Pata Negra: A Taste of the Iberian Ham in the Highlands

By Neil Melançon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Information & Public Relations Assistant Director

Wednesday saw Class XV visit Iberian ham producer, Eiriz. The small operation processes between 1,000 and 2,000 Iberian hogs each year, sold exclusively in Europe. One of their key techniques is feeding the hogs solely acorns through two months of the year. The feed method alters the taste of the meat and class members got a chance to experience this through a taste test after the tour.

It is safe to say that the class is experiencing fatigue from the long trip. However, thanks to beautiful weather, a pastoral, mountainous backdrop, and some of the most hospitable hosts yet, it’s also safe to say the class feels reinvigorated.  

Here’s the some of the class’ reaction to today’s tour of Eiriz.

Catherine Floyd

“I didn’t realize how old the process of curing ham was. I didn’t realize there had to be a special climate, but I enjoyed seeing hogs in their natural environment. They’re very well taken care of.  

“Hospitality was A-1. Very hospitable, welcoming, friendly and eager for us to learn about their process. It was good.”

Karl McDonald

“We started out looking at hogs and what we show at home, vs. what we saw here was totally different. Judges would laugh if you brought a pig like that out, but with the type of ham they raise, how they refine it produces some of the tastiest ham. It had a delicacy taste to it.  

“I don’t think you’ll find a more unique processing heritage operation. They built it on tradition and built their name on that tradition. They wanted everyone to know that everything came from there—the wine, cheese, ham.

“I feel like we were welcomed into their kitchen and not just a table, but their family table.”  

Hall Schnieder  

“Very informative. The process struck me—it was unlike anything that I’ve ever seen. The taste was interesting. Not something I would want to eat everyday, although I do appreciate the culture and uniqueness of the meat and the process. One thing I know, they were very proud of their region and product.”  

Steven Austin

“The idea of eating meat that has not been cooked and been hanging for 3-4 years would not appeal to many people, but once eating it, I was surprised at something that most people would think is grotesque in the States, that flavorful was actually good. The quality was good.  

“I think they wanted you to feel like a piece of their family. It was so important that their family continue and it was something they wanted to emphasize to their guests. You couldn’t have asked for better hosts.”  

Richard Cooper

“Thought it was wonderful. Not was what I was expecting from something neither smoked nor cooked, but thoroughly enjoyed it.  

“Hospitality was second to none. Treated us like family when they welcomed us. Contrast to some of the wait staff that we’ve had in some of the hotels.”  

Daniel Lonsberry

“It’s kind of like summer sausage in the taste and texture. I thought it was neat that we got to see the hogs and the whole process of how they get to the table. I like the way they eat the acorn.” 

Amy Weeks

“Neat operation—the history of it. They’ve been doing it that way for 2,000 years. It would take us awhile to catch up,  

“The taste was good, unique. Neat cultural way of eating it—you have to learn how to eat it.  

“It’s almost a little incredible that they’re only fed acorns for two months. The way they talk about it you would think it’s a lot more. I guess the specialty is in the breed as much as the feeding process. They feed like any other grass-fed pork. I was impressed by how much space they allow for each pig—that’s a lot of space.”  

Bobby Soileau

“One thing I ask our people—what are you passionate about?  There’s no question in my mind that those people at Eiriz are incredibly passionate about what they do and it shows.  What they do and how they allow others into their process.  And that helps their industry.”  

The group travelled to Evora, Portugal and will tour a cork production facility in the morning.