The Spanish Montanera

If you´re into the Iberian World, I´m sure you already have heard about the Montanera.

Completely new here? Don´t worry, we´ll explain all the information you need to know about one of the most important steps in the life of the Iberian Pig.


Montanera gives name to the process from early October to March when the Iberian pig lives and roams freely in the Dehesa, its innate habitat.

It is the last step in the breeding of the Iberian Pig.  Only the best species of the race are carefully chosen to start the Montanera.

In this inherent natural place, the pigs live a pleasant live, grazing and roaming freely while being fed by the fruit of the oak trees: the acorn.

The Dehesa it´s the typical landscape of the Midwest part of Spain. It´s located in the areas of Andalucía, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid and Extremadura. A large number of villages from these regions are devoted to the breeding of the Iberian Pig.

Each Montanera it´s different as every year we have different conditions we cannot control: temperature, humidity, optimal state of the oaks, acorn volume… Each year the landscapes with the best conditions are highly sought.

By law, the number of pigs per hectare it´s regulated and it will depend on the available acorn volume during the Montanera. High quality means less pigs and less acorns per hectare.

The feeding of the Iberian Pig in the Montanera it is also meticulously supervised. An Iberian Pig should enter to the Dehesa with no more than 110 Kg and must gain a minimum of 46 kg of weight by eating only grass and acorns during at least 2 months

The life in the Dehesa it´s what assure the quality in the Iberian Pig Meat.


Is Eating Ham Healthy?

The growing healthy lifestyle and the awareness about what we eat have altered our eating habits, but also made us fastidious with other products that are actually healthy. One of them it´s the Spanish Ham.

When following a diet based on your body needs and with exercise, the consumption of ham it´s recommended. Its controversy it´s due to its fat.


We should know a little more about it before understanding the properties of the ham:

We can find two different types of fat:  Satured & Unsaturated


  • The first one can be divided into Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats. The first ones can be find liquid at room temperature and it is known for improving the blood cholesterol levels and stabilize heart rhythms among others properties. You can find them in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
  • The Polyunsaturated fats can be found in corn, soybean, walnuts and fish. Those fats are not made by our own body so that´s why we need to consume them. Sadly, most people don´t eat enough of them.


Saturated fats, typically solid at room temperature, are in all foods; mainly in animal ones. Healthy foods like vegetables, nuts or chicken indeed include them, but in much less quantity that the ones that can be found in cheese, industrial baking and fast food.

Although, cutting saturated fats from our diet will have no benefit. Replacing them with unsaturated ones instead had been shown to lower blood cholesterol.

More than 50% of the fat in Iberian Ham is unsaturated fat, even more if it´s an Acorn-fed Iberian Ham which it´s also rich in antioxidants.



Oleic acid, found in acorn-fed pigs has cholesterol regulating properties. Raising the production of HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering the LDL (bad cholesterol). So, a moderate consume of ham helps maintain the correct cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Other properties of this delicacy is its nutritional content, rich in vitamins B, iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium.Ham can also be you ally in certain diets where a higher intake of protein is needed.

Thus, ham is apart from being part of the Mediterranean diet, an essential ingredient  of a balanced and healthy diet.


Click here for more information about the Iberian Ham and other products.

Myths and Legends about Spanish Ham

The Spanish Ham it´s a worlwide known product, it represents the Spanish gastronomy and its culture. Next to its popularity we can find a lot of myths and legends.  We´ll try to clear out all this foolery.


  • Pata Negra Ham it´s the best one

Pata Negra is neither an exclusive feature nor means better quality. Most Iberian Pig´s paws (pata) are dark (negra), so it can be a requirement when buying an Iberian Ham but there are other features more important as the feeding of the animal and the race purity which will determine the quality and the final taste.

If you read Pata Negra, first read carefully the label.

  • Female´s Pig Hams are better than Male´s ones

Some decades ago, males’ pigs were castrated at 1 year. You could appreciate a different taste in the piece comparing to the female´s, due to the higher level in testosterone and other hormones.

Nowadays you don´t have to worry. At one month, the piggy´s are castrated and you can´t appreciate the difference in the final product.


  • Left leg it´s better than the right one

People tend to think that the pig always rest on his right leg so that´s why left one is preferred. Forget about it! The animal rest on the both legs, just like us!


  • Ask for the ham without its paw

Depending on our location, we can see the hams either with or without the paw. This is not a distinctive of more quality. One more time, we´ll have to look for the label where we will find the important information.

We have to be careful with that because sometimes the White pigs hams have their paws cut out and sold them as Iberian, increasing its price.


  •  The Bellota (Acorn) Iberian Pig only eats Acorns

The Iberian Acorn-Fed Pig it´s extensively reared, he roams freely in the dehesa and, although it´s true he eats Acorns, he feeds also from grass and wild herbs.

  •  Once the ham is opened, protect it with their own fat

This is a typical behaviour in the Spanish culture, however it´s not the best thing to do when we want to conserve the taste and texture of the ham. As the fat it´s from the same piece, it can have other properties that can alter the flavour. You can protect it by covering the piece with a cotton cloth and leave the piece in a place without direct light and air currents

  • The ham has mold, it´s rotten!

It´s true a ham with mold it´s not very attractive, nevertheless it´s part of the traditional curing process. The mold it´s a bacterial film that stabilize the fats in a traditional way. So, it´s a mark of a well-crafted and quality curing process of the piece. You can always remove it with a cotton cloth damped in olive oil.

Psst! The old-timers will tell you they wouldn´t want one without it.


