Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (loncheado)

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (loncheado)

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Why in GourmetVip - Ibéricos Dehesa Extremeña

In the incomparable setting of Meadows of Extremadura, surrounded by thousands of acres of oak trees, one team of professionals work to the rythm of the seasons and a familiy tradition of more than two decades. Alqueva, limited production,  is a family company which prides himself on mantaining the quality expeccted of this exclusive home-grown product.
Pantano Alqueva
In Alqueva  they take care of their pigs throughout the year, to offer to the consumer, with the Nature permission,  a unique product in the World,  of supreme quality. To this end they are fully committed to a limited production of iberian pigs, traditionally reared on a diet of prime acorns. 
The pigs are raised in a free range environment, on strictly controlled natural feed based on acorns and fresh grass.  In perfect harmony with the environment, this system allows for the conservation and protection of these unique ecological surrondings. 
Alqueva goal is to surprise with a quality product, meetings and exceeding the expectations of the most demanding palates. Alqueva is the promise to offer to the consumers not only an excellent service, but also an opportunity to unveil the secret delight of a genuine Spanish tradition, a unique experience.
We invite you to discover our most prized treasure: Alqueva, limited production
“I have learned that people will forget what you say,
will forget what you do, but people will never forget
how you have made them feel"

· "Dehesa de Extremadura"...
The habitat of the iberian pig is Dehesa de Extremadura, an agro-ecosystem derived from mediterranean oak woodland where the undergrowth has been cleared to encourage the production of grassland and acorns.
Dehesa AlquevaAs a pig-breeding and production system,  Dehesa is characterized by the use of large expanses of grazing land. As the breeds that graze here have traditionally been bred in this region, they are perfectly adapted to the environment.
The harshness of the climate and the poor, low-quality soil have limited other types of farming, which have largely been replaced by stockbreeding.
"Dehesa de Extremadura" with its Holm oaks and cork oaks, is te finest example of an agro-stockbreeding system in which human intervention has respected the natural environment. It is also one of the few models of true ecological agriculture where, to a great extent, the iberian pig has been and continues to be responsible for the conservation of the environment.
In Extremadura, animal production systems feature characteristics that are unique to the other stockbreeding regions in Spain, and even more to those of other member states of the European Union. These differences are mainly based on the great importance that extensive stockbreeding systems in Extremadura, as they are spread over much of the land area, with the result that animal bredding is successfully combined with the conservation of natural environment.
Extremadura unquestionably represents the paradigm of extensive stockbreeding in Spain. 90% of its animal production is obtained through extensive production systems , which in turn represent approximately 40% of Extremadura's total agricultural production.
· Origins...

