Bellota or Pata negra — which is better?
"Bellota" (acorn) and "Pata negra" (black leg) are words regulated in Spain's Iberian ham law of 2014, and allow to designate certain qualities in Iberian hams (and shoulder hams). All "pata negra" hams are "bellota", but not all "bellota" hams can be called "pata negra". Let's see why:
An Iberian ham can be labeled as "bellota" if its production has met a series of conditions, among them that the pig has grazed in freedom feeding on acorns. For a ham to be labeled "pata negra", in addition to the above, the pig must be 100% purebred Iberian (i.e.: the pig's mother and father were 100% purebred Iberian).
All Iberian hams come from 100% purebred Iberian mothers. If we cross one of these female sows with a male Duroc pig, for example, the offspring will be 50% Iberian. If we feed this pig with acorns, its hams can be labeled as "bellota", but not as "pata negra".
Okay, but which one is better?
It is impossible to answer this question because, in addition to the purity of the breed, many other factors determine the final quality of a ham. Some of them are: how much the pigs move during rearing, the skill in the salting processes, the location of the dryer, the climate under which the ham is cured, etc.
In general, all other factors being equal, a "pata negra" ham would tend to have a more intense and persistent flavor than a "bellota" ham from a crossbred Iberian pig. The fact is that some people value this intensity and others prefer a milder flavor.
Conclusion: there is no one better than the other, it all depends on each person's taste. If what you are looking for is the highest quality and you are not sure what flavors you like best, our advice would be to start with a pata negra ham or shoulder ham from the Extremadura or Los Pedroches Denomination of Origin. These are pieces that, due to the ecosystems where they are cured, have a generally more intense flavor than a crossbred Iberico de Bellota (more typical of Guijuelo), but milder than a pure Iberico from the Jabugo area. If, once the test is done, you want to go for something more intense, continue with a Jabugo pata negra ham or shoulder. If you prefer a milder flavor, go for the bellota hams and shoulders from Guijuelo.
The best bellota Iberian ham at IberGour
Acorn-fed ham is a singular product of Spanish gastronomy —possibly the most emblematic— but it is not easy to find pieces that give the expected quality. Our vocation has always been to make available to our customers those hams that we would buy ourselves to enjoy in our homes with our families and friends. For this reason, when we opened IberGour at the end of 2005, we decided to start with only two products whose quality we were totally sure of: bellota Iberian ham and shoulder ham from the Dehesa de Extremadura Denomination of Origin, produced by a small producer in a village in the Sierra de Montánchez (Cáceres).
Since then, we have sold tens of thousands of bellota Iberian hams and shoulders to as many customers in all the countries of the European Union. Currently, we sell acorn-fed hams from the four Denominations of Origin of Iberian ham in Spain (Jabugo, Guijuelo, Dehesa de Extremadura and Los Pedroches), as well as the most reputable brands. We can say without blushing that acorn-fed bellota Iberian ham is our raison d'être and our specialty.
Which acorn-fed bellota ham should I buy?
At IberGour you can buy with total guarantee Iberian acorn-fed bellota hams and shoulders from all the Denominations of Origin in Spain where these pieces are produced (free-range Iberian pigs fed with acorns):
- D.O. Jabugo (Huelva), if you prefer an intense and persistent flavor.
- D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura, for a milder, sweeter flavor.
- D.O. Los Pedroches (Córdoba), an intermediate flavor and intensity.
- D.O. Guijuelo (Salamanca), if you want the mildest flavor within the bellota quality.
We also have hams and shoulders of the Cinco Jotas (5J) brand, originally from the town of Jabugo, which is the producer par excellence of pata negra acorn-fed bellota ham.
If you have doubts about which ham to buy, you can also use our ham recommender, where we will help you choose the ham or shoulder ham that best suits your needs.
If you are looking for a ham to give as a gift, a good option is to give a gift voucher for the amount you want to buy at IberGour. They never expire and are very easy to use.
Do you have more information about acorn-fed ham?
Yes: we have complete information about pata negra ham (acorn-fed hams from 100% purebred Iberian pigs): where and how it is produced, its characteristics, etc., and we also have nutritional and health information about the consumption of acorn-fed bellota ham.