are permanently controlled at this stage and are gradually increased from 0-3 ºC to 12-14 ºC (outside temperature). This process takes 80 to 90 days.

Once out of these stabilizing rooms, the amount of water and salt concentration in the pieces is such as not to permit the development of pathogenic microorganisms inside them. 

4. Natural drying. Once stabilized, our personnel checks the state of the pieces before sending them to the drying rooms in our premises in the Jabugo area. There, the hams are hanged in the drying rooms, until the end of the next winter. It is in this drying stage that the Sierra de Huelva microclimate plays such an important role, as it allows the hams to dry naturally, just benefiting from the air, humidity and natural temperature in the area. The only adjustment in temperature being the closing and opening of the windows.

 

 

5. Curing in the cellars. After the natural drying process finishes (approx. 6 months) the pieces are taken to the cellars, where they shall remain until they are sold.

The hams stay in the cellars no less than 24 months. They are not always in the same place within the cellar, they are gradually moved around so that the curing is homogeneous.

Humidity (60-75 %) and temperature (12-18 ºC) in the cellar are more stable than in the drying room. Here is where the moulds grow on the external skin, showing how the pieces evolve.

It is in the cellar where the hams mature, the gradual sweating of the external fat cures the meat while the fragrances acquired from the acorns remain inside, giving the ham the unique aroma of the 100% Iberico bellota ham. Along this process, the hams are tendered to by the same qualified personnel, led by Daniel Jara, our Master Ham Maker, who continually evaluates the curing of the pieces.

6. The last control: The "cala". Before they are put in the market, the pieces go through a last control: Once the curing point of the ham is verified manually, the "cala" takes place. A "cala" is a needle made from a cow's tibia bone, that is inserted in the ham (there are 3 to 4 areas that condense aromas) and smelt. If the fragrance is good, the ham is ready to go.

Daniel verifies like a "sommelier" the aroma of the ham, so that only when it has reached its ideal maturity (in our case after an average of 42 months), it is considered to be fit to comply with the very high standards set by Juan Pedro Domecq.

 

"Daniel, our Master Ham Maker, knows in detail every piece in the cellar, evaluating its ideal curing point and the intensity of its aroma."

Ver video: "Calando el Jamón"