Embutidos, those cured, dry suspended sausages that everyone’s seen ‘hanging around’ the supermarket. There’s lots of types; the most common probably being Sobrasada, but the Catalan “Butifarra” and Mallorca’s very own version - the “Camaiot”, are all varieties you’ll frequently encounter, especially when visiting some of the many charming markets around the island.
So, what’s the big deal with these sausages? #
Well, first of all - aside from being delicious - they play a huge role in local culture. Typically, as the weather starts cooling down around November, the matanzas (slaughters) would take place. The sausages were, in a practical sense, made in the interest of utilizing all of the animal, as well as having a product that could be preserved throughout the winter. Often, especially during the festive months, entire neighborhoods would gather together to share in this tasty surplus of cheap produce.
But wait! It gets even more interesting.
Going back some 789 years, King Jaime I lead an invasion through Santa Ponsa in 1229, known historically as The Conquest of Mallorca. If, like myself, you’re keen on history and would like to learn more of the kings exploits, there’s a fantastic book in Spanish on Amazon called La cruzada Albigense y el Imperio Aragonés
The invasion itself was carried out in the interest of reconquering Mallorca back from under Muslim rule. While the capital, then known as Madina Mayurqa, fell within a year of the attack, Muslim resistance held out in surrounding mountains for three years, in a bloody war that has all but been forgotten. In fact, the conquest's success (amongst others) is celebrated every year in August in an unmissable festival.
Once the conquest, which was made on behalf of the Christian kingdoms was deemed a success in 1231, it was, of course, in everyone’s best interest to show they had converted back to Christianity. After all, we aren’t exactly talking about an era that was tolerant of diverse cultural beliefs. And of course, the best way people could show that they no longer held what at the time were considered heathen beliefs was to eat pork.
So, there you have it! A hanging sausage that - at initial glance, may come across as little more than a delicious tapa or a rather inappropriate euphemism - is actually a food with a deeply rooted cultural and historical meaning.
For an in-person, community festival, head to Campos on 18 October this year, all enjoy a local harvest ritual of fresh sobrasada and more.
Affordable Mallorca Tip for enjoying Sobrasada: For a snack you’re guaranteed to never forget, get your hands on some Queso de Cabrales
Put this in any kind of bowl, add about a third of cream cheese, cover it in cling film and allow the mix to either melt in the microwave (or oven, without the cling film).
Meanwhile, simply pick the sobrasada apart with your hands to form a spreadable mix.
A good way to store any surplus is with this fantastic set of four specially made containers.
Once you have your melted, spreadable cheese and Sobrasada - without mixing them - apply each to a slice of bread. Join the bread together, remove the piece that previously held the Sobrasada on top, so that you’re left with a single piece of bread with some cheese and Sobrasada on it. Take a bite, and prepare to reach Nirvana.
If you’re keen on Sobrasada, Butifarra, Camaiot or any other variety, consider investing in a guillotine that is sure to both surprise and delight any guests you plan on impressing with your newfound delightful and traditional treat - options range from the more affordable, to the more glamorous.
Keen cooks may even be interested in learning how to make their own Embutidos.
You would, however, need to be able to read in Spanish in order to do so.
By Gene Harley
27 September, 2019