Friday, 7 October 2016

Lomo en manteca; Vejer's speciality spread:

In October 2017 this street in the La Laguna area was dedicated to the lomo en manteca.
 Lomo en manteca, loin of pork in lard, is a highly flavoured dish prepared by adding spices to pork fat, which is then used to coat the meat for cooking. More characteristic of the Vejer area is the ‘Manteca colorá’, (red lard) coloured by paprika, which is then cooked with minced or finely
Samples of the lomo en manteca at the annual fair
chopped pieces of pork. It is usually eaten spread on toasted bread. The term ‘lard’ in English conjures images of a bland, greasy substance without gastronomic charm, but the ‘manteca’ with which this dish is prepared is deliciously flavourful. 

 Lomo en manteca has its basis in the processes used to preserve freshly killed pork, which before the age of refrigerators had to last families all through the winter. Vejer's version of this famous product is acknowledged to be the tastiest and most succulent in the area. 

 Walking along Juan Relinque on certain days of the week, you can’t help but be aware of a delicious, spicy aroma emanating from Paco Melero’s butcher’s shop. This will almost certainly be the savour of the lomo en manteca. Every Wednesday afternoon, they make at least 25 kilos of the coloured version, and on Friday morning a similar batch is created, this time without colouring. Paco Melero and his brother Manolo learned the formula from their uncle Antonio “El Viaje” Pacheco Pérez, a slaughterman who later opened  his own butcher’s shop close to the present premises on Juan Relinque. 

Paco Melero, Vejer's most famous butcher.
Preparing the lomo en manteca, October 2015
 When he took over the business, Paco was careful to follow Antonio’s formula for lomo en manteca. The first, and most important principle for creating an excellent product is to choose the best and juiciest cuts of Iberian pork, which are then added to the ‘pella’ - the fat that accumulates under the
The white lomo en manteca
skin of the pig. Then comes the master touch, the seasoning with garlic and wild oregano from the surrounding countryside. Paprika is added to make the ‘coloured’ variety. When the lomo en manteca contains thin slices of pork, this version is called ‘zurrapa’.

The red lomo (coloré) and zurrapa
The Melero brothers are highly skilled at creating traditional Iberian meat products, using only natural ingredients. Their shop is the source of many mouth-watering examples: lomo frito en manteca en pieza, butifarra, chorizos, longanizas, salchichones and morcillas. Closely related to the lomo en manteca is the ‘almuerzo campero’, the ‘country lunch’, a dish long associated with the matanza, the annual pig-killing. After the ‘sacrificing’ of the pigs, and while the carcasses are being butchered, a kind of stew is prepared to be eaten at a festive lunch. Into it is thrown everything which can’t be turned into cuts of meat - tongue, liver, kidneys and offcuts of meat. It is all fried together in lard and flavoured with garlic, dried peppers and vinegar before being enjoyed by the whole community. Vejer's matanza is celebrated in mid-January at the Caseta Municipal in La Noria, though the pigs are now slaughtered elsewhere.

Lomo en manteca has now been made and served in Vejer for more than a century, and several local  chefs and butchers are skilled in its creation. At the end of the nineteenth century, Luisa Camacho Daza, a native of Naveros, and her husband Francisco Verdugo Duarte from La Barca de Vejer opened an inn for the convenience of passing travellers. The inn still exists and is now known as the restaurant ‘La Barca de Vejer’. Luisa’s granddaughter believes that lomo de manteca has always featured on the menu among the other dishes, which originally mainly consisted of stews and game. 
Almuerzo campero

 In the Venta Pinto, opened by Juan Pinto Crespo on the other side of the highway, the story was roughly the same. Juan’s great-granddaughter, Cristina Pinto, who now runs the restaurant, believes that Lomo de Manteca was featured on the menus of both inns, served in a bocadillo, and preferably of the coloured type. In this way, the fame of Vejer’s lomo en manteca was soon spread far and wide by satisfied travellers. The dish can also be enjoyed in several Vejer restaurants, including the Bar Navarro on Juan Bueno. 

 In recent years, Vejer’s lomo en manteca has travelled all over the world and has been enjoyed by such personages as Sean Connery and Ted Kennedy. It is now the focus of an annual celebration which takes place in early October around the Muralles de la Segur, and features both sales of this iconic product and demonstrations of how it is made.

For a wonderful photographic account of the 2016 celebrations, see this album on Facebook:

Venta pinto, one of the homes of lomo en manteca

You can see how to make a version of lomo en manteca here:

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