The well-known Iberian ham, in order to have its specific qualities, has to follow a specific procedure. The complete curing process of Iberian ham is a process that unites three factors: the historical legacy, the ideal climate and technical innovations.
In order to obtain the specific quality of the well-known “jamón ibérico”, a process must be followed to achieve the highest quality.
In this first phase, salt is used to coat all the pieces of ham. This process allows the pieces to be dehydrated and preserved. Specific rules must be followed; temperatures must be kept between 0°C and 5°C, relative humidity between 70% and 90%.
Among other benefits of salt, there is also the development of colour and typical aromas. The salting time varies, but normally it is estimated that a ham is salted for one day for every kilo of fresh weight. Halfway through the process, the pieces are turned over so that the salt is evenly distributed.
- Washing and settling:
After the first phase, the pieces are washed in lukewarm water and shaped one by one. They are hung on a rope and placed in a chamber for the salt balancing or settling process.
The settling process also has to follow some rules: temperatures have to be between 0°C and 6°C with a relative humidity of 80% to 90%.
This part of the process would last between 35 to 45 days depending on the ham.
The pieces will pass to the natural dryers, in semi-darkness, where the ventilation can be controlled allowing optimal conditions of humidity and temperature.
The duration of this phase is between 6 and 9 months, which allows a uniform distribution of fat in the muscle tissue.
The temperature of the hams rises progressively, gradually and controlled by opening and closing windows.
After the “drying” phase, the pieces are divided by weight, quality and conformation so that they go to the natural cellars and finish in the curing phase with the maturation process.
Here the rules to follow are: maintain a temperature between 15°C and 20°C with humidity around 60-80%.
In this phase, the ham undergoes enzymatic and biochemical changes that give rise to excellent qualities of aroma, flavour and texture.
At the end, an assessment is made by inserting an awl into the knuckle, normally done by an expert who has a great olfactory capacity.
The final phase allows the Iberian ham to obtain its colour, aroma, flavour and texture that define it, it can last between 2 and 4 years, after which a red meat with an intense aroma, a slightly salty taste, with soft fat and an almost sweet flavour will be obtained.