Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, April 21, 2017

And something else...

For years I didn't own a power drill. I made do with a little hand held job, in fact I often said that I preferred the manual ones.

I forget now how it started but, for years, I have been doing online surveys. Sometimes they ask me reasonably sensible things like who I might vote for or how I keep up with news and current affairs. Usually though they ask me annoyingly written and stupid questions about whether I agree more with the statement that a) my bank is friendly, honest and innovative or b) that my bank is chummy, trustworthy and forward thinking. There's no space to say that all banks are equally soulless. money grabbing and intrinsically corrupt. The survey people give me points for doing each survey and I can change the points for things in an online catalogue. The first time I used the points to send pigs to Nicaragua but somewhere along the way I used others to get a power drill. I now know that power drills are better than hand drills.

The other day I was asked to do a survey about sobrasada. I eat sobrasada from time to time. I usually eat it spread on bread or maybe as the spread in a sandwich. I've always presumed that sobrasada was the dripping that comes from making chorizo, the rough cut pork sausage flavoured with paprika type pepper. I thought of it as being a Spanish version of the bread and drip that I used to eat as a lad. I assumed the Spanish stuff was the reddy brown colour because the dripping came from the paprika coloured meat and that the thicker consistency was because it contained strands of cooked pork flesh.

Anyway this survey asked me tens and tens of questions about sobrasada. They asked me whether I preferred the stuff that comes in tubs or the variety that came in a skin. They asked whether the keeping qualities of it were important and whether I preferred the cheaper stuff or the stuff that is denominación de origen; D.O. is used a lot in Spain to mark out more traditional products prepared in specific ways. D.O. ham for instance generally means that the ham comes from a certain breed of free range pig that feeds on acorns. D.O. wines contain particular grape varieties which are grown, harvested and matured in specific ways. Suddenly, I realised there was a whole back story to sobrasada.

It turns out that the pukka stuff comes from Mallorca and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands though Cataluña and Valencia have their own versions. Sobrasada is a sausage made from pork loin and bacon meat minced and mixed with paprika, salt and black pepper. There are versions with and without cayenne pepper which are labelled as either sweet or spicy. The mixture is not cooked, it is stuffed into a pork intestine and hung from a pole for several weeks until it is cured. For the spicier version the ends of the sausage are tied off with either red or red and white string to differentiate it from the milder version.

Apparently the chemistry that dehydrates the meat is favoured by the weather typical of the late Balearic island autumn, the time when pigs are traditionally sacrificed, with high humidity and mild temperatures. I'm sure that in the factories where they churn out tons of cheap non traditional sobrasada from old scrag ends - the stuff I usually eat – those conditions can be easily recreated.

There are lots of variations in the way that the real McCoy sobrasada is finally presented to the consumer. Sometimes it is removed from the skins and put into tubs (which stack nicely on supermarket shelves) at other times it is presented in thin sausages which are apparently called longaniza (the longanizas we have in Pinoso are a very different type of sausage). The stuff that I thought of as being traditional sobrasada is called semirrizada and that is presented as a sort of haggis shaped and sized sausage from which you scoop the fatty spread.

I'm sure you're not too interested in sobrasada. I'm not. In fact I'm slightly less interested since I learned that it's basically rotted meat. What did interest me though was that it was just yet another little thing that I didn't know about Spain. About something that is so commonplace that a supermarket chain wanted to know my opinions on it.

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