What about Pello?
Getting to Pello's farm is no easy quest, as it is hidden away among the wood covered hills, along a winding and steep road next to a small village. After asking quite a few people we are getting closer and meet Marcelino, a 94 year old farmer who lives a few hundred meters away. He chats happily with us: “We don’t get many people around here” he says, so he keeps us a bit longer, chit chatting about his grandsons. When we at last arrive at the farm, Maite welcomes us, and shortly after Pello arrives. They are a very friendly couple. Their house was built in the 15th century and has been a farm since then. Pello has been living there since he was born. The recipes of their products have been perfected by his grandmother. “She would simply ask how many pigs we were going to slaughter and their weight”, recalls Pello, “then she would go away, and shortly after, come back with a piece of paper listing the precise amount of spices needed to prepare all chorizos, sausages, and jamon which would be produced from the pigs”. Pello smiles “to this day, I still find this amazing”. Pello takes us around the farm. “Euskal Txerria” pigs are known for their enormous, floppy ears that fall over their eyes, even reaching their snouts. Their ears may drag along the ground as they forage for chestnuts, hazelnuts, beechnuts, or as they just snack on a bit of the fresh grass that abounds throughout their extensive domain. “Perhaps it is these big, floppy ears that have made them develop their friendly and easy-going character”, Pello muses. All the pigs live freely in the 54 hectares of beautiful green fields filled with ryegrass and enriched by the different types of nuts and seeds from the centenarian native evergreens growing in the fields. With around 100 pigs, that is half an hectare for each of them. That is a quite luxurious amount of space! Pello slaughters around 30 pigs at a time 4 times a year, in October, November, December and February. All production is done in a place nearby. “We use much less salt than other in hams, to ensure the right balance is achieved”, explains Pello. “This is risky, as less salt means a higher chance for the ham to go bad”. As no heating is used in the process of maturation, typical maturation time is 3 years, at least 1 year longer than most other hams. After the tour we sit down at the table, and enjoy a wonderful platter of ham, chorizos and sausages, with a few glasses of Txocholi, a biological wine from the area, and we wonder if we really have to get back to our hotel!