The gastronomic heritage of the Maestrazgo region is extensive and is based mainly on agricultural and livestock products, but also takes advantage of local products such as mushrooms and plants, among others.
Matacerdo and canning
Among the most popular products consumed in the region is pork, from which even the pig’s feet are used. That is why even today the classic “matacerdo” is still held, a few days of family togetherness in which the pig is not only slaughtered, but also prepared for its subsequent transformation into other products. This custom extends from November to January, since the weather during these dates helps the drying and preservation of the meat. Traditionally, a small pig was bought and fattened in pigsties. It is now usually purchased from some of the many farms in the area.
The next step after the death and quartering of the animal is the “mondongo“. This work consists of separating the parts of the pig that are to be minced for the sausages and those that are to be kept for canning. The ground meat is mixed with different spices to produce different types of sausages: black pudding, bolos, longanizas, chorizos, bueñas and salchichones. The parts of the loin, ribs and sausage are fried and then placed in earthenware jars or large glass jars where they are covered with cold oil to preserve them. The jars were left in the coldest room of the house.
It is a long process that lasted several days because to make these products the meat has to be properly “oreado”. Nowadays, automatic mincers are used, which have made this task much easier, and the “capoladora” has been relegated to the background, being used only for stuffing.
Speaking of gastronomy, Christmas is one of the times of the year when it gains more prominence in every home. Families gather in the last days of December to celebrate the end of the year and welcome the next with tables overflowing with food.
Confectionery at this time also increases its popularity, especially for nougat, mantecados, polvorones… But in Maestrazgo we also find some sweets that are typical of these holidays as the Christmas coca in Cantavieja or the harinosa in Villarroya de los Pinares. Both are strong sweets with a certain similarity to traditional turrones.
The Christmas coca consists of a dough of flour, eggs, oil, aniseed, walnuts, orange or lemon zest and sugar. But, as it always happens with recipes that have been passed from generation to generation, we can find different ingredients, quantities and elaborations. Some of the ingredients included in other recipes are bread crumbs, brandy, mistela or cinnamon, among others.
The harinosa is known as the nougat of the humble classes of Maestrazgo, and is made from aniseed, sweet muscatel, nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts and raisins), honey and flour. But as we have said, recipes may vary according to each family.
We also find the “tortas de alma” (soul cakes) that, although they are now made all year round, were a traditional Christmas preparation, as they are sweets filled with pumpkin jam, which was harvested in September and left to ripen for a while to make “the soul” of these cakes. They are also usually filled with angel hair.
If you visit Maestrazgo this Christmas, don’t forget to try or buy the sausage or soul cakes. You will love them!!!