Three essential terms in the Culture of Ibérico

Every year, through this blog, we talk about the free-range period (montanera), the acorn campaign (campaña de bellota) and the year (añada) of the ham and many of you, through the social media, ask us about the difference between each term. Well today we are going to focus on describing what each one actually is.  

Free-range Period (La Montanera) is the period of time during which the Acorn-Fed Ibérico pigs free-range throughout the meadowlands eating the fallen acorns. This period tends to start around the end of October, when the acorns of the genus Quercus (Holm Oak, Oak, Cork Oak) start to drop to the ground mixing with the grass and at the disposal of the drifts of pigs. The law says that the last pigs considered as acorn-feeding should be out free-ranging in the meadowlands before the 15th of December so that they will have more than enough time to enjoy the acorns and put on the necessary weight for their slaughter before the 31st of March. Thus, this free-ranging period bestrides two years: starting in autumn and finishing off with the arrival of spring of the next year, once there are no acorns left to be had on the ground of the meadowlands. This is the reason why we always refer to the free-range period using two years “Free-range period 2015-2016” so that there will be no doubts whatsoever of the period that is in fact included.  

The Campaign is the period when the pigs that have been free-ranging and eating acorns arrive at our facilities to start the production process of our Sausage Meats and Hams. Once again the law indicates that this period is established between the 15th of December and the 31st of March, at the very most, although at FISAN we hardly ever take it this far, neither at the beginning or at the end, thus assuring maximum quality of the raw material. Since the acorn campaign also includes dates corresponding to two consecutive years, its denomination likewise specifies both years (as in the case of the free-range period): Acorn Campaign 2015-2016.  

When we refer to Campaign Sausage Meats, which start being ready as of June of each year, the only thing indicated is the last year of that Acorn Campaign. Thus in this month of June of 2016 we will start to enjoy Campaign 2016 Sausage Meats (despite the fact that the acorn campaign started on the 15th of December of 2015 and is actually called Acorn Campaign 2015-2016).  

The Year of a FISAN Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham also corresponds with the Acorn Campaign during which the Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham reaches our facilities. In like manner to the Campaign Sausage Meats, it is indicated with only one year. Thus the FISAN Gran Reserva Ibérico Hams that we presented at Madrid Fusión this year corresponded to the years 2012 and 2013. This means that those corresponding to the 2012 Year were actually animals that reached our facilities between the 15th of December of 2011 and the 31st of March of 2012, undergoing a curing process (in May of 2016) of more than 50 months. Those corresponding to the Year 2013 arrived between the 15th of December of 2012 and the 31st of March of 2013, which means that they will undergo a minimum curing period of 38 months.  

How to distinguish the year of a ham?

All FISAN Ibérico Hams have a mark, found close to the upper part of the leg, indicating the week and year when the salting process in our facilities started. The FISAN Acorn-Fed Ibérico Hams are always marked between week 1 and 15 of each year and, when the acorn campaign is somewhat early, then they are marked in the last two weeks of the previous year (weeks 51 and 52). This corresponds with the period that goes from the 15th of December to the 31st of March of the acorn campaign. Any Ibérico Ham that is marked with other weeks of the year cannot be an Acorn-Fed Ibérico Ham (unless it has been frozen before undergoing the salting process), and these will be Grain-Fed Ibérico Hams, information which in itself is another tip so that the consumer will be able to distinguish its quality.    

We hope that these explanations will come in handy so that you can become familiar with the terminology normally used in the world of Ibérico, although if you were to have any doubts please do not hesitate to contact with us directly through this link. We will be more than happy to answer all your questions.