There was a certain amount of worry amongst pagesos
eivissencos (Ibicenco peasants) earlier this year that an outbreak of swine
fever on the neighbouring Spanish mainland might possibly spread to the pigs
on Eivissa/Ibiza and thereby ultimately
affect the annual seasonal matanšes (pig
killings). Medically called Classical Swine Fever (CSF), it is a highly contagious
viral disease of swine which can spread via trade in live pigs, fresh pig meat
and certain meat-based products. The pigs can catch CSF through eating, inhalation,
and sexual (semen) infection or by contamination through cuts and scratches.
Usually spread through contact with infected pigs, it can also be transmitted
indirectly via contaminated manure, farm equipment, vehicles, and boots and
clothing. Although disastrous for pigs, it poses no health risk to humans. Rural
Ibicencos were apprehensive, though, as if it reached Eivissa
it might mean the pre-emptive slaughter of many of their pigs to prevent
further spread. European Governments are extremely cautious with CSF. On 14th
June 2001 the European Commission in Brussels notified its Commission services
throughout Europe (upon advice from the Spanish Government) of an outbreak of
CSF in the province of Lleida (Lerida) in Catalunya in southeastern Spain. The
infected area was immediately cordoned off by the establishment of a 3 kilometre
protection zone and a 10 kilometre surveillance zone. English readers will be
familiar with what this entails after the recent struggle in the UK to prevent
the spread of Foot and Mouth disease. A special meeting of the Standing Veterinary
Committee was held on 22nd June to review the situation but by 20thJuly
there had been a total of 23 reported outbreaks of CSF in Catalunya including
6 recent outbreaks in the Autonomous Community of Valencia (parts of which are
only a few hours away from Eivissa by boat). By that date a total of 438 pigs had died and 5,154
had had to be slaughtered.
San Antonio on the western side of Eivissa
(the side nearest Valencia and from where a regular commuting passenger fast
ferry can take only two hours to reach Denia on that part of the mainland) it
was the height of the tourist season. Amongst the crowds of hangover, strung-out
and lobster-red British tourists queuing for cheap cigarettes and British newspapers
in the main 'Tabac' shop near the
centre of San Antonio one could periodically see old pagesos
eivissencos from the hills who had come to get the local newspapers to find
out how the 'pig fever' outbreak was spreading. Many elderly Ibicencos cannot
necessarily read or write (a normal situation in an oral culture in which easy
access to education dates really only from the 1950s) and some may not even
speak Castillano (Spanish), but news was passed around rapidly by word of mouth
to those who needed it. The local radio also had regular updates on the situation.
None of the English tourists on the island at that time were aware, I am sure,
of the underlying 'pig tensions' during their visit. In the old days, if 'pig
fever' hit Eivissa', it was the time
when the irregularly regular pig smuggling performed by the often dashing contrabandistas
des porcs (pig smugglers) shifted
into high gear, bringing pigs secretly from the more isolated island of Formentera
to Eivissa. Luckily by the end of
August it seemed that the control actions on the mainland had had their effect
and the 'pig fever' threat to Eivissa
was over. Much of the island breathed a sigh of relief (not noticed by the tourists).
The safety of the 'hidden' pigs earmarked for this winter season's matanšes
thus assured, pagesos eivissencos
thoughts then turned to the beginning of the fattening up process.
the matanša itself. In the article
before last in our present series we had got to the stage where the killed pig
is being carefully dismembered in a set order by the matanšer
(pig killer) who is directing his assistants, men from the extended family of
the owners of the pig. Almost none of the pig is wasted, almost everything is
used. The last parts of the pig to be taken out are the guts or entrails - ventre
in Eivissenc language, 'tripa(s)' in Spanish. A traditional matanšer
eivissenc (Ibicenco pig killer, a respected calling) recognizes five different
types of ventre: ventre prim, ventre
ruat, sa nora, sa bufeta and es ventre
cular. Nowadays it is a relatively common practice to also obtain ox or
cattle entrails, ventre de bou or budell
de bou, as the pig entrails, for making and encasing the sobrassades and
botifarros are not necessarily long enough to make as many as one may want/need.
