Do you want to know why the term "pata negra ham" is used for 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham? "Pata negra ham" is internationally known as the finest Spanish ham. But do you really know everything about it? You're about to delve deep into one of the star products of our country's gastronomy.
We're telling you everything about it!
Where does the term "pata negra ham" come from?
To begin with, you should know that "pata negra ham" comes from the Iberian pig, a native breed of the Iberian Peninsula. The name "pata negra" refers to the black color of the hoof and the dark skin of the Iberian pig. However, this shouldn't confuse us. Having a black hoof is not a "distinctive" or exclusive trait among Iberian pigs.
There are some pig breeds, like the Duroc, a white breed, that can have dark hooves like some Iberian pigs, but logically, we can't call them "pata negra" because they are not 100% Iberian breed. Similarly, there are Iberian pigs that don't have such dark hooves, and that doesn't mean they are any less 100% or 50% Iberian.
Therefore, having a black hoof on the ham is not synonymous with it being Iberian ham. Pata Negra is only the ham from a mother and father, both 100% Iberian.
So,what should we consider to differentiate an Iberian pig from a non-Iberian one?
The first thing to consider is that Iberian pigs are a unique animal species in the world because they have the ability to infiltrate fat into the muscle, which makes their meat oilier than that of other pigs and, therefore, considered of the highest quality. However, this is not the only difference between them and other pigs; there is a physical factor that sets them apart: the shape of their legs.
Observing the shape of the legs is the easiest way to discover if a ham is Iberian or not, but we emphasize, we're talking about the shape, not the color. Iberian pigs, unlike white pigs, have more streamlined front and rear legs, with slimmer shanks. Just paying attention to this will let you know the breed of pig you're dealing with.
Duroc Pig - Not Iberian
Iberian Breed Pig
Labeling as a method to differentiate types of ham
In 2014, to facilitate the clear differentiation between Iberian and non-Iberian ham, legal regulations were approved that control and regulate the classification and labeling of Iberian ham. According to these regulations, we can differentiate between:
This label is for Iberian pigs with only one Iberian parent, fed on feed and grains, and raised on a farm. These pigs produce jamón de cebo ibérico (Iberian bait ham).
It is used for field pigs with a 50% breed purity. These pigs have spent part of their lives grazing freely in the pasture or field, eating wild fruits and the occasional acorn. However, their main diet is controlled feed and grains, to reach their optimal weight. They yield jamón de cebo de campo ibérico (Iberian field-bait ham).
Worn by Iberian pigs with a 50% breed purity. These pigs have spent 4 months of their lives in the "dehesa" (grazing land) and have been fed acorns during the montanera season. We're talking about jamón de bellota ib érico (Iberian acorn-fed ham).
This label is exclusive for 100% Iberian breed acorn-fed hams, known as "pata negra" hams. This type of ham comes from purebred Iberian pigs that have undergone the "montanera" period.
At Enrique Tomás, we emphasize teaching you about different types of ham and how to distinguish them, because only then can you fully enjoy it. By becoming knowledgeable about the types, you'll be able to identify the one you prefer. When choosing an Iberian ham, you first need to think about the flavor you want and choose accordingly between the different types.
In summary, why is it called "pata negra ham"?
Because the color of the hoof is often generalized as characteristic of the species. However, we've seen that this is not a defining factor to identify acorn-fed Iberian ham. That's why we recommend relying on the labeling. And if you have doubts, at Enrique Tomás, we have a customer support channel with live online chat, where you can clarify your doubts.
And if after all this theory, you want to put it into practice and buy acorn-fed Iberian ham, here are excellent options for flavorful pata negra ham to enchant your palate.