The hind and fore leg of the ham from the Pedroches have a Denomination of Origin endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the 'Junta de Andalucía'.
More than 100 farmers and 16 industries of the region have joined the new Denomination of Origin of Pedroches, selling their first Iberian hams with D.O from Pedroches.
The products defined for their protection are the fore and hind legs of Bellota ham (made from pigs that are fed only acorns) and Recebo ham (made from pigs that are fed only acorns up to shortly before their slaughter; then they are fed special high quality feed), that come from purebred Iberian pigs or it's cross with Duroc-Jersey. In all cases they are from pure Iberian mothers and they possess at least 75% of this breed.
In the making of legs of ham with denomination of origin from Pedroches the mother line is always purebred Iberian.
- Geographic region: the production area where they can raise and fatten pigs for the making of hams protected by the Denomination of Origin from the Pedroches, it is made up of wooded pastures, mainly of oak, cork and gall oak trees located in the follwing places: Alcaraceños, Añora, Belálcazar, Bélmez, Los Blázquez, Cardeña, Conquista, Dos Torres, Espiel, Fuente La Lancha, Fuente Obejuna, La Granjuela, El Guijo, Hinojosa del Duque, Pedroche, Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo, Pozoblanco, Santa Eufemia, Torrecampo, Valsequillo, Villanueva de Córdoba, Villanueva del Duque, Villanueva del Rey, Villaralto and El Viso. And the others that are found at more than 300 metres of altitude are: Adamuz, Homachuelos, Montoro, Obejo, Posadas, Villaharta y Villaviciosa.
In all of these areas the pig can be fed the whole time on the fruits of the oak tree; acorns.
- Climate: the climate is good for the curing of the hams as it is usually relatively cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.
- Classification: the fore and hind legs of ham are classified into:
- These hams are indentified by a black seal that that carry.
- On entering, the pigs have to be a minimum of 12 months old if they are purebred Iberian and 10 months if they are cross-bred.
- On entering, the pigs must weigh about 105 kilos.
- Their weight must increase by at least 50% of their weight on entering, being fed on a diet of acorns and grass only.
- When they are slaughtered they must weigh a minimum of 140 Kilos.
- In the last days they must be fed on acorns only.
- Their weight has to be between 80 y 120 Kilos on entering.
- Their weight must increase by at least 30% of their weight on entering.
- There are also pigs that as well as eating acorns they are provided with 1,5 Kg. of natural feed every day, in these cases their weight must increase by at least 60 % of their entrance weight.
- In the last days their diet is based exclusively on special authorised feeds.
- Production: this period takes place in a natural habitat. It is comprised of these different steps: salting, washing, resting, drying-curing and aging.
- Salting, is the phase where the leg of ham is covered with common and nitrifying salt, so as to aid the dehydration and good preservation of the hams. It also affects the colour and smell of the hams. The pieces are piled up and covered in salt. The temperature in which the hams are kept during this phase is between 1ºC and 5ºC, with a relative humidity between 80 and 90%. The time that the hams have to stay in this phase will depend on the weight of each piece of ham. Usually it is approximately one day per kilo.
- Washing, when the salting process finishes the excess salt must be removed from the surface of the leg of ham, therefore the ham is washed with water and is left to drain.
- Resting, in this phase the salt the salt enters inside the hams, until it is perfectly distributed throughout the ham. In this phase the water in the surface layer of the ham evaporates very slowly also. The optimum temperature for this phase is between 3ºC and 6ºC and with a relative humidity of between 75 and 85%. The duration of this phase is like in the salting stage, and depends on the weight of the ham, but it usually lasts between 30 and 60 days.
- Drying-curing, this phase is carried out in natural dryers with built-in windows that regulate and control the ventilation of the room, so that the humidity and temperature are always suitable for the process. The important part of this stage is the sweating of the ham; where the fat spreads through all of the muscles, embedding the taste and aroma into the ham so that it won't fade. Also, the ham dehrdrates during this period and it's duration is approximately 6 months.
- Aging, this phase is carried out in bodegas where the hams have to be situated according to its weight, formation and quality. The hind legs of ham spend 18 months in the cellars and the fore legs spend about 12 months. This is how the legs of ham achieve their particular organoleptic characteristics.
- Characteristics of Pedroches ham:
- It's exterior form is elongated, refined, sleek and shaped as the crust is cut into the shape of a 'V'. These legs of ham keep the hoof for better recognition.
- Its colouring has a tone between pink, red and purple and on cutting it you can see the streaks of fat present in the muscle mass.
- Its taste isn't very salty, you could even say the taste is slightly sweet, and its aroma is very pleasant.
- It has a fibrous texture..
- When we make a cut into the ham we can see the fat with a shiny white or yellowish-pink colour. It has a good taste and aroma also. The consistency of the fat can change according to how the pig has been fed.
- The Bellota hams, have an black identification seal, it also has a label where you can read "Bellota Los Pedroches".
- The hams that have finished the fattening process with controlled feeds, have a red seal and also have a label where you can read "Los Pedroches".