IBERIAN HAM OF EXTREMADURA

To open any Extrem product, inhale its aroma and taste it, is to enjoy it. It's as easy as that. However, enjoying it also means knowing a little more about it, including its health benefits and how it differs from other products.

We invite you to get to know the world of acorn-fed Iberian products a little better.

Let's start at the beginning: What is Iberian ham?

Let's start at the beginning:

What is Iberian ham?

Iberian ham is the name given to pieces made from the hind legs of the Iberian pig. It is the most coveted piece of the Iberian pig, the crown jewel. 

But be careful - not all Iberian hams are the same. The category includes:

50% Iberian breed: coming from pigs with one Iberian parent, usually
the mother. 

75% Iberian breed: coming from pigs with a 100% Iberian mother and a 50%
Iberian father. 

100% Iberian breed: coming from pigs that have two 100% Iberian parents. You might also have heard this referred to as Pata Negra. Does that ring a bell?

However, in addition, Iberian hams are classified according to their type of feed, their curing time, time spent feeding in the pastures... Are we going a bit fast? Take a break for a "tapa" of Extrem Puro Extremadura acorn-fed Iberian ham.

Is Iberian the same as Serrano?

Although people often use these terms interchangeably, they are completely distinct products.

The difference is very simple: Serrano ham is ham from a white-skinned pig rather than an Iberian pig. White-skinned breeds include Duroc, Pietrain, Landrace and Large White. Remember Babe (the Sheep-Pig)? Well, that is a white-skinned pig.

In contrast, the Iberian breeds, which are much darker in colour, have names like Negro lampiño, Negro entrepelado, Retinto, Rubio andaluz or Manchado de Jabugo. And they're all native to the Iberian Peninsula. Just like gazpacho soup and tortilla omelettes.

How can you identify an Iberian ham in two seconds?

Of course, the quickest and easiest way is by its label. Hams must be labelled according to the following classification and colour code:

Black label: For 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham (ham that comes from 100% Iberian pigs, raised in freedom in the pastures and fed during their last phase of fattening on natural grasses, aromatic herbs and acorns).

Red label: For Iberian acorn-fed ham (ham that comes from cross-bred pigs, which are not therefore 100% Iberian, raised in freedom in the pastures and fed during their last phase of fattening on natural grasses, aromatic herbs and acorns).

Green label: For Iberian free-range grain-fed ham (ham that comes from pigs fed on grains supplemented with natural grasses). They can be 100% Iberian, 75% Iberian or 50% Iberian.

If the ham doesn't display any of these labels, you can be sure that it isn't an Iberian ham. Look at the Iberian hams from Extrem; what label do you think they carry?

Is acorn-fed ham produced from an animal that has only eaten acorns?

Although you might think so from the taste of some of our hams, the reality is different. The Iberian pig only feeds on the fruit of the holm oak or cork oak in its final phase of fattening: the "montanera".

Until then, the pig is fed first with mother's milk, followed by grains and legumes, until its last stage of rearing in the pasture.

What is meant by the "montanera"?

"Montanera" is the last phase of Iberian pig rearing, in which the pigs graze semi-free-range in the pastures, among cork oak and holm oak forests, feeding mainly on acorns and grass.

The Extrem Puro Extremadura pigs enjoy two, and sometimes even three "montaneras". And not in just any pasture... they graze in the Dehesas de Extremadura, the cradle of this ecological paradise.

Now you have one more indication of its unique flavour.

Why is what the pig is fed so important?

There's no doubt that the acorns influence the final flavour acquired by the Iberian products. But there's more... the feed is linked to the type of life the animal has led. 

Grain-fed hams come from animals fed with nutritious feeds - grains, oats, barley and wheat, generally. These animals do not have access to the "montanera" and generally live in barns (except for those that are free-range).

Acorn-fed Iberian pigs have spent at least 60 days grazing in the Dehesa and feeding on its acorns (Extrem pigs may spend up to 1200 days in the pastures). 

During that time, the life of these pigs is reduced to eating, walking and sleeping; Iberian pigs can walk between 12 and 15km a day (more than most people!), and this activity is responsible for the fact that the fat we find in the acorn-fed Iberian ham is perfectly distributed and infiltrated. 

Now you can tell your dinner companions that you know the reason behind the marbling that gives acorn-fed Iberian products their inimitable flavour.

If you're one of those people who look at a wine's designation of origin before choosing it, this will interest you...

Just as there are wines with designation of origin, there are also Iberian hams with designation of origin. 

A DO is no more - or less - than a region, county, locality or place that has been recognised to designate the products, in this case hams, that meet a series of conditions. 

There are less demanding designations of origin and others that are more demanding when it comes to the quality of their products. Then, there is the Dehesa de Extremadura Designation of Origin, the most demanding of the four designations of origin for ham in Spain. All Iberian ham must come from pigs raised and slaughtered in one of the 85 municipalities of Cáceres and Badajoz covered by the regulation, which exhaustively controls the entire process.

Do you want some good news? Iberian ham is good for your health

If you already enjoy Extrem acorn-fed Iberian ham, now you're going to like it even more.

Acorn-fed Iberian pigs have fats containing more than 55% oleic acid. These fats have been shown in scientific studies to have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol. To give you an idea, only virgin olive oil has a higher content of oleic acid. Have you ever heard that the acorn-fed Iberian pig is called the olive tree on legs?

The total proportion of unsaturated fatty acids is over 75%, making it the healthiest of all known animal fats for the heart and even healthier than some vegetable fats. The credit goes to the breed of pig, and to their feeding on acorns and grasses.

Another of the properties of this ham is the presence of group B vitamins (beneficial for the proper functioning of the nervous system and brain), the presence of vitamin E (recognised for its antioxidant character) and minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.

How long does a ham last in your house?

If it's from Extrem Puro Extremadura, probably not long. But to make sure you enjoy its full flavour until the last slice, here are some tips:

• So that it doesn't dry out too quickly, start cutting it at the end which has less meat.

• Every time you finish cutting it, cover it up. But no cloths; it's best to cover it with its own fat.

• That fat oxidises after 5 days and can leave a rancid taste in the ham. So, clean off the outer rind of the ham and use this to cover it.

• Keep it away from sunlight and in a cool, dry environment (no more than 25º)

• The kitchen is not the best place to store it. The smells and the heat are not good companions.

• And, above all, eat it often. You probably won't find that too difficult!

White suits you so well...

White wasn't selected as the colour of all the Extrem Puro Extremadura packaging by chance. It's the colour on which the red of the acorn-fed Iberian ham most stands out. Therefore, always choose a white plate to serve it on.

If you've ever considered serving the ham on a slate plate, don't do it. The fat that marbles the ham sticks and looks transparent.

Cut by hand or by machine? Each has its advantages

• By machine: the cut is more regular, all the pieces are similar and the thickness of the ham will always be the same. 

• By hand: ham experts say it tastes better cut by hand than by machine, especially when eaten freshly cut. The cut is more irregular and some slices are thicker than others.

Whether by hand or machine, it is important to cut in the direction of the fibres so as not to break them. Thus, its taste and tenderness are highlighted. Doesn't it make your mouth water?

If you don't have the hand of a master ham maker, sliced ham is the product for you

Not all of us have the skill of those masters who cut an Iberian ham with the skill of a surgeon. For the rest of us, there are sliced hams, a tasty and practical alternative.

Their main advantage is that they can be kept in the fridge, vacuum-packed to avoid the risk of drying out, and we can extend their consumption time (in addition to distributing them in smaller quantities).

Ah! And if you have to send it by post, you save the cost of the weight of the bone!