Presunto / Paleta de Santana da Serra
Presuntos and paletas produced from legs and shoulders respectively of pigs (other than breeding animals) of the Alentejana breed entered in the Portuguese herd book in the Alentejana breed Section, reared in a specified manner and slaughtered when they are 12 to 24 months old. The salting, post-salting, drying/curing, ageing, cutting and packing are governed by well-defined rules. Presuntos consist of hind legs severed at the level of the pig's ischio-pubic symphysis, while paletas are made from its forelegs. The presunto and paleta are defined anatomically and in terms of muscle since there is a layer of covering fat around the latter. Shape and appearance: while the presunto is cut in a round shape and the paleta may be anything from oval to round, the outer skin and hoof are present in both cases. Weight: in excess of 5 kg in the case of the presunto, and in excess of 3,5 kg in the case of the paleta. When cut, the meat has a dark red, oily, glossy and marbled appearance, with streaks of intramuscular fat. The texture is soft and not very fibrous. The fat is oily, fluid, bright, white to pearly and has a pleasant taste. The flavour is not very salty or spicy, lingering, intense and pleasant, and the aroma is pleasantly reminiscent of oak plantations. As a result of their highland (‘montanha’) origin, the IGP Presuntos and Paletas de Santana da Serra are thus more rustic and marked in their texture and flavour than the smoother corresponding varieties from the Alentejo plains.
The boundaries of the geographical area in which the raw materials are produced (i.e. where the animals are born, reared, fattened and slaughtered, the carcases are butchered and the legs and feet are obtained) are set naturally, by the location of the ‘montado’ (oak plantation and pig pasture), by the presence of holdings able to practise a montanheira type of farming, and by the rules governing slaughter and cutting and the production of Alentejo pig's legs and shoulders. The area comprises the following municipalities and parishes: Abrantes, Alandroal, Alcácer do Sal (except the parish of Santa Maria do Castelo), Alcoutim, Aljezur (parishes of Odeceixe, Bordeira, Rogil and Aljezur), Aljustrel, Almodôvar, Alter do Chão, Alvito, Arraiolos, Arronches, Avis, Barrancos, Beja, Borba, Campo Maior, Castelo Branco, Castelo de Vide, Castro Marim (parishes of Odeleite and Azinhal), Castro Verde, Chamusca, Coruche, Crato, Cuba, Elvas (except the parish of Caia e S. Pedro), Estremoz, Évora, Ferreira do Alentejo, Fronteira, Gavião, Grândola (except the parish of Melides), Idanha-a-Nova, Lagos (parish of Bensafrim), Loulé (parishes of Ameixial, Salir, Alte, Benafim and Querença), Marvão, Mértola, Monchique (parishes of Monchique, Marmelete and Alferce), Monforte, Montemor-o-Novo, Mora, Moura, Mourão, Nisa, Odemira (except the parishes of Vila Nova de Mil Fontes and S. Teotónio), Ourique, Penamacor, Ponte de Sôr, Portalegre, Portel, Redondo, Reguengos de Monsaraz, Sabugal, Santiago do Cacém (except the parish of S. André), Sardoal, São Brás de Alportel, Serpa, Sines, Silves (parishes of S. Marcos, S. Bartolomeu de Messines and Silves), Sousel, Tavira, (parish of Cachopo), Vendas Novas, Viana do Alentejo, Vidigueira, Vila Velha de Ródão and Vila Viçosa.
The geographical area in which processing (production, cutting, slicing and packaging) takes place is set naturally, being limited to the parishes of Santana da Serra, Garvão, Ourique, Panóias, Santa Luzia and Conceição in the municipality of Ourique, the specific micro-climate conditions in this mountain area contrasting sharply with those on the Alentejo plain from which it rises abruptly. The differences in altitude, temperature and humidity in these parishes require a different method of production, in particular in terms of the cutting and the duration of the salting, maturation and ageing. The products are also differentiated by their organoleptic characteristics: the cut is more rounded, the meat darker on cutting, with a less tender and succulent texture, a less delicate and less spicy flavour and a less smooth and delicate aroma.
Method of production
The pigs, of the Alentejana breed, are reared under extensive and semi-extensive conditions, mostly in the open air, in areas featuring a minimum of 40 holm oak or cork trees per hectare and a maximum density of one pig per hectare of montado. The animals tend to be reared extensively, feeding on cereal waste and by products, grasses, legumes (e.g. peas and vetches) and even small mammals and birds, eggs, reptiles, molluscs, worms, etc., as is the wont of omnivorous animals. It is only when there is a shortage of food in the field that the animals may be given supplements (up to 30 % of their diet) from outside the region. The animals invariably undergo a finishing phase in which they spend 60 to 90 days under a montanheira system (i.e. feeding on acorns and other montado products), and must replace at least three arrobas (45 kg) of body weight in this way. The pigs are slaughtered at between 12 and 24 months, the minimum weight of each carcase being 90 kg. The legs and shoulders are marked individually by means of a numbered tag. The legs and shoulders must, after trimming, weigh a minimum of 7,5 kg and 5 kg respectively, and the hoof must still be attached. Depending on the weight of the legs and shoulders the subcutaneous fat may be trimmed. The processing of the hind- and forelegs, based on authentic and unvarying local methods derived from the know-how of the local population and from the highland conditions, comprises the following: cutting, salting, rinsing, post salting (sweating), drying/curing and ageing. It is in the course of this process that the presuntos and paletas slowly acquire the appearance, colour, aroma and texture that make them unique.
