To discover the origins of this exquisite delicacy, you have to travel back through time to the year 1200 BC when a wild boar reached the shores of the Mediterranean and began crossbreeding with other pig breeds as it travelled the Iberian Peninsula. As a result of these encounters, we now have our wonderful Iberico ham which is one of the most highly-prized treasures of Spanish gastronomy and an essential product in the country’s diet.
It all begins in Extremadura’s Dehesa, an authentic natural paradise and an ecosystem derived from the Mediterranean forest dotted with hundred-year-old oak trees. In this wonderful landscape, a territory filled with oak trees and natural pastureland, is where Iberian pigs majestically grow as the last pastured pork breed remaining in Europe, thus, a different and unique breed.
It’s a native pork breed exclusive to the Iberian Peninsula unlike white or common pigs which are raised all over the world. This is why there is such a low number of these animals. The Peninsular Dehesa oak woodlands is the ideal ecosystem for their grazing as part of a unique breeding and feeding system.
Extremadura has a cold, dry climate which provides the best atmosphere for excellent natural curing of what is considered to be the best ham in the world. It has been covered by the Designation of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura since 1990.
Thus, Iberian pigs have been a part of its landscape since remote times and making ham is a practice that dates back to the Roman era in Extremaduran regions.
A proclamation by Emperor Diocletian proves that Hispania was already exporting ham to Rome in the Roman Imperial period 2000 years ago.
Back then, salting was already being used as a method to preserve meat from the primitive Iberian breed. This know-how has been passed done through many generations making it possible for these animals to graze in addition to conserving and improving the Iberian breed.
Nowadays, the historic villa of Trujillo, which was the starting point for Spanish conquerors leaving for the Americas, is the place that combines this tradition and modernity.