The slaughter was for centuries a ritual, a necessity, a pantry. Each year, families fattened one or more pigs with whatever they could and according to their resources. The slaughter of the pig is still very much alive in Alcaracejos thanks to the fact that it is still kept in some houses in the old way, but the new ways of life, consumption, veterinary and health requirements and strict regulations make the slaughter a tradition in frank regression. To keep this ethnographic, cultural and gastronomic legacy alive, the City Council created the Museo de la Matanza. In addition, every year, in the month of February, when the Iberian pigs have finished the last acorns of the montanera, the Matanza Festival is celebrated, which brings together hundreds of people around the best sausages and fresh pieces of pork. Iberian.
The cycles of the year and its customs were always very marked in rural areas such as Los Pedroches. Harvests, sowing, harvesting, rearing and slaughter of livestock species… However, the slaughter day was one of the star days of the year, like that of the patron saint, like the fair or like certain festive Sundays.
In the slaughter, a good part of the culinary and gastronomic knowledge accumulated in the Mediterranean towns is accumulated. It is more than the simple slaughter of the pig as food, because there has always been the urgent preservation of meat through the use of salting and spices, a fact that was expanded, ran and founded with the arrival of new seasonings after the colonization of America and the enlargement of the world known by Europeans. Around the slaughter is added the need to have food for almost the whole year and its products: fresh or seasoned meats, sausages and hams are the basis of countless stews and dishes that even include pastries, based on the lard.
The slaughter is traditionally celebrated in winter or at the end of autumn, when the pigs have finished their cycle in the dehesa eating acorns. However, even today, when sanitary conditions allow it, there are families who raise their pigs in pens or on small farms, feeding them with waste, acorns, fodder and wild grasses. But the normal thing is that the pig ends its cycle in the dehesa. Normally, the animals enter the oak forest at the end of the summer and remain there until they are slaughtered, the deadline for which is usually March. The Los Pedroches dehesa is the largest continuous oak forest in the world and most of its Iberian pig production is processed industrially, but animals are still reserved for these family slaughters.
The slaughter really begins the days before. It is time to acquire all the spices, to cook the onion and the pumpkin and to prepare all the necessary tools, which are not few. The rite of slaughter dictated that there must be a butcher or ‘mataor’, who is usually a man, who sacrificed the animal with an accurate stab. Today pigs can only be slaughtered in slaughterhouses, although later the traditional slaughter is continued, but the figure of the slaughterer is preserved in the part of the cutting of the animal. From the clean and peeled pork carcass, hams, lard, bacon, pork, dried apricots and pieces of meat are removed – the noblest are already reserved for fresh consumption.
The ritual has changed due to the current regulations until the moment of sacrifice, but from then on it is preserved in its entirety. This is when the matanceras come into play, seasoning the meats and preparing them to make the blood, onion and potato blood sausages and the chorizos: red or red and white, also known as salchichón.
The rite is usually hierarchical and the voice of experience is usually respected, both in the part that concerns the men, cutting, peeling and bleeding the hams, and in the part that concerns the women, dedicated above all to the seasoning and stuffing of the pieces.
After all this process, the hams are put in salt and the sausages are hung next to the fireplace to dry with the fire and with the cold of the winter season.
The slaughter is a hard day’s work, but it has its moments of rest since work begins. Before dawn you have a strong breakfast. They even make some crumbs and have a glass of anise and a coffee. When the clean pork meat begins to come out, it is usually grilled and accompanied at mid-morning with a glass of wine, which used to be pitarra, the one that was made in the houses, and the sausage, salty and seasoned was tested already at noon. The food used to be a chanfaina made with backbone and vegetables and some of the animal’s viscera such as liver, some migas with torreznos or a chickpea stew. After work and food, the joy of wine and of the accomplished mission used to give to the dance of jotas and typical songs, jokes and popular games were also frequent, which in the case of Alcaracejos, are still preserved.
To commemorate these massacres, Alcaracejos celebrates the traditional Matanza Festival, which takes place between the months of January and February and is attended by hundreds of people to taste Iberian pork products and learn about the ritual.
In the Museo de la Matanza de Alcaracejos you can see a whole series of objects, belongings and constructions related not only to the slaughter, but also to the rural subsistence economy of areas such as Los Pedroches.
Stroll through our museum and discover the entire process of slaughtering and making the Iberian pig.
Sunday:12 to 14 h.
From Monday to Friday: concerted visits for groups, in the morning and afternoon.
1 € (with tasting of slaughter products)
C/ Capitán Ferrer Morales, 12
C.P.: 14480 Alcaracejos (Córdoba)
Telephones for arranged visits: 957156423 – 957156009