PHASE 1: SALTING AND WASHING
After slaughter, the hams and shoulders are debited and given a ring sealed by the veterinary services and the A.O.C. services certifying their origin. In the curing phase, the dehydration of the fresh pieces begins.
The hams are hung in cold rooms where the relative humidity varies between 80 and 90%. After 24 hours, they are stored on top of each other and covered with sea salt. The salting time is 1 day per kg of the fresh piece.
Once the curing process is complete, the hams are washed in warm water to remove surface salt. Then they are hung in rooms where the temperature is 5°C and the relative humidity is 80 to 90%. The purpose of this phase is to achieve saline balance by slowly removing moisture and distributing salt evenly throughout the muscles. This phase ends when the weight of the hams is between 10 and 12% lower than the weight of the fresh piece.
PHASE 2: DRYING
During this stage, the hams are hung in natural dryers where humidity and temperature are regulated by opening and closing blinds. Naturally, hams dehydrate slowly at room temperature and in the dark. This step takes about 6 months.
With the arrival of the gentle heat of summer, the fat tissue begins to melt and the « sweating » of the ham begins. This is one of the most important stages and in which the characteristic climate of the Aracena mountain range is of great importance. During the day, the summer temperatures of the Aracena mountain favour this perspiration, while at night the hams are naturally cooled due to significant temperature differences.
PHASE 3: REFINING
This is the final step in the process of making Iberian Ham. The hams remain hung at a temperature between 15 and 30°C and a relative humidity of 60 to 80%. It is during this ageing phase that the microbial flora settles on the hams and the aromatic compounds attach themselves to them.
The duration of these two phases varies according to the quality and weight of the ham, from 30 to 40 months.