The Iberico Ham Quest, Part 1- Let’s talk about the Guijuelo P.D.O
Thanks to Charlotte Allen from Bodega Alma Roja, we were introduced to Cesáreo, the owner of Puente Robles butchery & Embutidos company.
Fermoselle counts 1500 inhabitants so, when we had a meeting with Cesáreo, we were not expecting a company this size! We entered the butchery and then passed through the door behind the counter; we discovered a huge place! We were in a foodies' paradise, full of “Jamón”,” embutidos”, and so on …
Cesáreo is now 72 years old, he created his company over 30 years ago and you can see he’s still passionate about every bit of it. Puente Robles is a family-owned company located in Fermoselle, which is 9 kilometers only from the Portuguese border. They specialize in fresh and cured meat. He works with small producers in the Arribes del Duero and in Guijuelo. Cesáreo combines innovation & tradition.
He receives 150 pigs a week, which seems to be a big figure, I know! But listen, putting facts together, in total if he were to use the full amount of legs, it would be around 31 200 legs per year! Knowing that you need 2 years to cure a jamon and that an average consumption of Jamon per person is 3.2 kilos in Spain, Cesareo is covering less than 0.10% of the Spanish market! Just so that you know, there are many PDOs of hams and shoulder hams in Spain from the Iberico breed, let’s talk about the “PDO Guijuelo“ as we were in the right region! I won’t go deeply into the process of making PDO ‘Guijuelo’ ham and shoulder (Paleta), but I will explain to you the steps and the specifications.
A Few Specifications… Iberian pigs must be born, raised, fattened, slaughtered and processed in the geographical areas of production defined within the “PDO Guijuelo” regulations. The Process in a Few Steps with Cesáreo. 1- Salting. The raw legs and hams are soaked into salt for a few days. Normally, the rule of thumb is one day per kilo of meat.
2- Washing. The remaining salt is washed off with potable water and the meat is brushed. 3- Post-salting/resting. During this stage, the duration of which varies, the salt penetrates evenly to the core of the ham or shoulder ham. 4- Curing/maturing. This involves the gradual loss of moisture from the ham or shoulder ham. 5- Ageing. During this stage, biochemical reactions take place, which generate the compounds responsible for the flavour and aroma characteristics of the product.
You can get lost in a shop in Spain trying to find a good ham/shoulder, to make sure that you buy a real P.D.O Guijuelo, you need to check if it bears the logo “Guijuelo P.D.O”. If you want to go deeper into details, there are 3 grades of Iberico Ham & Shoulder Guijuelo.
You might find some ham/shoulder with a special mention “Gran Selección”; this meant that the duration of the process went up to 800 and 425 days, respectively for the ham and the shoulder. There is a really good video made by “Foods & Wines From Spain” called "The Ham Making Process”, worth watching if you can.
Enjoy your ham!