The ‘montanera’ is the last phase in the rearing of the Iberian pig, during which the pigs graze in the ‘dehesa’, with traditional fattening taking place and the acorns that fall from the holm oaks being their main source of food. During this time the Iberian pigs live in freedom, having at their disposal large areas of pastureland (the quality standard requires a minimum surface area, based, among other things, on the foliage of the trees in the area).
The pigs, thanks to their fine sense of smell, select the ripe fruit and leave the green ones for later. It is also interesting to know that the pigs do not gobble the acorns, but rather peel them, leaving the shells under the holm oaks.
An Iberian pig enters the ‘montanera’ with a weight of around 100/110 kg and from that moment onwards it has to fatten up on acorns and pasture for a minimum of around 50 kg.
In addition to the feed, the pigs, while ranging free in the dehesa get plenty of exercise and as a result fat infiltrates the muscle, which gives their meat, and of course the ham, a special flavour. In short, free-range rearing and a natural diet based on acorns are essential to achieve the highest quality ham.
WHEN DOES THE MONTANERA TAKE PLACE
The start of the montanera can vary each year depending on the weather, as it depends on when the acorns ripen and start to fall. This does not usually occur before mid-October and lasts until the end of March at the earliest.
Depending on the weather and rainfall in each particular year, the ripening process of the fruit and therefore the period of montanera can be brought forward or delayed.
THE MONTANERA AT JUAN PEDRO DOMECQ
At Juan Pedro Domecq our aim is always to achieve the highest quality, which is why we go far beyond the standards set by the quality regulations for the montanera. Our pigs, divided into herds of 200-300 pigs, graze in the pasture from the time they are piglets, which is why we can say that they experience a double montanera, since as piglets they already enjoy the end of a montanera, before entering the finishing phase before slaughter.
Furthermore, as opposed to the 2 months of free-range rearing and feeding on acorns, which the regulations require in order to be called of this quality, at Juan Pedro Domecq we go further: the pigs reach the montanera phase having already lived in freedom for more than a year (since they are piglets), and then spend at least 4 more months in montaneras, chosen for their quality, valuing the acorns available each year, with an average of more than 2.5 hectares per pig.
OUR EXCELLENT WORK AND PRACTICES WITH THE PROCESS AND ANIMALS
As you have been able to observe, the “montanera” process is crucial when it comes to achieving the flavour, aroma and texture of our ham.
Therefore, the next time you buy a Juan Pedro Domecq 100% Iberico bellota ham, bear in mind the special care taken in its preparation, so that you can enjoy all the nuances of flavour that only the 100% Iberico bellota ham has to offer.