From the forest to the finest buyers in Hong Kong; from living on chestnuts to sneaking into the Olympus of hams. The history of La Dehesa de los Monteros, a small family cattle farm in the Genal Valley of Malaga, is the proof of the fervor that the ham raises beyond our borders.
In 2006 an adventure began, headed by Chelo Gámez, ex-Cathedral of the University of Malaga, who acquired these lands together with her husband with the intention of enjoying a well-deserved retirement. The misfortune thus slipped into their lives, leaving her a widow shortly after the purchase and with the doubt of what to do with the land.
“We did not know anything about the countryside or livestock,” he says. Jose Simon, company manager and son of Chelo gamez, who runs this firm together with her sister Chelo, responsible for Marketing and Communication “but they told us that Iberian pigs had always been raised in the area, so we tried it too ”.
This is how this company emerged, today a benchmark in the complicated sector of premium Iberian sausages, turning the rough terrain of the Serranía de Ronda into the differential value of its proposal. “It is not pasture, it is a pasture forest. There is a lot to do and that makes our pigs always on the go. They are very walking specimens ”, he comments.
The resurgence of golden blonde and a nutritional peculiarity
Along with the traditional acorn-fed montanera, another secret, a chestnut foothill. “On our farm [alrededor de 800 hectáreas] there are many chestnut trees, as in the rest of the Genal valley, and the pigs also eat them ”, he explains.
More of ten kilos per day of chestnut contribution during the first weeks of autumn which, in José’s words, “sweeten the ham naturally, make it more elegant and that scraping sensation that sometimes happens in other hams is avoided.”
A pleasure that “makes you salivate and ask for another slice”, according to the ‘father’ of these creatures who have drawn the new Ronda landscape with their silhouette. “Are sleek, slim-ankle pigs and with a great infiltration of fat for all the exercise they do, ”he argues.
He is not without reason. There is no more to see the inclined plane on which they roam and these specimens of a short cabin, but well cared for and well selected, roam freely. “We put about 1,000 hams on the market per vintage; we don’t have enough for more ”, he assures.
A production that cannot cope
Bred in Ronda, but slaughtered in Jabugo, the Malaga highland pigs that have put this bullfighting town on the Iberian map boast of a healthy fat above the usual parameters. “They call it the Oleic”, The two Michelin stars explained with laughter Benito Gomez, chef of the Ronda restaurant Bardal, during the III Foro del Ibérico, held in Salamanca at the end of September,
Beyond the joke, the reality is that both Gómez and Simón form a powerful gastronomic tandem where some of the most valued pieces of the pigs from La Dehesa de los Monteros enter this cuisine of the territory. “We supply [a Benito], but with very specific and exclusive products because we would hardly have any production to supply a restaurant like this ”, clarifies José.
However, the Salamanca event, the cradle of the Iberian, served to shine a new star in the native ham universe of which there are already clues in our country, but which has become the best kept treasure of this house.
The Iberian ham podium
Just 100 golden blond pork hams, a cousin of the Iberian that in La Dehesa de los Monteros they are recovering together with Finca Algaba, a neighboring farmhouse, and with the University of Córdoba, for a product that aspires to become the pinnacle of Spanish pork meat.
At the moment, he is not a prophet in his land. Neither by price nor by availability, and is that these hams (which range between six kilos and seven and a half kilos) are priced on the rise outside our borders. “In Hong Kong, up to 6,000 euros have been paid for one of these pieces,” says José.
In Spain, for the moment, the scale is set at Club del Gourmet, in El Corte Inglés, where “we sell packs of 20 sliced sachets, of about 50 grams each sachet, for € 600”. We stand like this before a ham of 600 euros per kilo, far from the figures that mark the most acclaimed firms in the sector.
Flavor and exclusivity that they label under Raza y Oro, to “vindicate the golden blonde, which is a pig that was almost extinct, and whose first tests we did with a herd that we brought from Jerez de la Frontera, which was the last stronghold of this pig, ”says José Simón.
But, beyond that there are only two boars and a dozen mothers, What is the secret of golden blonde? “It is a unique pig, but very demanding. It takes longer to grow, it has less meat yield and you have to be very careful in curing it ”, admits the CEO of the firm.
“That implies that you have to give him more food, more time and also treat him with more delicacy in the field,” he clarifies. Only in this way is it understood the very fine grain, the oleic index that this ham reaches, which also makes chestnut and acorn their main diet, and where you get to those amounts of good fats that are around 62%. “To put it in context, a good 100% acorn-fed Iberian ham [los más puros del mercado]They are at a maximum of 55% ”, he indicates.
Already on the palate, the golden blonde shows even more silky and flux, but elegant, without finding that salty counterpoint, caressing the palate with an unusual sweetness and where the challenge, in addition to finding the financing to pay for the piece, is to resist not eating it in one sitting.
Images | The Dehesa de los Monteros
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