MATANZA - A HISTORY
& COOKING ARTICLE
in tradition, the annual humane pig sacrifice was carried
out in every household in Andalucia up until very recently.
It was the most common and economical way to ensure
families had a supply of meat throughout the year. Although
not for the faint hearted, most Andalucian families
still carry out the matanza today. It not only continues
to provide meat for the year, but it is a strong Spanish
tradition as well known as bull fighting, flamenco and
indeed the Serrano Ham, which is the world famous result
of this very process.
matanza is usually carried out during the month of November
to take advantage of the cold weather ensuring that
the meat products are conserved as best as possible.
It also means that families are prepared for the coming
days of the matanza traditionally take place during
the fiestas of local village saints allowing families
to gather together for the occasion. Although the three
days over which the matanza happens involves a lot of
hard work, families are able to take advantage of their
time together and the process is often thought of a
fiesta in itself as everyone is together in the home
enjoying each others company while they work and of
course much eating and drinking takes place along the
the actual act of sacrificing the pig has to be carried
out in the abattoir under strictly controlled conditions.
Only when the vetinary inspectors are satisfied, can
the family take their pig home to carry out the rest
of the process. In the past however, the whole process
took place in the home or on a family plot of land.
one of the matanza started very early in the morning
with all the family members gathered together usually
indulging in a drop or two of local wine to fortify
themselves for the task ahead! If required, often people
with more experience such as the slaughterer and his
assistants would also be present to ensure the act of
sacrificing the pig was carried out correctly. The first
and often most difficult task was to get the pig up
onto the specialist large wooden table. Usually done
by the strongest male members of the family, they would
hoist the pig up and hold it in place to allow the slaughterer
to do his duty. Not an easy task given the size and
weight of an animal unwilling to cooperate! The sacrifice
was done by the slaughterer "stabbing" the
pig in the neck with a large metal spike. This allows
the blood to flow from the animal down into a large
bowl known as a "lebrillo."
this point on, little has changed over time and the
next stages of the process are still done today as they
were in times past.
the blood is flowing into the bowl one of the female
members of the family suitably dressed in an apron,
protective hair covering and latex gloves has the dedicated
task of stirring the blood continually with her hands.
The blood must be kept moving continuously to ensure
it does not clot and the most effective way is by hand.
Although quite a tedious task, it must be done by someone
with experience because if the blood is allowed to clot,
it will be wasted and the family will have no black
pudding, which is the principal use for the blood.
after some time, a fine fibre like mesh forms between
the hands which is then discarded (probably the only
part of the animal not used.) The remaining blood will
now stay in its liquid form and is placed in a large
pot and kept cool until it is time to make the black
next task is to move the pig onto a specialist trough
"artesa". Nearby a large pot of water would
be already boiling and the water is poured over the
animal. The skin is removed and the pig is thoroughly
cleaned. Once skinned and cleaned, the animal is moved
to the coldest part of the house where it is hung and
cut lengthwise down the middle and opened up. Next,
the intestines are removed and cleaned. In the past
this was traditionally done in natural running water
such as a spring or a river. The intestines are then
emptied and the skin is wiped down with flour, lemon
and vinegar on both sides and cleaned off again. Once
cleaned, it is placed in tins or pots with pieces of
lemon until it is time to make the charcuterie products
such as morcilla and chorizo.
offal is also removed at this point and used, along
with the fat of the pig to make the very fortifying
traditional "migas matanceras" This is a typical
dish eaten during the matanza and is a simple recipe
of flour fried in oil or fat along with the offal. It
is warming, very filling and quite greasy but perfect
for cold days and ideal to soak up all the wine consumed
on the first morning!
the first day, it is custom to prepare the onions and
the smell of cooking onions throughout villages indicates
that the matanza has begun. For each pig you need 4
"arrobas" of onions (one arroba is about 11.5
kilos) which is an awful lot of onions! Two or three
women have the unenviable task of peeling and cutting
all those onions. They too start very early as the onions
have to be peeled, cut and cooked before the end of
the first day. The onions are cooked in a large pot,
usually over the fire and stirred with an enormous wooden
spoon. It takes a few hours to cook all 46 kilos! Once
cooked, the onions are placed in large sacks and hung
overnight, this allows all the liquid to drain away
in preparation for the black pudding which is made on
first task on day two is to take the pig apart and separate
it into the different cuts; head, ears, shoulders and
front legs (paletillas), jamones (hind legs), loin,
ribs, spine, trotters and the fat.
the men busy themselves with their task, the women begin
to make the morcilla or black pudding using the onions
and blood from day one. The black pudding is a welcome
dish eaten at the end of the day full of nuts and spices.
Whatever is left can be conserved for later use.
jamones and paletillas must contain no blood whatsoever.
In order to achieve this, a clean cloth is placed over
the leg and very strong pressure is applied by pressing
down on the cloth with the hands and "squeezing"
out any remaining blood. The jamones and paletillas
are prepared for curing. Along with the spine and the
trotters, they are placed in a small artesa or trough
and covered in salt. After two days, the spine and trotters
are taken out and the salt shaken off. They are put
in the bodega, usually a cellar or cool back room to
dry out and there they stay until at least March.
hams remain in salt for a longer period, usually one
day per kilo. The salt is then removed and they are
hung in the bodega and left to cure for about twelve
to fourteen months.
ribs are sliced up and mixed with cinnamon and lemon
and left for a day or two in pots to marinade. They
are then fried in oil and placed in airtight jars for
loins are conserved in a similar way. Cut into large
chunks, they are fried and stored in jars with olive
oil. This method of conserving the loin has become a
famous local dish known as "lomo do orza",
orza being the name of the ceramic pot traditionally
used to store the loin.
third day is reserved for making the charcuterie products
of which there are quite a few, chorizo, salchichon,
salchicha, butifarras, lenguados, rellenos and sobrasada.
well known phrase, "The only thing you cannot eat
from a pig is its squeak," is very true in the
case of the Andalucian Matanza. Nothing is wasted and
the products made during this three day fiesta are either
eaten during the course or are conserved for use during
the coming months.
and written by Gayle Hartley
Copyright 2006 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com
12 November 2006
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org