The Iberico ham is taken from the Iberico pigs that roam in complete freedom in the meadows (so called "dehesa") of Extremadura. It is the main area in Spain where pigs of pure Iberico breed are reared. The meadows are the perfect habitat for the rearing of the Iberico pigs. Extremadura has more than two million hectares of pastureland, out of which over a million hectares is woodland with holm oaks and acorn trees, which produce the acorn, the key component of the pig’s diet. The acorn and grass, on which the Iberian pigs exclusively survive, give the meat its very distinctive flavour.
These areas with a high wood density produce a quantity of 500 to 800 kg per hectare of acorns. The rearing of the pigs contributes to protect the last remainders of the Mediterranean forests with its fantastic meadows, a natural paradise.
Cantillana is a finca located in the heart of Extremadura, a southwestern province of Spain, and is the ideal habitat for breeding the Iberian pig thanks to the "dehesa" which means the wooded pastureland special to the Iberian peninsula which produce the fundamental element for the pigs' diet; the acorn. Cantillana has been in possession of the Gutiérrez de la Higuera family for more than 300 years. True to their philosophy based on sustainability they have improved pig breeding and made it into a really professional business.
Their control processes and the high quality of their products are guaranteed by the Denomination of Origin "Dehesa de Extremadura" (heritage foods that enjoy European legal protection) which is the most demanding market test.
The taste of the ham depends on the pigs eating acorns.
The piglets are born in December and once they are weaned they are let free to the natural “Dehesa” of Cantillana, only eating the grasses, roots and acorns they find on their way.
Iberian pigs love acorns, and that is where the products, especially the ham, get its flavour from. The acorns give them the energy they need to get fat and contribute to the proportion of fat and muscle so characteristic of the Iberian pig. The acorn is also rich in unsaturated fats (beneficial) which are transmitted to the animal.
Finally, in a diet of grasses and acorns, the pig gets to 160 - 180 kg.
The pigs live for 2 years in this paradise and afterwards it takes 3 years to produce the exclusive Iberico ham.
The ham is hand-cured and dries with the winds of Extremadura for at least 3 years until the master ham-maker decides it is ready. The ham is ideal being part of a balanced and healthy diet, due to its exceptionally high nutrients.