We were invited to a friend’s family fiesta at the weekend.
The fiesta (party/celebration/get together) was for nothing in particular other than the family pig was the right size to be killed and butchered.
When I say the reason for the fiesta was nothing in particular it is true that it was not to feed a wedding party, christening or Christmas lunch as it was in traditional feast times it was more my friends desire to have a family gathering.
If you can imagine what it was like living here in the 60,s with a dictator in power and the lack of opportunity to make money. Families would live on a very poor diet of mostly vegetables from the garden and any animals that they could grow such as chickens, fat pigeons, rabbits, goats and from the garden waste produce a pig. So you can understand the celebratory significance when porky’s time was up.
I had been told many times that this pig had eaten only the best. Definitely no factory manufactured food, no medications just green vegetables from the garden and maize served as a full corn on the cob.
When I arrived at the allotted hour there were four middle aged men and their fathers ready to manage the pig. Because it had not been fed for 24 hours which is normal before slaughter it was a little annoyed in fact it had broken a hinge on its sty door. Pigs are amazingly powerful.
I must admit that I was extra vigilant when one of the guys opened the sty door to give the pig a cabbage leaf in case it was looking for a trouser leg to eat. The pig was calm and as he gave it the leaf he rubbed the pig on its forehead. The pig was totally relaxed and concentrating on the cabbage leaf.
The next time the door was opened and the pig offered a cabbage leaf it was killed instantly with a humane killer.
A few things worthy of note. The whole family were there to see the killing men, women and children. There was none of the horrible screaming from the pig that you are often told happens.
I was amazed that the pig was perfect. Not a cut, sore, bruise or skin showing signs of rubbing due to stress.
Because the pig had not been transported on a truck held in a strange place before being killed and in fact had experienced no stress at all.
Having been in commercial slaughter houses I know which meat I would rather eat.
The pig was butchered instantly. First all the blood was collected by the women and mixed with a little water to cool it down. Most of the blood would be made into morcela (the best black pudding that I have ever tasted). The rest would be made into cerabulho (offal, pork and blood stew)
Next the bristles were singed off and the skin scraped with a knife. Then the skin was singed and scraped again. The whole pig was washed and scrubbed with scrubbing brushes, even between the toes!
The reason for such care is that EVERYTHING apart from the gall bladder would be eaten.
Once clean the pig was hung up and the ears were cut off and grilled on a fire. These are traditionally cut up and served to the people involved in the slaughter and preparation.
A kind of chewy foretaste of the bounty that is to come.
The pig was weighed for no reason other than to know its weight 115 Kg. It was expected this would produce around 90 Kg of edible produce for the family.
The carcase was butchered in no time at all and various tasty bits were trimmed off to make the evenings dinner and the rest hung up in the Adega to cool down.
During the butchery process we were offered a grilled pig part which was very tender like liver without the taste of liver. I was told the name of it but did not recognize it. Then grilled body cavity membrane which was the thickness of a thin pizza and tasted nice but rubbery to chew. Boiled blood with garlic and olive oil washed down with the family’s home produced wine.
The women of all ages worked together to prepare the pigs stomach and intestines for later use and cut up the interior fat to add to the black pudding. My wife told me that when the black pudding mixture was being pushed into the sausage skins there was a lot of rude remarks and laughing among the women.
Dinner was served to all twenty of us at around 9.30pm there was two different stews containing pork and some delicious pig free deserts.
We set off for home around midnight after a very interesting and tasty day.