Reference: Spanish Iberian Ham
The way a pig is raised and what they eat makes a huge difference in the quality of the ham coming from the animal. Spanish Iberian hams are produced from a protected breed of pig descending from wild boars. These pigs are raised in herds instead of pens, out in the open, running free, grazing on the wild chestnuts and acorns, products of the wild forest environment, and herbs that are available to them. In the winter they forage for acorns from the cork oak with their long black snouts, in season and plentiful in the Iberian forest, and during that season, they put on their final weight.
There are three different types of Iberian ham, depending on the time of year the pig is born, August, Christmas, or Spring. The pigs have dark colored skin, they are brown or black in color, and have very little hair. They are slaugtered, depending on the time of year that they are born, between 8 and 13 months of age. The hams coming from pigs that have spent their last months out running in the forest, fattening up on foraged acorns are the ones that have the best flavor.
The Spanish Iberian ham has become a reference for the best cured ham in Europe. Here in Lyon, we are lucky to have a direct source for this type of ham at Les Halles.