A Glossary of Jamon Iberico Terms

Adobo (Marinade)
A mixture of vinegar or wine with various spices and seasonings (paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, etc.) in which foods are soaked to enrich its flavour and preserve it. Marinated meat is meat prepared with a marinade.
As a whole, the hind leg (jamon) and shoulder (paleta or paletilla) cuts coming from pigs of the same montanera, and slaughtered during the same period. Each añada has its own characteristics and organoleptic qualities that make it unique.
Babilla or contramaza
The part of the jamon with the least lean meat. It is visible and ready to be cut when the jamon is placed with the hoof facing down.
A place whose temperature and humidity are constant all year long, where Serrano and Iberico hams hang to mature until ready for consumption. "Bodega" is also a widely used term in Serrano jamon labels, mainly in those with more than 12 months of aging.
Bone made of horse or cow tibia, thin and sharp, about 10 cm long and with a small wooden handle, which is inserted into the ham or shoulder to check its level of maturation or detect possible problems (lack or excess of salt, rottenness). The insertion, of a depth of between 2 and 3 centimeters, lasts 2 or 3 seconds and the instrument must be quickly brought close to the nose to appreciate the aromas that have impregnated it, as they dissipate immediately. It is not inserted just anywhere. There are some particularly interesting points, such as joints or areas where blood may have accumulated (femoral vein). It is also said that a ham has "cala" when for some reason it has not matured well and the flavor is unpleasant (typically due to a lack of salt or an infection during the first days of the process).
Calidad (Quality)
System of qualification of the quality of hams and shoulders of the Iberian pig.
Bellota: the pig enters the "montanera" at 92/115 kg, gaining around 50% of its entry weight based on acorns and herbs. If the pig is 100% purebred Iberian, this quality is called "Pata Negra" and the ham or shoulder will have a black seal. Otherwise, the quality is "Bellota" and the seal is red.
Cebo de Campo: for a minimum of 2 months before slaughter, the pigs are fed on feed and grass in totally or partially uncovered facilities, where they have a minimum of 100 m2 per animal. The ham or shoulder has a green seal.
Cebo: the pig is fed exclusively on feed and has only 2 m2 of surface area. The ham or shoulder has a white seal.
Recebo: This category was eliminated with the 2014 Iberian ham law. It was an intermediate quality between "Bellota" and "Cebo", in which the pig gained around 30% of its entry weight in montanera based on acorns and herbs, supplementing the rest of its feed with natural feed.
Feed used as a basic diet and during the animals' finishing period. Any feed.
Can also be used to refer to the finishing period, when the latter is based on a diet of commercial feed.
Cerdo ibérico (Iberian or Ibérico pig)
An indigenous breed of pig of the southeastern Iberian peninsula, characterized by its excellent adaptation to the Dehesa, its capacity to store fat that marbles the flesh, and its long, slender legs. The skin and hoof are usually black, hence the common name "pata negra" (literally "black leg") for Iberian hams and shoulders.
Macerated pork used in the production of sausages.
Chaira (Sharpening steel)
A cylindrical tool made of steel, with a handle, used to sharpen knives.
Cuchillo jamonero (Ham-carving knife)
A long, flexible knife with a narrow blade, used to carve iberico jamon into very thin slices.
Curación (Curing period)
The number of months and years that have passed since the moment the jamon was salted. This salting process normally takes place a few hours after slaughter and involves covering the jamon in salt. The skin of the jamon is marked with the week number and year it was salted, and this information is then used to calculate the elapsed curing period. For example, "04/11" indicates that the jamon was salted in the fourth week of 2011 (January 2011), so by January 2012 it will have been cured for 12 months, and by January 2013, for 24 months. The mark is not always clearly visible, as it fades over time. Spanish legislation stipulates that jamones must be cured for a minimum amount of time before being sold, with the curing period dependent on the type of jamon in question.
Pasture land in south-western Spain, where climate and vegetation provide an optimum habitat for the breeding of Iberian pigs to produce top quality spanish jamon.
Denominación de Origen (Protected Designation of Origin/Denomination of Origin. PDO)
A protected name under which products may be sold indicating that they meet well-defined criteria and come from a particular area. To qualify for PDO status pork products must meet specific requirements including breed, geographic area where they are produced, and preparation techniques.
Destete (Weaning)
The moment when the young of an animal ceases to suckle its mothers' milk.
Infiltraciones (Marbling)
Veins of fat that penetrate the muscle tissue, giving mellowness to the jamon; in "bellota" quality jamones they include the volatile compounds from acorns that are acquired during maturation, giving the jamon its final flavour and aroma.
Part of the jamon located between the tibia and fibula that is cut into small chunks so that its mellow flavour can be fully appreciated.
Matanza (Pig slaughter)
Called matanza in Spanish (the word literally means "slaughter"). It is a tradition in which one or more pigs are butchered to make sausages for a family. It takes place once a year in the coldest months of winter.
The thicker end of the jamon with the largest amount of lean meat, which is visible and ready to cut when the jamon is placed with the hoof facing up.
The period from autumn to the end of winter during which Iberian pigs reach their final weight, on a diet of herbage and acorns of holm oaks, cork oaks and gall oaks of the dehesa woodland.
Organoléptica (Organoleptic)
Refers to the properties that can be perceived by the senses: colour, texture, flavour and aroma.
Paleta or Paletilla
Pork shoulder cut. Front leg of the pig.
Pata negra (black leg)
Most pigs of the Iberian breed have black hoofs. That's why all Iberico jamones are popularly known in Spain as Jamón Pata Negra, whether pure or crossbred and no matter what their diet. Nonetheless, the term "pata negra" has been limited by law to top-quality jamones since 2014. These two words can be used on the label only if the following requirements are met: the pigs must be pure Iberian, and be raised on the open range eating acorns and natural grasses in Spanish woodlands.
Pernil (Hind leg ham)
Hind leg of the pig. It is used to refer unambiguously to the ham (hind leg or "jamón") and not to the shoulder (front leg or "paletilla").
Because of climatic variations the quantity of available acorns in the dehesa woodlands varies from year to year. The type and amount of acorns that pigs consume will determine the particular characteristics of that year. The Producers' Association of the Denomination of Origin publishes annual quality ratings and determines which jamones will be included in the coveted Reserva (finest premium jamon) category.
Secadero (natural drying area)
A place designed for the drying of Iberico (hind leg and shoulder) jamones, in which ventilation is controlled only by opening and closing windows.
Sudado ("Sweating")
Dissemination of fat throughout the jamon, visible in the form of tiny droplets that appear on the surface at ambient temperature. In "Bellota" grade jamones this fat is characterized by its high oleic acid content.