Traditional Pig Slaughter - Matança do Porco

Posted by Marianne Hoesen on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 Under: way of life
                             

Since medieval times, many rural Portuguese families raise pigs for domestic consumption.  People in the countryside were self-sufficient, providing for their own vegetables, fruit and meat.  Because the activity of pig slaughter has been practiced during many centuries, nowadays, the pig and its meat belong to the national identity. 

But the slaughtering of a pig is more than providing for food, it is also a social happening, where families, neighbours and friends get together in a spirit of mutual help and celebration.  The spirit of helping is very strong, and a family that receives help from the neighbour, friend or family, later will return the favor in other similar activities. The exchange of favors is a very traditional practice, still alive, goes beyond the slaughtering occasions and involves other products beyond the pork meat. Even nowadays, when the winter time comes, many people in the rural Portugal keep up with this old tradition.

Raising a pig is not an expensive activity, because this animal eats all kinds of food scraps, fruits and other sub products.  In the old days,  breeding a pig for household consumption was the only chance to eat meat during the winter, except in special times, when the families used to consume chicken meat and mutton.  The economic value of this animal in the Portuguese culture cannot be compared to any other animal.  All the parts of the animal are being used, from the feet to the ears.

                                

The men do the actual slaughtering, early in the morning. The experienced matador kills the pig by a deep cut in the neck.  After the blood has been collected, the hair is burned off and the intestines are taken out.  The men cut up the meat and after that the women prepare sausages like morçela (blood sausage), linguiça (cured sausage with ground paprika and fresh garlic) and chouriço (similar to linguiça, but spicier) by mixing meat, fat, herbs and spices.  Then there is of course the dry cured-ham, presunto.  All the meat and sausages are hanging down from sticks under the ceiling of the smoking room.

With the times changing and technological development of the societies increasing, some acts or activities previously considered like icons of a community’s cultural identity, are now looked upon as barbaric or not enough hygienic. 

With the times changing and technological development of the societies increasing, some acts or activities previously considered like icons of a community’s cultural identity, are now looked upon as barbaric or not enough hygienic. That is exactly what is happening with the Portuguese traditional pig slaughtering.  Today, European law forbids the animal killing at home, for hygienic reasons, while animals rights institutions condemn this practice, because they consider it barbaric.   But new laws don´t mean the immediate end of old traditions.  Here it is stll allowed to keep and kill a pig for your own consumption and this tradition will be alive until the rural communities disappear, which I hope will never happen, because it is a part of Portugal. 

On the orther hand, the quality of the meat of these pigs is so much higher than what you can buy in the supermarket. You know exactly what the animal had to eat and of course you make sure it is free of antibiotics and hormones.  Also the life of the animal was happier and longer than that of its cousins in the industry.

The day of the Matança is a busy one, but also a happy one. Inbetween and after all the work there is time to enjoy this social happening with nice food, wine and music. 



In : way of life 


Tags: traditional pig slaughter portugal  matança do porco portugal  choriço  linguiça 

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About Me


Marianne Hoesen Born in the deep south of The Netherlands, I moved to the central Algarve in 2007, together with my partner and 2 dogs. In the meantime we added some goats and chickens and are living a peaceful life in the rolling hills of the rural south of Portugal. I invite you to read a bit in my blog and to leave a comment afterwards. Also check out the holiday accommodations mentioned elsewhere in this website.

 

 
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