THE IBERIAN PIG
The Iberian breed
The Iberian pig feeds naturally in one of the distinctive Mediterranean ecosystems, the pasture (dehesa), developing a unique interrelation: The production of the Iberian pig requires the preservation of the pastures and vice versa: the pasture requires the presence of the Iberian pig to maintain its ecological balance. Consumption of this product, which would certainly be one of the staple foods of the Mediterranean diet if it were more widespread outside the peninsula, is clearly growing in demand.
There are two main varieties of the Iberian pig:
It has two subvarieties called ‘Entrepelada’ and ‘Lampiña’. In both cases, these animals are smaller in size but more prone to fat accumulation.
The colorada (or red)
is divided into ‘Rubia Campiñesa’, ‘Manchada de Jabugo’ and ‘Colorada Extremeña’ or ‘Retinta’. The latter is the most widespread variety, as well as the most muscular of the Iberian varieties. The ‘Rubia Campiñesa’ variety has virtually disappeared today, as has also happened with the ‘Manchada de Jabugo’.
The current production process has been inherited from the traditional method, which began with the slaughter of the pigs in the coldest months in order to be able to carry out the salting and post-soling, which must necessarily be done at low temperatures. The rest of the process was carried out following the natural cycle of the seasons, as the arrival of spring and later summer gradually tempered the weather.
The ‘montanera’ or free-grazing season is the last phase of Iberian pig breeding and consists of letting the pig graze in the pasture, where the traditional fattening process takes place, among cork oak and holm oak forests, with acorn being the main food.
The free-grazing phase runs from October to February, which is the maturation period of acorns. Animals enter this stage at about 90 kilograms and can reach 160 kg in years with a good acorn yield, gaining an average daily weight of about 0.67 kg.
At Montesano, the pigs in the free-grazing season enjoy two hectares of pasture per Iberian pig. In this fundamental phase, acorn provides energy to the animal due to its high carbohydrate content and turns into the famous fat, while the herbs add the peculiar perfume of all acorn-fed Iberian products.