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A glossary of Iberico Serrano ham terms

A Glossary of Pata Negra and Serrano Ham Terms

Añada
As a whole, the hind leg (jamon) and shoulder (paleta or paletilla) cuts coming from pigs of the same montanera, and slaughtered during the same period. Each añada has its own characteristics and organoleptic qualities that make it unique.
Babilla or contramaza
The part of the ham with the least lean meat. It is visible and ready to be cut when the ham is placed with the hoof facing down.
Bodega
A place whose temperature and humidity are constant all year long, where Pata Negra and Serrano hams hang to mature until ready for consumption. "Bodega" is also a widely used term in Serrano ham labels, mainly in those with more than 12 months of aging.
Cebo
Feed used as a basic diet and during the animals' finishing period. Any feed.
Can also be used to refer to the finishing period, when the latter is based on a diet of commercial feed.
Synonomous with "Campo" in the grading system for hams based on pigs' diet.
Chacina
Macerated pork used in the production of sausages.
Curing period
The number of months and years that have passed since the moment the ham was salted. This salting process normally takes place a few hours after slaughter and involves covering the ham in salt. The skin of the ham is marked with the week number and year it was salted, and this information is then used to calculate the elapsed curing period. For example, "04/11" indicates that the ham was salted in the fourth week of 2011 (January 2011), so by January 2012 it will have been cured for 12 months, and by January 2013, for 24 months. The mark is not always clearly visible, as it fades over time. Spanish legislation stipulates that hams must be cured for a minimum amount of time before being sold, with the curing period dependent on the type of ham in question.
Dehesa
Pasture land in south-western Spain, where climate and vegetation provide an optimum habitat for the breeding of Iberian pigs to produce top quality spanish ham.
Ham knife
A long, flexible knife with a narrow blade, used to cut iberico ham into very thin slices.
Iberian or Ibérico pig
An indigenous breed of pig of the southeastern Iberian peninsula, characterized by its excellent adaptation to the Dehesa, its capacity to store fat that marbles the flesh, and its long, slender legs.
Jamón
Term used to designate ham as a generic, and to refer to porks' hind leg cuts ("jamones").
Jarrete
Part of the ham located between the tibia and fibula that is cut into small chunks so that its mellow flavour can be fully appreciated.
Marbling
Veins of fat that penetrate the muscle tissue, giving mellowness to the ham; in "bellota" quality hams they include the volatile compounds from acorns that are acquired during maturation, giving the ham its final flavour and aroma.
Marinade
A mixture of vinegar or wine with various spices and seasonings (paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, etc.) in which foods are soaked to enrich its flavour and preserve it. Marinated meat is meat prepared with a marinade.
Maza
The thicker end of the ham with the largest amount of lean meat, which is visible and ready to cut when the ham is placed with the hoof facing up.
Montanera
The period from autumn to the end of winter during which Iberian pigs reach their final weight, on a diet of herbage and acorns of holm oaks, cork oaks and gall oaks of the dehesa woodland.
Organoleptic
Refers to the properties that can be perceived by the senses: colour, texture, flavour and aroma.
Paletilla
Pork shoulder cut
Pata negra (black hoof)
Most pigs of the Iberian breed have black hoofs. That's why all Iberico hams are popularly known in Spain as Jamón Pata Negra, whether pure or crossbred and no matter what their diet. Nonetheless, the term "pata negra" has been limited by law to top-quality hams since 2014. These two words can be used on the label only if the following requirements are met: the pigs must be pure Iberian, and be raised on the open range eating acorns and natural grasses in Spanish woodlands.
Pig slaughter (matanza)
Called matanza in Spanish (the word literally means "slaughter"). It is a tradition in which one or more pigs are butchered to make sausages for a family. It takes place once a year in the coldest months of winter.
Protected Designation of Origin/Denomination of Origin. PDO
A protected name under which products may be sold indicating that they meet well-defined criteria and come from a particular area. To qualify for PDO status pork products must meet specific requirements including breed, geographic area where they are produced, and preparation techniques.
Quality (bellota, recebo and campo)
The grading system for hind leg and shoulder hams from Iberian pigs is based on the pigs' diet during the finishing period in the "dehesa". Bellota: the animal enters the finishing period weighing 80-105 kilos and replaces about 60% of its entry weight on a diet of acorns and grasses. Recebo: the animal replaces about 30% of its entry weight on a diet of acorns and grasses, the remainder of its diet being natural feed (this category has disappeared with the new law). Cebo: the animal is raised on a diet of grass and compound feed on the open range (Cebo de Campo) or on farms (Cebo).
Reserva
Because of climatic variations the quantity of available acorns in the dehesa woodlands varies from year to year. The type and amount of acorns that pigs consume will determine the particular characteristics of that year (see: Añada). The Producers' Association of the Denomination of Origin publishes annual quality ratings and determines which hams will be included in the coveted Reserva (finest premium ham) category.
Secadero (natural drying area)
A place designed for the drying of Iberico (hind leg and shoulder) hams, in which ventilation is controlled only by opening and closing windows.
Sharpening steel
A cylindrical tool made of steel, with a handle, used to sharpen knives.
"Sweating"
Dissemination of fat throughout the ham, visible in the form of tiny droplets that appear on the surface at ambient temperature. In "Bellota" grade hams this fat is characterized by its high oleic acid content.
Weaning
The moment when the young of an animal ceases to suckle its mothers' milk.
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