Presuntos and Paletas de Santana da Serra may be marketed whole, in pieces or sliced, with or without bone. The cutting, slicing and boning may be carried out only on premises situated within the geographical area of production, insofar as special know-how is associated with these operations, a know-how which relates to the shape, delicate aromas and complex flavours of each piece. Before a piece is selected for cutting, specialists from the region determine the optimum curing stage, and knowledgeable and trained tasters carry out a detailed organoleptic assessment of the product and its suitability for cutting. In order to maximise the yield from each piece the cutting must be performed by highly trained specialists who, by means of expert cuts, can make use of all the muscle tissue in the piece and produce extremely thin slices that fully exploit the product's organoleptic potential. The fat on the meat — which has its own flavour, aroma, colour and brilliance — deteriorates rapidly when in contact with the air or when the temperature is high. Accordingly, the work described above has to be carried out on premises that are suitable microbiologically and in terms of temperature and moisture, in order not to impair the delicate flavour and enable the product to be packaged promptly, thereby avoiding undue exposure to the air. It should be added that this work is accompanied by organoleptic tests carried out by specially trained personnel. The aim of these measures is to ensure that the product is fully traceable and is not impaired, above all organoleptically, that the consumer, far from being misled, is supplied with a product that is genuine and was produced in its region of origin, and that checks can be carried out throughout the production cycle.
Presuntos and Paletas de Santana da Serra are produced in a region where soils are poor and the climate markedly hot and dry in the summer and cold and dry in the winter. The flora that is able to withstand these conditions and which can be exploited is the holm oak/cork plantation (montado) and the vegetation associated with it. The Alentejo pig is the animal that best exploits those natural conditions, since it can be reared in the open and allowed to feed mainly on the natural products associated with that environment (grasses, acorns, cereals and pulses and small animals) under a specific system known as montanheira. This type of animal husbandry and nutrition gives the meat special characteristics in terms of both muscle and fat cover. The special climatic conditions obtaining in Santana da Serra led to the development of specific know-how which, since it enables the pigmeat to be dried naturally, without resorting to smoke or any external agent with the exception of salt, results in a number of differences, in particular as regards:
— the cutting and dressing of the meat
— the duration of the salting
— the duration of the various stages of the work
This is why the presuntos and paletas of Santana da Serra have a more rounded cut, are darker when cut, have a less tender and less succulent texture, have a less delicate and less spicy flavour and a less smooth and delicate aroma than other hams produced in lower-lying areas on the Alentejo plains in general. These products reflect the harsher and more mountainous conditions of Santana da Serra and are therefore more rustic and marked in their texture and flavour than those of the smoother varieties from the Alentejo plains. Furthermore, in addition to the foregoing organoleptic characteristics, which link it to the region of origin, the fame and reputation of the product are such that it is echoed in the coat of arms of the municipal authorities of Santana da Serra and of other parishes in the geographical area.
The link between the product and the region is also based on the following factors:
Historical There are documents dating from 1310 and 1320 which tell of the importance attached by King Dinis, known as ‘o Lavrador’, to preserving the ‘montados’ (oak plantations and pastures) of Ourique. A Law of 1699 laid down the rules for the use of the montados and the amounts payable to the king on the basis of the number of pigs present on the royal montados. As recently as the 20th century, ‘guardas dos montados’ (guardians of the montados) were still posted there to prevent the theft of acorns. The older inhabitants can recall when, at the Garvão fair, people might perhaps buy 100 grams of chitterlings and half a kilogram of pig fat. ‘Presuntos’ were for the well-off only. In January 1928 the price of a local presunto reached PTE 16,00 (EUR 0,08), a sizeable sum in those days, and there are also written records, dating from around 1950, of the taxes paid by small-scale producers of sausages in the municipality of Ourique.
Soil and climate The vegetation is xerophytic and the landscape characterised by pastureland (in the north of the municipality) and dense holm oak and cork plantations. Santana da Serra (in the south of the municipality) is located in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão. The local terrain acts as a windbreak for the defined processing area. There is no doubt that this factor fosters optimum conditions for the production of leg and shoulder ham, loins and other pork products. The Serra do Caldeirão provides the area with a specific climate. The average air temperature is in the order of 15 to 16 °C, with the average minimum temperatures between 4,6 and 14,7 °C and the average maximum between 13,8 and 32,2 °C in the coldest and hottest months respectively, which is in stark contrast with the Alentejo, as a whole.
Human A number of traditions are associated with the consumption of these products, which are never presented ready-cooked. In earlier times Presuntos or Paletas de Santana da Serra tended to be served only on festive occasions or as a gift to honoured guests.
Reference: The European Commission