A breed of pig that has almost disappeared from the Pyrenees and one of the best hams in the world
The black Bigorre pig from the Pyrenees ( Porc Noir de Bigorre) was once a widespread breed, but which was then threatened with extinction: in 1981 there were only a whopping 34 sows and 2 boars, kept by 20 breeders in the highlands of the Hautes Pyrénées. In the meantime there are more and the wonderfully aromatic meat and the fantastic ham of these special pigs are very popular with gourmets and connoisseurs all over the world.
But why was the Porc Noir de Bigorre threatened with extinction at all? This was mainly because they grow too slowly for industrial rearing, which is all about optimization and profit. In addition, the fat content is also too high compared to lean meat for industrial rearing. The standard customer simply wants lean meat and not a lot of fat. It is precisely the fat of the Noir de Bigorre that is so special: it is of the highest quality, as healthy as olive oil (think of the French Paradox) and as a flavor carrier contributes decisively to the exquisite aroma of the ham.
Porc Noir de Bigorre is a Pyrenean heritage of great value and its first traces date back to ancient times. Today the designations "Jambon Noir de Bigorre" and "Porc Noir de Bigorre" are protected by the Consortium du Noir de Bigorre, which was founded in 1994 and takes care of compliance with the rearing conditions (animal care and preservation of its natural habitat) and quality control .
The Porc Noir de Bigorre lives in freedom in the Bigorre region, an idyllic hilly mountain landscape that stretches from the Hautes Pyrénées through the Gers to the Haute Garonne.
This breed of pig belongs to the Mediterranean pig family and is an “outdoor pig” that has always been used to roaming around to find its own food. This consists largely of what the pig finds in the wild.
These purebred animals, with a very calm and peaceful character, live in small herds on an area of natural grassland where they can graze and hunt small animals. They are also fed with cereals (barley, triticale, wheat), peas and - depending on the season - with fruits such as acorns, chestnuts, apples, medlars.
The climate in Bigorre is - except for a short time in winter - very pleasant for the pigs. When it gets too hot for them in summer, they look for shade under the acorns and chestnuts.
The preservation by air drying has a long tradition in the Bigorre, because here the microclimate is particularly favorable for it: humid phases alternate with very dry phases and the hair dryer is always blowing. In this environment, the ham matures particularly well and gets its special aroma. Just like the world-famous Iberian ham, the Jambon de Bigorre reflects the craftsmanship of its production and the highest quality of its raw materials. Its production follows 4 phases: salting, resting, drying and aging, which lasts between 20 and 36 months or more.
The ham has a very elegant carmine red interspersed with light white fat and shimmering rosy reflections and has a delicately melting texture. Its taste is round, complex and balanced with clear aromas of dried fruit and transports you straight to the fragrant forests of Bigorre.
It owes this special taste above all to its special fat, which is particularly rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and practically melts in your mouth.