As oxen and cattle are almost non-existent on Eivissa these have to be purchased from special stores who usually
get them direct from slaughterhouses on the mainland or neighbouring Mallorca.
average pig weighing, say, 20 rovas (200 kilos), only about a quarter will not
be used, leaving approximately 15 rovas (150 kilos) whose use is split up in
approximately the following manner: 7 (plus) rovas (72 kilos) go to make sobrassades;
2.5 rovas (24 kilos) go to make botifarros; 3 (plus) rovas (32 kilos) consist
of xulla fats and 'grease' for culinary
additives and cooking and 2 (plus) rovas (22 kilos) of bones. In England not
much use (for humans) would necessarily be made of the bones, but on Eivissa
life was harder and with pigs (as with almost everything else in life) everything
that could possibly be used was used. The bones would be/are covered in sea
salt and then stored, well wrapped in cloth sacks, in a dark and cool area.
Cooked bones and their marrow are an essential element in much traditional cooking
on Eivissa and Formentera.
stage most of the pig has been cut up but the entrails (for making the 'skin'
of the sobrassada sausages) must be left to cool first. The pig was clean and
opened up and the entrails sent to the group of women ready for preparation.
Now was often the time to esmorzar
(to have 'almuerzo' in Spanish, a type of late breakfast), although the timing
of the much awaited feast breaks varied/varies according to the traditions of
each particular pagŔs household. It
was the time to eat the famous bunyols, sugared and cooked (but cold) buns of
flour, yeast, lemon peel, batafaluga and sometimes a bit of potato. Sometimes
as a trick a bean, or a 'toilet paper leaf' or a special small cord were/are
put inside some bunyols so that then the lucky eater could/can be laughed at
and with - there is a lot of subtle symbolism in these trick bunyol insertions.
If it was a 'full' late breakfast it would be a companatge, with bread, sobrassades,
botifarros, cheese, dried figs, olives, fried pigs blood and lots of vi
pagŔs (peasant wine, drunk fresh, it doesn't usually store too long).
entrails cool off they are washed by the women. As most of ventres will be used to cover the meat products as a 'skin', they
must be perfectly clean inside and out. The traditional local oranges are used
for this purpose. Most old houses will have one of these orange trees nearby
- their oranges are smaller and more bitter-tasting than the modern oranges,
but their higher citric acid content makes them ideal for the kind of cleaning
and sterilizing necessary. Although again traditions vary from household to
household the entrails can be washed around six times with these bitter oranges
and then turned inside out by sticking a reed up through them and then peeling
them to turn them inside out. The reverse side is then washed again six times
entrails are all cleaned, the meat can then be put through sa capoladora, the manual meat grinder that has an exit attachment
over which one puts the open end of an entrails: the exiting ground meat goes,
sausage-like, into the entrails and is periodically tied tight with string at
the required lengths. For making sobrassada the meat is premixed with salt,
crushed red pepper and spices. Two types of sobrassada can be made a thin one
that, after curing, is ready to eat within about a month and a thicker one that
takes about six months of curing to be edible. The important thing about sobrassades
is that the ground meat contents are left raw to be cured naturally by the salt,
pepper and spice ingredients interacting with the cool storage temperatures.
Each sobressada is about 50cm in length, bent in the middle and the two ends
tied together. As they cure naturally the reddish tinge will deepen and they
sometimes develop a beautiful shiny patina, much admired by rural inhabitants.
and botifarra go through a different process. Neither contain pepper and the
ground meat contents are much less in quantity as the major constituent is boiled/cooked
blood. The large cauldrons of boiling water steaming all day are cooking these
'embutidos' once they have been 'dressed'
with their skins/entrail coverings. Botifarro are smaller and finer than the
botifarra and cannot be stored as long as the latter. Their shapes are lump-like
rather than sausage-like and they may have a lighter or darker blackish colour
depending on boiled blood content.
'embutidos' come off the extended
family production line they are hung from the perxada,
a series of racks attached to the inner roof of the darkest and coolest section
of the house. Hundreds of embutidos
may end up hanging there by the end of the day, but the exact number is kept
a rather closely guarded secret by those of the extended family present and
the 'nomadic' matanšer (pig killer)
knows better than to tell the next rural household he goes to how many embutidos
were made in the households he has visited previously.
of this exhausting day is approaching and all await the big special dinner.
We have not finished yet, there is still much to say. Readers may by now be
getting a bit bloated with pigs on Eivissa/Ibiza.
However, at least one has to admit that this newsletter is without doubt the
first foreign language publication from this island that has had enough guts
- or ventre - to publish an extended
series of articles on this aspect of the island that is almost completely unknown
to tourists and is seemingly at odds with the (rather tarnished) image and reputation
of Eivissa as touted by overseas tour
promoters. Just hang in there!
thanks to many eivissenc friends, but there is not enough space to list them this