La Matanza ~ Weekend at Finca Buenvino
About a month after we wrapped up at Ballymaloe, last Thursday Cristina and I headed off to Spain to attend La Matanza (pig killing) at Finca Buenvino, a family run guesthouse in the heart of the Sierra de Aracena, Andalusia. Jeannie and Sam are from Scotland originally but have made their home in Spain for the last 30 years. Jeannie runs cookery courses for groups, and the writer Elaine Kingett hosts writing retreats here during the year.
In the last weeks of our course in December, Darina (who is a friend of Sam and Jeannie) read an email from Sam out to the class, and went on to describe her experience of Finca Buenvino and the Matanza, which would take place in January. She described it as a 'once in a lifetime experience' and one which we should try to participate in if we could. As I'm currently enjoying funemployment, this sounded like an interesting adventure, to say the least. It certainly was. Cristina grew up on a sheep farm in Dingle, but I'm new to farm life, and had no idea what to expect.
We flew to Malaga last Thursday, and rented a car for the 3 hour drive North to Sierra de Aracena, past Seville. We stopped off at a couple of places along the way to meet up with the other Irish who were on their way, Ivan, Fingal and Ted to sample some tapas and local sherry, and arrived at the house on Thursday evening.
Last year Sam and Jeannie published 'The Buenvino Cookbook' with the recipes that they cook for guests and teach on their courses.
The meals we had were mostly from recipes in the book
Drinks in the kitchen with Ivan, Fingal from Gubbeen, and Sam when we arrived on Thursday evening.
Cristina, Ivan and Ted, the Wildside boys.
Sam and Jeannie's son Jago slicing Jamon Iberico on the stand in the kitchen. The meat was from their last Matanza, which had been cured.
Jamon Iberico for tapas
Tiny potato omelettes with sauce
Fried Padron peppers
Pre-dinner drinks, Thursday night. Sampled the Olorosa, a sherry straight from the barrel in the conservatory.
Soupy rice with rabbit and vegetables, cooked by Jeannie. My first time to eat rabbit.
Getting stuck in in the dining room
Jago & Cristina
The pigs are bought at about one year old, they eat roots, plants, acorns of the cork oak and plums, figs and pears from the orchard. When the chestnuts have been harvested they're moved into the chestnut wood for their food. The difference with the Iberian pig is that it stores fat in it's muscle tissue (in a white pig the fat lies around the meat). The presence of fat means the meat does not dry out excessively during curing and has a rich flavour. After a few months the pigs are ready to be killed (Matanza). This happens in cold weather months so they are fly-free.
The house that Sam and Jeannie built on the farm, where we stayed. Friday was a el dia de la resaca, hangover day, so Cristina and I walked around the farm for some fresh air. The house has stunning views of the surrounding forest hills.
Morning stroll on Friday
Keeping the cervezas cold
Friday lunch in Los Marines, where we shared plates of jamon, mushroom croquettes, pork and chips with red wine
Ted, with appropriate t-shirt
Los Marines, the village about a kilometre from Finca Buenvino. A few years ago the town presented the family with a certificate to show that they are Hijos Adoptivos de la Villa de Los Marines, adopted by the town.
Ivan, Charlie and Ted
With Cristina, in the afternoon sunshine on Friday
Cristina, Charlie and Jamie
Scenic walk home through the mountains
Keeping warm on the walk home
Finish it Tina!
Ted and Alcuin
Alex, from Melbourne who had recently arrived to help on the farm as part of the Workaway programme
Quail for dinner on Friday night. For starter we had Almejas a la marinera (Clams Mariniere), clams cooked in lots of garlic, parsley and white wine
Jago and Sam
The chosen ones, Saturday morning at 8am. 4 of the 6 pigs on the farm were killed, the other 2 sows will be kept for breeding. In the region, most small farms kill their own pigs, rather than send them to the slaughterhouse. This gives the producers control over how the meat is prepared and flavoured.
The Matanza is a celebratory occasion for farmers, who welcome locals and visitors to help out and work, eat and drink together.
The pig is held down while their throat is cut and the blood is collected immediately.
As soon as the pig has been killed the butchery process starts
Stopping for lunch
Sunday morning, the chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) mix
After butchering, the meat was chilled overnight in the cold air.
Salting the ham
Good day's work
Filling the intestines for black pudding (morcilla)
It took a while
Branding the meat
FBV, Finca Buenvino
Sam cooked a delicious chickpea and meat stew for lunch Sunday with oranges, cheese and wine
A paprika marinade for the pork loins
Jeannie's sister, Henrietta
On Sunday night we had dinner together of Pesto Genovese with Pasta, a pesto made with basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese, and served with a green salad. As Darina had promised, it was an incredible experience to attend the Matanza. Observing traditions that have carried on for generations, and seeing food production in a way I certainly had never been exposed to before. For an outsider, it really makes you think about where your food comes from, and how it's treated in the production process, what the the animals have been fed, and how this impacts the quality and flavour of meat. It was pretty gruesome and stomach-turning at times, but very rewarding.
The Chesterton family were so warm and welcoming it was a pleasure to stay at their home, and enjoy their cooking. Early on Monday morning, Cristina and I drove back to Malaga to fly home. Next stop, London!