Mangote de Aldeia Nova
Aldeia Nova (or Vila Nova) de São Bento is small town about 15 kilometers from the Spanish border in Portugal’s Alentejo region; it is a freguesia (civil parish) in the municipality of Serpa. The distinctive landscape of this area is known as montado (or dehesa in Spain) and is characterized by grasslands dotted with various kinds of oak trees, including cork. This landscape is well suited for—and, over the centuries, has been shaped by—the extensive management of livestock, especially black Iberian pigs. The mangote is a traditional pork-based enchido, or sausage (enchido means “stuffed”), from Aldeia Nova, typically made with meat from the local black Alentejano pigs. Records from the late 19th century mention the production of mangotes in Aldeia Nova and indicate that this product was especially popular among wealthier families from the area. Traditionally associated with the Christmas season and the winter pig slaughter (matança), nowadays mangotes are made year round, though many people in rural areas continue the tradition of the wintertime matança, and it is an important social occasion.
Like many enchidos, mangotes provide a way to make use of all parts of the pig: To make them, a mixture of chopped pork loin, pig’s ear, and kidneys is seasoned with nutmeg, onion, salt, and pepper, and then put aside to rest. Meanwhile, pieces of pig skin are seasoned on the inside with salt and pepper and sewn into sacks with needle and thread. The next day, these sacks are stuffed with the meat mixture and the opening is sewn shut. The mangotes are boiled in a mixture of water and white wine until they are cooked through, and then dried in the oven or with smoke. Each mangote weights about 1 kilogram, and they are usually eaten cold, served in slices, either as an entrée or as an accompaniment to other dishes. They have a distinctive aroma and spiced flavor.
Mangotes are an expression of the locally available food resources and the cultural landscape and sustainable management system from which those resources come. Unfortunately, mangotes are among the traditional household products that are disappearing from the rural gastronomy of Alentejo as fewer people continue to raise and slaughter their own animals. However, mangotes are featured in the Feira do Enchido e do Presunto, an annual festival in Aldeia Nova that celebrates local pork products. Hopefully, events like this will help to ensure that traditional products like the mangote continue to be made and enjoyed in the future.