The process of salting, or what is called “the salazón”, is the first step in the process of crafting our award-winning Acorn-Fed 100% Ibérico Jamones and Paletas. Salting food essentially draws out the moisture and slowly dries it out, which enhances flavor and creates some exquisitely delicious nuances.
This tradition of salting food for preservation dates back to ancient Egyptian times, where it was originally used to preserve fish. The technique has continued to evolve and develop into a delicious form of conservation and flavor that is celebrated all over the globe. Fish is still preserved this way in many parts of the world (including Spain!), but it is now used for other products as well, like our prized Alta expresion Acorn-Fed 100% Ibérico Ham and Alta Expresion Acorn-Fed 100% Ibérico Shoulder.
Want to learn more about how we use this time-tested conservation method at Ibéricos COVAP? Here’s how the magic happens:
Before the Salazón Salting Process
Before the salting process begins, hams and pork shoulders go through specific screening processes to ensure they are up to our standard. They first pass through an inspection that iss done by robots in our Meat Center, where top-of-the-line technology assesses various quality parameters, like pH levels.
The pieces are then classified into their respective categories, and conserved in large refrigeration rooms for about 24 hours. Then, they are sent to the “secadero” (Drying House). Hams and pork shoulders are organized and stored so that the largest ones are the first to leave the refrigerator. At this point, the maximum temperature of the room is 53ºF. Before the actual salting process begins, the pieces are checked, tested, and correctly identified and categorized. They will also go through the process of “sangrado” in which our expert ham masters press strongly on the vein stretching from the knee to the hip, in order to drag and release remaining pockets of liquid. This is all a part of ensuring an even curing process. At this point the hams and shoulders have an internal temperature of 37ºF.
The Salting Process
Now it’s time for the “salazón”, or the salting process. The goal of the salting process is for the piece to absorb salt and, via osmosis, expel water and moisture to achieve proper dehydration, which keeps bacteria at bay and preserves the meat for a long period of time.
During the first stages, the pieces are placed in large horizontal boxes with the fattiest part facing downward, and they are covered with salt. In each box there are either four lines of pork shoulders or three lines of hams, which are slightly larger.
These boxes are then moved to the salting rooms, or “salas de salazón” where the temperature is less than 39ºF and the humidity is relatively high, around 95%. At this point the pieces will stay buried in the salt for a few days. The time that the ham and pork shoulder stay in the salt depends entirely on their weight— about one day for every kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of meat.
After each piece has spent an adequate time in salt, they are washed using lukewarm water and air pressure, which helps gently remove remaining salt granules. Nothing here is wasted: the excess of salt is then stored at a temperature of 39ºF to be reutilized for other batches.
After the Salting Process
After the salt is washed off from the hams and pork shoulders, they go through a second “sangrado” process (in which an expert ham master presses on the meat). While it may seem simple, it is actually one of the most decisive steps in perfecting conservation and proper curation.
Finally, our experts carefully inspect each piece and use a thick rope to hang the hams and pork shoulders on special hangers. They are then transferred to the post-salting rooms.
Of course, the magic doesn’t stop there. This is just the beginning of a detailed artisan process that produces some of the most exquisite cured pork in the world. Check out our blog for information on the entire ham-making process, from the free-range black-hoofed Iberian pigs to those perfect slices of melt-in-your-mouth Acorn-Fed 100% Ibérico Ham and Pork Shoulder.