English English French French Spanish Spanish

Behind the scenes at the pig butcher shop, El Maestrat, Spain

Sorting the ribs from the trotters, Spain
Sorting the ribs from the trotters, Spain

I guess some of my readers have not read the last blog.  It is heavy going I agree. But at the same time I think it is important, especially as pigs are now being needlessly killed for lack of qualified butchers. In the UK this is mostly due to Brexit and Covid. The tradesmen have simply returned to their native countries and most not returned, either willingly or prevented from doing so. In the meantime the British young are not eager to take up this profession.

A young apprentice trying to decide if this is what he really wants to do (he didn't), 2011, Spain
A young apprentice trying to decide if this is what he really wants to do (he didn’t), 2011, Spain

So as I try to resurrect my memory of the final meat preparation, I keep on coming across major headlines in the BBC, Sky, the Guardian and the Telegraph. Even the New York Times.  Farmers are literally crying for their carefully reared pigs that cannot be slaughtered either humanely or legally for the hungry pork market. Instead they are being killed and thrown away.

Pig tripe, Spain
Pig tripe, Spain

Here I will touch through the uses they are put to when it is done as allowed, at least in Spain in 2011. I wrote the draft blog 10 years ago, but lost it or, probably more likely, accidentally over-wrote it.  At the time I was afraid to publish it. After 10 years my memory is a bit sketchy. Luckily the photos aid.

The butchers were cheerful for the most part
The butchers were cheerful for the most part

These photos were taken in the back rooms of the carniceria  “Embutidos Centelles” opposite Ramon’s.  Each room had a different function run by the same crew as at the abattoir.  In the first room I entered they were gathered around a large table under glaring lights.

The ho;;owed pugs were efficiently divided into their various cuts
The hollowed pugs were efficiently divided into their various cuts

Here they expertly hacked and chopped the cuts; the loins, fillets, chops, ribs, trotters and hocks.  The coarser meat was set aside for sausages and the upper hind legs were kept for those prized Spanish hams.

Virgin unprocessed hams, Spain
Virgin unprocessed hams, Spain

Working methodically and efficiently, each hollowed pig was dispatched with impressive speed. Once that stage came to an end, the room was hosed down and disinfected, then hosed again.  The cuts were stored in cavernous walk-in fridges to be dealt with later. Then the team took a break for breakfast.

One of the many weak in fridges to store pork cuts and products, Spain
One of the many walk-in fridges to store pork cuts and products, Spain

After refreshment the men returned to make the sausages, according to various recipes created by the manager Arcadio. Big Sausages, small dinky ones, blood sausages and of course chorizo.

Threading homemade sausages, Spain
Threading homemade sausages, Spain

At the same time in an adjacent room the sausages were sterilised in a huge square lidded kettle containing salted water and onions – these add flavour plus anti-bacterial properties. How on earth I thought did a fresh sausage ever appear even fresh?

Onion and salt health bath for Spanish sausages
Onion and salt health bath for Spanish sausages

I found it interesting that the traditional sausages start off “fresh” and can be eaten as such until they begin to dry.  Then you have to wait for the curing process to complete.

Just some of the sausages made by "Embutillos Centelles". Atzeneta
Just some of the sausages made by “Embutillos Centelles”. Atzeneta

A red string indicates that it is spicy, and a white one that it is not. In these parts most folks do not like anything really spicy.  Actually chorizo is tame to extremes in El Maestrat; it has that distinctive chorizo flavour but not much bite. By the way, this shop makes spicy and plain on different days so as not to confuse the flavours. I’m not sure if the onions are added to the chorizo.

Offal, Spain
Offal, Spain

In yet another room with a sink the intestines were dealt with.  I think there was yet more cleaning to be done.  And the blood sausages (morcilla) to be prepared.

Early doors in the ham curing process
Early doors in the ham curing process

Although at that time the carniceria cured its own hams, three years later it stopped as there was a problem in the final curing room with humidity.  The owner Rufino had repeatedly tried to address the damp to no avail. In addition the market was simply too competitive to justify the time it required to produce a fine cured ham in such conditions. Truth is I am repeatedly stunned at how cheap a whole ham can be in Spain.

Atzeneta hams, 2011, Spain
Atzeneta hams, 2011, Spain

So that is that. No more pig blogs. Short and sweet for me and the links here are ALL recent. Talk about starting to write about something that is suddenly big news!

Arcadio has created fantastic sausage recipes
A big thanks to Arcadio for all his help

For pig news from the USA click here

More on killing pigs needlessly click here

One way more that pigs help man

The importance and politicalisation of pigs re Brexit

 For a gallery of photos in the process of being updated click here

(so wait a week!)

6 Comments

  1. Ingrid Spiegl
    November 16, 2021
    Reply

    That’s a heck of a lot of pig, and nothing wasted. As ever, wonderful photographs and succinct descriptions. x

    • stephanie de leng
      November 17, 2021
      Reply

      Think I pigged out on pig blogs!

      xx

  2. M. B.
    November 11, 2021
    Reply

    Trabajo, perfección y excelentes fotos.

    • stephanie de leng
      November 11, 2021
      Reply

      Muchas gracias!

  3. Harvey
    November 11, 2021
    Reply

    I love this eye opening post. Thanks for being a fly on the wall in a place where I hope there aren’t literally too many flies.

    • stephanie de leng
      November 11, 2021
      Reply

      Wow love that fly on the wall take! No, there were none. Even if the place is not pristine looking, it actually was.

      Totally!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *