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The slaughter, a ritual in winter in the mountain region

The slaughter

A ritual in winter in the mountain region

Although most Iberian pigs are slaughtered in industrial slaughterhouses, the towns in the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche preserve the traditional home slaughter as a legacy handed down from generation to generation.

This type of activity is still an important ritual in many mountain villages during the winter months, guaranteeing a full pantry for many families with different types of fresh meat, dozens of cured sausage meats, lard and of course the prized legs and shoulders of cured ham.

The hard work of traditional home slaughter takes two days and is clearly divided by sexes. The men carry out the jobs requiring more strength and skill (like the quartering) while the women have the difficult job of carefully preparing the meat so it can be transformed into delicious cured meats.

As the Iberian saying says ‘even the pig’s walk is put to good use and can be eaten’ and indeed, these two days’ work produce a whole range of home-made products. Not only are we talking about legs and shoulders of ham but also cured loin, spicy sausage meat, chorizo, black pudding and top-quality fresh meat.

However, the home slaughter of the Iberian pig in the Mountains of Aracena and the Aroche Peaks is a lot more than just two days’ hard work. Friends, relatives and acquaintances get together on these days to enjoy the festive event when the meats are roasted and become the centre of attention. This same perfectly organized ritual is repeated every winter in all the villages. It is the time when the Iberian pig becomes the real king of the region… and all pay homage to it.

 

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDUSTRY

The existence of excellent raw material and the popular wisdom of how to get the best out of the Iberian pig, as well as the demand for its by products, meant that at the end of the 19th century a strong industrialising process began around the pig which is bred in our meadowlands. The first cured pork product industries were also founded and helped enormously by the opening of the railway line Huelva – Zafra (1886 -1889), so new lines of communication were opening up for the isolated Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche.

Jabugo, Cumbres Mayores and Cortegana are today the large industrial centres of the region although there are large companies in practically all the mountain towns which are in charge of producing and marketing their own products. In fact, the meat industry is the first economic sector in the region if we take into account the number of jobs and the volume of investment.

The great success of all the Iberian products in the market has brought about better modernization and organization in the factories while the fulfilment of important European Union health standards guarantees the quality of the products.