Ham from Guijuelo
In the southeast part of the province of Salamanca, at an altitude of above 1000 meters, Guijuelo lends its name and its renown to the most important handcrafted Iberian pork producing region in Spain.
Enclaves like Sotoserrano, Ledrada, Campilla de Salvatierra, Béjar, Aldeavieja de Tormes, Frades de la Sierra, Miranda del Castañar, Palomares de Béjar, Puerto de Béjar, and Tamames make up this region and produce over 65% of the national Iberian porcine livestock.
Sheltered by the Sistema Central mountain range, the privileged microclimate of the region has cold, dry winters and short, cool summers, which allow for a perfect dry-ageing of the hams. In this exceptional area, hundreds of artisans, the sons and grandsons of artisans, work slowly and with wisdom every day to create the Iberian Ham from Guijuelo, unique in the world.
There are three main factors that determine the exceptional quality of these hams: thoroughbred free-range pigs which receive all-natural feed based on acorns, a favourable climate, and an artisanal curing method.
The quality control of the Regulatory Council of the P.D.O. Guijuelo begins on the farms. The genuine acorn-fed Iberian pig roams freely through the mountains until the slaughter in the autumn. Afterward, during the winter, the legs of pork begin a long production process which is closely monitored by the Technical Services of the Regulatory Council. The hams are cured for a minimum of 24 months, although some hams are processed for over 3 years. The technicians of the P.D.O. closely supervise the whole process with the competence which characterizes them.
Here, time seems to stop and a leisurely pace takes over. The artisan uses the climatology of the area to control the temperature at which the hams are stored. Windows are opened, closed, or left ajar depending on the varying climatological conditions. The ham producers have been able to combine the historical legacy of their ancestors with the latest technology while maintaining the artisanal character of the production.
All of the above make the sweet, buttery, and fragrant meat of the Hams of Guijuelo cause an explosion of delicate aromas on the palate.
The lack of salt is one of the most notable characteristics of the acorn-fed Iberian Ham with P.D.O. Guijuelo. When sliced, this ham shows numerous veins of lard in the lean part of the meat, and the colour fluctuates between purplish-red and pale pink. The lard is golden and shiny and demonstrates the low fusion point of acorn-fat.
Because of this, acorn-fed Iberian Ham does not raise the cholesterol level of those who eat it, and it also helps them maintain a low level of heart disease.
Externally, they are recognized by the shape and colour of their fat, by the oiliness of their adipose tissue, as well as the green, blue-ish, or gray. Iberina Ham are the “V”-shaped cut (serrano) as established in the Regulations, along with the fine, slender shape of the bone, and the characteristic black hoof.
Based on the feed the pigs receive during the fattening stage, the haunches are classified as:
- Acorn-fed Ibericos Ham/Shoulders. These come from pigs that have been fattened grazing in the mountains on acorns and herbs from the meadow’s ecosystem. These pieces are identifiable by an red un-breakable seal and a red band reading “Reserva”, with the year of its vintage. Both the seal and the band are numbered.
- Ibéricos Ham/Shoulders. These come from pigs which have been fattened using exclusively natural feed, regulated by the Regulatory Council, or natural feed as well as acorns, but always maintaining the highest breed standards and meticulous handling of the animal. These haunches must have a green un-breakable seal and a green band that are both numbered.
In both cases, the seal must be attached with the corresponding sanitary seal and the manufacturer’s label.
The Technical Services of the Regulatory Council are responsible for the individual classifications of the hams and shoulders that fall under the protection of this P.D.O.