Until the early 20th century, every farm in the Basque Country would have a small group of pigs, which would then be taken—as lechones, 2 or 3 month old just-weaned piglets—to fairs and sold to merchants from all parts of Spain. One or two animals were kept for fattening and were fed on kitchen and vegetable garden leftovers or food from the woods. It was a similar situation all over Celtic Europe, though the livestock trade flourished much more in the Basque Country. There were even three native pig breeds: the Baztanesa, the Chato Vitoriano—both now extinct—and the Euskal Txerria. The latter was only saved in extremis thanks to the initiative of a French Basque farmer, Pierre Oteitza. By 1997 there was again a reasonable number of sows, but no animals were left in Spain’s Basque Country. Pello Urdapilleta and his family then began to farm this breed in a wild state, helped by Mariano Gómez, a veterinarian interested in local breeds, who was then also involved in preparing traditional local sausages.
Euskal Txerria pigs have short legs, a comical appearance, large hanging ears and black spots on their head and hindquarters. Presidium pigs are raised only using extensive methods and do not exceed 14 animals per hectare: they graze freely on acorns, chestnuts, hazelnuts and grass. They only reach a proper fattening stage in their last two months, by feeding on corn, beans and bran (only non-GM feed is used) until they reach 120 kilograms in weight, when they are slaughtered.
Pello Urdapilleta, the first Presidium producer, transforms their full-flavored meat into a range of cured meat products: chorizo (7 months aging, 70% lean and 30% fat, sweet paprika, salt, garlic and no other additives), lomo (5 months), salchichón eaten fresh (made using pepper from the Rimbas Pepper Presidium) and hams, experimenting with times of aging and the most suitable method for the difficult local climate.
Bidegoian, Guipúzcoa province, Basque Country
tel. +34 943681006/605701204
Visitación Irizar Alzugaray
tel. +34 943431540