Badajoz, a paradise for Iberian cured ham
Dehesa de Extremadura
View of Jerez de los Caballeros. Badajoz.
Square in Zafra. Badajoz.
Pigs at pasture. Higuera La Real, Badajoz.
Man slicing ham at the Cayetano Pantojo factory. Higuera La Real, Badajoz.
Iberian cured ham is one of the star products of Spanish gastronomy. And one of the best places to savour it is in the area of Badajoz, in Extremadura. Here we suggest ten places throughout this region which are particularly renowned for their Iberian ham. Get ready to enjoy a real treat for your palate!
On your journey to Badajoz, you'll see that this part of Spain is home to one of the world's most extensive areas of the typical wooded pasture known as dehesa. This is a landscape dotted with cork oaks, holm oaks and acorns, which provides the ideal conditions for raising pigs. All these characteristics have led to this product being awarded its own special designation of origin label, 'Dehesa de Extremadura'. If you'd like to taste this flavourful and succulent cured ham and learn the correct way to slice and serve it, we highly recommend that you make a visit to any of the ten places suggested below in the southern mountainous part of the province. All of them have restaurants and shops which are ideal for sampling and purchasing this typically Spanish delicacy. And all ten are close together, so that if you're there for a few days, you'll comfortably be able to visit more than one in your own car. You can arrange your itinerary any way you like. Each place is well worth a visit for a whole variety of gastronomic and cultural reasons:
Oliva de la Frontera
This is the perfect place to sample excellent ham. Places to visit here include the shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Gracia, the parish church of San Marcos, and the Plaza Mayor square. And if you happen to be there during Easter week, you'll be able to see the re-enactment of the 'Living Passion'.
Jerez de los Caballeros
This is about 20 kilometres from Oliva de la Frontera. Here you be able to savour delicious plates of Iberian ham and to visit a meat-curing plant. Other delicacies not to be missed include cured pork loin, and the cured sausages known as salchichón and chorizo templario. Other attractions are the Iberian Ham Fair –one of the most important showcases for this product– which takes place in May and features a range of gastronomic events and tasting sessions. Some of the town's most outstanding monuments are the El Toriñuelo dolmen, the fortress, and the Torre Sangrienta tower dating from the time of the Knights Templar.
Fregenal de la Sierra
This village is a little over 20 kilometres from Jerez de los Caballeros and is well known for its cured ham and other similar items. Sites worth visiting include the castle, the bullring and the parish church of Santa María del Castillo. If you travel in the middle of August you be able to enjoy the International Mountain Festival.
Higuera la Real
Five kilometres from Fregenal de la Sierra, Higuera la Real is the perfect place to try dishes such as the stew of pig's trotters, and the type of pâté known as caldillo... A leisurely stroll will take you to the churches of San Bartolomé and Santa Catalina, and the stone known as the 'Losa de Capote', with Celtic origins.
Segura de León
Another 20 kilometres away is Segura de León, the place to enjoy a dish of delicious wild mushrooms with pork. After a hearty lunch you may want to explore the castle, the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the porticoed Town Hall building and the convent of El Cristo de la Reja. If you happen to be there in the second week of September you'll be able to enjoy the bullfighting festival known as the 'Capeas'.
Cabeza la Vaca
This is about 12 kilometres away from Segura de León and is famous for its Iberian ham, chorizo and cured pork loin. If you decide to visit, bring along your camera to immortalise the administrative monument known as the rollo or picota dating from the 16th century, and the parish church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.
Calera de León
Less than 10 kilometres away you'll come to Calera de León, where you'll find some excellent cured ham and delicious sausage products. Monuments of interest here include the convent of Santiago, the parish church of Santiago el Mayor and the monastery of Nuestra Señora de Tentudia.
The best month to visit Monesterio (seven kilometres further on) is in September, during the ham festival. If you chance to be here at this time you'll be treated to a delicious sandwich of Iberian cured ham and you'll be able to visit various curing houses. Other places worth seeing include the parish church of San Pedro Apóstol and the mediaeval ruins of the Las Torres castle.
Fuente de Cantos
About 20 kilometres further north lies Fuente de Cantos, also known for its typical lamb stew known as chanfaina. Here you may want to visit the House-Museum of the painter Zurbarán.
Zafra, the site of the International Cattle Fair, is about 30 kilometres away. In addition to its Iberian ham, other delicacies worth trying are the famous sweets from the convent of the Las Claritas nuns. Its historic-artistic site is home to interesting monuments such as the Alcázar de los Duques de Feria (today a Parador hotel), the collegiate church of La Candelaria, the convents of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina, and the Santiago Hospital.
When you travel to this part of Spain it's also well worth trying some of the other typical dishes such as green asparagus, cardoons, sweetbreads, partridges in olive oil, and rice with turtle dove. You'll find all the information on the official web pages of the Extremadura and Badajoz tourist boards.