Lacón gallego is obtained from the shoulders or front legs of fattened pigs of the Celta, Large White, Landrace and Duroc breeds, crosses between those breeds and crosses with the Belgian White and Pietrain breeds. The latter two breeds must not represent more than 25 % of the mix. Production and processing both take place in the autonomous community of Galicia in north-east Spain. It is protected by its IGP.
After processing, which involves salting, washing, standing, and curing, the product has the following characteristics:
- Shape: rounded, well-formed up to the muscle, with the skin and trotter but without the toes
- Weight: minimum 3 kg, maximum 5.5 kg
- Appearance: clean and firm with uniform muscle formation
- Texture: firm to the touch
- Fat: unctuous, varying according to feed, whitish or slightly yellowy
- Colour: pink to purplish red
- Appearance on cutting: clean, glossy, with the muscle lightly streaked with fat, aroma: delicate and pleasant with no rancidity or foreign odours
- Taste: slightly salty, with a hint of sweetness
Two types of ham are produced:
Lacón Gallego: from pigs fed with authorised feed, monitored by the Regulatory Council.
The pigs must not be slaughtered and butchered at the same time as other animals not entered in the registers of the Regulatory Council. Also, they may only be slaughtered, butchered and processed in registered Lacón gallego establishments.
At slaughter, the pigs must be a minimum of six months old and have a live weight of at least 90 kg. A traditional round cut is made, using the whole of the shoulder, keeping the trotter, but discarding the toes. Only shoulders with a blood-in weight of between 3.5 kg and 6.5 kg are given a seal. Processing involves a series of phases (salting, washing, standing and drying or curing) to produce the ham. The total process takes a minimum of thirty days.
Traditionally, Galician farmers keep one or two pigs for on-the-farm consumption. The feed is varied: cabbage, turnip, grain and by products. In certain parts of Galicia, young pigs are taken to graze with the other livestock. Moreover, home slaughtering, a centuries-old tradition and a mixture of rite and festival, reflects in a simplified but fairly accurate way, current practices for the slaughter and butchering of animals and the production of products such as shoulder ham. The consumption of shoulder ham has a long history in Galicia, being linked to special days in the calendar, for example shoulder ham with turnip tops is the usual dish in many areas of Galicia on Christmas Eve and the Sunday of Carnival.