The Designation of Origin Los Pedroches has its production area in the dehesas of the north of the province of Cordoba, which includes the region of Los Pedroches. The dehesa is an enclosed and wooded land, usually for pasture.

The pigs are fattened during the autumn in the dehesas of Los Pedroches, which are made up of centuries-old holm oaks and to a lesser extent cork oaks and gall oaks, a thick blanket of grass and a warm climate, with plains or low hills.

Year after year, when autumn arrives, the dehesa produces an abundance of acorns and pasture to supplement the pigs’ diet. This feeding phase is known as montanera, and will be responsible for the quality of the gastronomic products that will later be obtained.

The dehesa conforms an ecological atmosphere in which the resources of the environment are respected and used in a sustainable way, and its exploitation is compatible with the preservation of these sites.

The importance of the dehesa from an environmental point of view has been internationally recognised, as it is home to a unique biodiversity. In November 2002, UNESCO declared the Dehesas de Sierra Morena a Biosphere Reserve, which, with 424,000 hectares, became one of the largest protected areas on the planet.

The product

Two different types of meat are obtained from pigs bred in this way, depending on the food the animals have received. Thus, the pigs that are nurtured only on the food provided by the dehesa, made up of acorns and natural herbs, are those destined for the production of acorn-fed Iberian ham.

Cebo Iberian ham, on the other hand, is produced from Iberian pigs that have been fed acorns and grass in the dehesa , but which in the final fattening phase have been nurtured with natural food made up of cereals and leguminous plants in order to reach their ideal weight.

Thanks to the exercise the pigs get from grazing freely in the fields, the fat seeps into the muscles and produces the characteristic white streaks of ham reared in the open air and the characteristic aroma and flavour of this type of ham.

Production process, period and occurrence

After the first days of wintry weather, at the end of November, the slaughter takes place, and from this point onwards the careful process of making the ham begins. Once the pieces have been removed, they are covered with sea salt and left to rest in pyramid-shaped piles. The ham must remain salted for approximately one day per each kilo of weight. During this time the salt helps the meat to dehydrate. Once this period is over, the pieces are washed.

After washing comes the settling period, which lasts between 40 and 45 days. During this time, the pieces of ham are hung in chambers in which the meat absorbs the salt homogeneously. During the settling period, the ham must obtain the right salt content.

Finally, the drying and ageing period takes place in the cellar. During this period, the ham must remain at temperatures of between 15 and 20 degrees in an environment with a humidity of between 40% and 65%. Slowly, all the reactions that will produce all the flavours, aromas and textures take place. Depending on the characteristics of the ham, it will remain in the cellar between 9 and 48 months.

The other protected designation of origin for Iberian ham in Andalusia par excellence is Jabugo, in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park, in the province of Huelva.

Bellotas. Photo: Marc Pascual. Pixabay.

Dehesa de encinar. Andalucía Turismo y Deporte

Cerdo ibérico en la dehesa. Andalucía Turismo y Deporte.

Jamones ibéricos. Andalucía Turismo y Deporte

Ibéricos COVAP. (2021). Alta Expresión de Los Pedroches. Ibéricos COVAP. [Video File].