  • The White spots on the ham

On the cut of the Ham we can see little white spots but unlike most people tend to think, they are not salt or fungi. They are tiroxine crystals. The tiroxine it´s a proteine present in the ham. A traditional curing process it´s the proof of the appearance of those.


  •  You should rest the ham before its consumption

It depends on the type of cut. If the ham it´s directly sliced from the whole piece, you should take it at the moment. If the ham is previously sliced (in a vacuumed pack, for example) first let it temper so you can taste better the natural flavour and texture.



Don´t forget to share with us any other legend about the Spanish Ham!

The Spanish Chorizo

Another high requested Spanish product, which I´m sure you´ve already heard of is Chorizo. Widely used in different elaborations due to its unique flavor, you can find it easily in a supermarket.



Chorizo it´s made of lean pork, pork fat, salt and spices as garlic, paprika and oregano. This ingredients are mixed up and stuffed in casings (natural or artificial). Then, the piece is left curing for minimum 3 months (depending on the size), following the same steps as the curing process of Jamón.

The elaboration of the chorizo takes back to the times when each family slaughtered their own pig (Matanza) for their consumption. So, each family had their own recipe and ingredients which they were transmitted from generation to generation.
Some of that recipes are still followed today, that’s why you can find different types and flavors: cured, smoked, spicy, sweet… and also fresh; ready to be cooked, fried or perfect for a barbecue.

As I mentioned before, chorizo can be found easily but it´s hard to found one with a great quality. As you could see in our Iberian Guide (here you can take a look), the quality of the piece is determined by the meat type, the curing process and the race´s purity of the animal.


You can also find a great variety of Chorizo, depending on which part of Spain you are. Here, the most known is the Chorizo Ibérico de Bellota, made from Iberian Pig Meat. Bellota pigs are allowed to roam in the Dehesa and are fed by acorns, its taste it´s unique and delicious. Just the smell it´s mouth-watering.


You can also find different shapes, which will depend on the used casing and the curing period. In Guillén we have the whole Chorizo piece (Chorizo Cular), 1 Kg aprox. and the Chorizo Vela, in a thinner format of 500 gr. and 250 gr.


Hope we have dispelled your doubts. You can find more information on our Spanish blog.


See you soon!

The Spanish Ham

Ham it´s without any doubt one of the most popular products of our country. Once you try it, you´ll not forget the taste of a piece of Jamón melting in your mouth!

I´m sure you heard about Bellota Ham, Serrano Ham, Ibérico Ham, Pata Negra…. Sometimes you can feel frustrated when choosing one. Indeed, we receive a lot of enquiries asking us for advice or tips for choosing a good Ham. That´s why we decided to start our blog by making an Iberian Guide to help you and dispel your doubts.


It´s not all about the outside, there are so many factors that must be taken into account when you are in the search of the perfect piece.

To start with, there is a great diversity of pig races in Spain, but we can group them all in two, which I´m sure you heard about before: Serrano and Ibérico.  Therefore, you´ll find Serrano Ham and Ibérico Ham.


  • Serrano Ham comes from White Pig races (Duroc, Large White….). With a delicate taste, it´s sweeter and saltier than the Ibérico Ham. Also, the level of fat infiltration into the muscle is higher.
  • Ibérico refers to the products than comes from Ibérico race Pigs. It is native to the Iberian Peninsula so it can only be found in Spain and Portugal. Larger and stylized legs, short hair and a dark tone in their paws are some of their characteristics but what makes them unique it´s the way they infiltrate the fat, making their meat juicier and with a greater aroma and texture.



In the process of obtaining an Ibérico Ham three aspects take part in the final result that you must take into account: Purity of the Race, Feeding and type of farming.


  • The Ibérico Purebread it´s often crossed with White Race Pigs to get a higher fat infiltration while preserving the taste of the Iberian Meat. You can find Purebred Iberian Ham (100%) or Crossed Iberian Ham (50%-75%). It´s a matter of taste and preference.

The curing process it´s also unique. Our location (Guijuelo) meets the best climatic conditions to assure a natural and traditional process. Our winters are long, dry and cold and our summers are warm. Those, together with the winds of the Sierra de Francia and Sierra de Béjar help the natural curing and also make our pieces to require less salt to complete the process, enhancing their natural taste.


  • The natural habitat of the Iberian Pig it´s the Dehesa, a landscape native to the central and southern Spain where the pigs are allowed to roam quietly and eat Bellota, the nut of the oak. Summing up, the race purity together with the feeding will be the differentiation from one category to others.


But, how can you distinguish each type? Don´t worry, attached to the Ham there must be a tag with all the information needed.

There are four different categories, as follows:


           100% Iberian Bellota Ham (Black Tag). Purebred Iberian Pig fed on Acorns.

           Iberian Bellota Ham (Red Tag). Cross-breed Iberian Pig fed on Acorns.

           Iberian Cebo de Campo Ham (Green Tag). Cross-breed Iberian Pig Fed on Grains.

           Iberian Cebo Ham (White Tag). Intensively Reared Cross-breed Iberian Pig Fed on Grains.


Hope we have stimulated your interest in the Iberian World now that you are aware about all the process and the background.


Here, in Guillén due to the precise control of all the processes in the production chain, our cured and fresh Iberian Meats stand as a reference for our consumers. We take care of everything: from the genetics conditions of our animals, their feed and breeding to the elaboration and final distribution of our products. Just a taste it´s an unforgettable experience.


In the next posts we will unveil more information and data about Spanish Iberian Ham.

You can check here our posts in Spanish related with the Iberian World.


Stay tuned!