The history and evolution of iberian pig is inextricably linked to the acorns and dehesas (meadows) of southwest Spain. However, the breed has also had to go through some extremely serious crises, which successfully overcame thanks to its great ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
In the midt-20th century, the Iberian pig was considered to be no more than a common-meat producing farm animal, and the products derived from it were not deemed to be of any great value. 
But then the consumption habits changed, and the  market began to call for meats that were more tender and less fatty, which meant that the Iberian pig lost importance as an animal that could provide fresh meat for public consumption. This change in eating habits gave rise to what was called  the "Iberian pig crisis", as the demand for this particular product fell.
Cerditos AlquevaCertainly, Iberian pig products had always been held in high esteem (it is mentioned as far back as the 17th century), but the animal was not granted any special official certification, this situation though began to change in the second half of the 1960s. These products were based in three forms: the "jamon" (hind leg), paleta (foreleg), embutidos (different types of cured sausages), and together they brought about a reevaluation of the Iberian pig, just when the "pig crisis" seemed to be as it height. Thus, these products (and specially the "jamon" and the "paleta") rapidly came to constitute a specific sector in the meat product market.
Ever since the dawn of civilization , man has been aware of the fact that different foods not only provided the nutrients necessary for survival , they  also  possessed health-giving properties. In the days of Ancient Greece, for example, meat  was the main protein food, and were the hipocratic philosophers considered that the "pig meat gave to the body more energy than other meats".
· Harmony...
All Alqueva products are made of meat from Iberian pigs that feed of acorns and graze on the natural pastureland of " Dehesa de Extremadura", right up to the time of slaughtering. These natural foods give to their meat products their particular flavour and colour. 
Encina AlquevaAcorns contain a series of essential oils with aromas that are absorbed into the flesh of the animal. Likewise, the fat produced by such a diet is more fluid, and as the hams sweat, it spreads out more uniformly between the muscle fibres. 
The fat of the acorn-feeding iberian pig has more than 55% oleic acid. These fats, according to the results of rigourous scientific studies, have  a benefitial effect on cholesterol in the blood, resulting in an increase in the rate of "good" cholesterol (HDL) and reducing the amount of "bad cholesterol" (LDL).
The total proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in the fat of their cured products made from acorn-feeding iberian pigs is higher than 75%, which makes it the most "cardio-healthy" of all known animal fats, and it is even healthier than certain vegetable fats. This is not only due to the particular breed of pigs, but also to their diet of acorns and grass which plays an important part. 
In addition to the benefitial effects on cholesterol, Iberian ham also provides proteins, vitamins B1, B6, B12 and folic acid, all of which are highly beneficial to the nervous system and the brain. It is also rich in vitamin E, (a powerful antioxidant), and in minerals such as copper (essential for bones and cartilage), calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium (closely linked to anti-ageing processes).
With regards energy contribution, 100 grams of acorn-fed Iberian ham contains less than 250 kcal (similar to bread), so moderate consumption will not adversely affect low-calorie diet.
· Quality...
Alqueva, limited production, complies with Royal Decree 1469/2007, 2nd of November, which approves the quality regulations for the meat, "jamon", "paleta", and "caña de lomo" of iberian pigs.
In order to certify that a pig is Iberian, and that it has been fed on acorns during the "montanera" stage, independent inspectors carry out inspections of the field ni which the pigs graze. These inspections take place on a successive basis.Certicalidad, an independent and accredited body that belongs to the group of official inspectors, is responsible for carrying out the aforemetioned inspections at Alqueva. Meanwhile, the traditional curing phase is carried out in cellars, natural driers and installations approved by EEC. 
· Producing...
Once the free-range phasing grange (called "montanera") has ended, and when the pigs have reached their optimum weight (170-180 kgs), they are sent to the slaughterhouse for quartering. The "jamones" and "paletas" (hind and fore legs) are then prepared, according to the following stages:
"Salazón" or salting:
The "jamones" and "paletas" are completely covered in natural sea salt; this helps to stabilize the enzymes and to preserve the meat pieces perfectly. Salting time varies, depending on weight - approximately 1 day per kilogram. Temperatures are kept between 1º and 5º C.
Once the salting process is completed, the legs of ham are washed using a pressure house and machine brushes for removing all the salt from the surface.
In this phase, the salt becomes homogeneously distributed through the meat tissues, at the same as excess water is slowly eliminated, so that the meat acquires the required consistency. This stage lasts for one or two months, depending on the size of the leg of the ham. 
Drying or curing process: 
The pieces are put in natural driers where they will remain from six months to one year. During this stage, different factors determine the quality of the "jamones" and "paletas", such as climate, temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure, as well as the personal touch of the "master ham-maker". This stage completes the preservation of ham, while encouraging the uniform distribution of the fat thoughout the muscle tissues, impregnating them with its delicious flavour.
Ageing in the cellar:
The pieces are kept in the cellar from 12 to 24 months. at a uniform temperature between 8º and 10 º C. At the end of this process, the ham has completed its evolution, achieving a harmony of aromas and the characteristic texture required for the meat to be officially passed, and it will noe receive its "Certificación de Bellota" (certification granted to meat from acorn-fed Iberian pigs).
Finally, the experts apply the "callado" tecnique: using their sens of smell and experience, they decide whether the legs of ham have attained the required quality, in order to be sent to the market.

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Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (loncheado)

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (loncheado)

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