Hamming it up . . .

trevelez-1TREVELEZ is not a good place to be a pig in the same sense Morecambe Bay is not a good place to be a shrimp or Aberdeen a good place to be a big meaty bull. Herring have a similar problem with Mallaig and the Isle of Man where, if they’re not careful, they can find themselves converted into kippers. Haddock face an identical fate in Arbroath and an afterlife as an Arbroath smokie; turkeys hesitate before visiting Norfolk; and only ducks that can stare death in the face and quack at adversity have any stomach for Aylsebury . . .

Trevelez is the capital of the Alpujarran jamon industry, jamon (pronounced hamon) being the air-cured ham for which the region is famous. Many towns and villages in this corner of Andalucia produce their own jamon, but Trevelez jamon is considered the best. It rises head and haunches above all others, in the same way Manx and Mallaig kippers have aspired to the pinnacle of kipperdom.

Trevelez, reclining precariously at an elevation of 1,476 metres, is the highest village in Spain. I’ve seen it reported that it’s the highest village in Europe that’s permanently occupied. The rarefied air renders it practically perfect for pig processing plants.

trevelez-2 trevelez-3What puzzles me, though, is where all the pigs live. Their legs can be found in almost every building, hanging from ceilings and beams and in various stages of the curing process. But where are the pigs?

I wander up a hill to the highest point of the village, hoping to catch a telltale snort on the wind or the click-clack of trotters in an alley. Nothing. I huff and I puff along streets too narrow for cars but sufficiently comfortable for two pigs to canter abreast if the fancy takes them, pushing my snout into places it shouldn’t really be pushed. Still nothing.

trevelez-4 trevelez-7 trevelez-6 trevelez-5 trevelez-4atrevelez-8Morecambe Bay shrimps come from Morecambe Bay, Dublin Bay prawns from Dublin Bay. But the handsome pigs that provide Trevelez jamon are leading a double life. The mystery remains unsolved. It’s time for someone – or something – to squeal.

trevelez-9

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17 thoughts on “Hamming it up . . .

  1. I think most pig farms nowadays are tucked away in hollows in the landscape: intensive farming! Long low buildings hidden by trees and looking a bit like the death camps of WW2. Goodness! Did I really write that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ash, if Ken Livingstone had written that about pig farms we’d never hear the end of it!
      Many years ago I cycled past a Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Norfolk and thought exactly the same thing. In fact, I wrote an article about it for the paper I worked on at the time. What made it all the more sinister was the turkey farm was on a Second World War bomber airfield.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alen,
    The majority hitch a lift in the back of a refrigerated lorry from the Galica region of Spain or so I am told. Come to think of it I see a lot of these lorries delivering the legs to the jamón barron’s as they are called in the villages as I go towards Trevélez. The butchers siting outside having a cig break. I was up above Trevélez last week and there are some serious sized sheds up there so I maybe doing them an injustice and some do produce there own.
    Regards John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John. Thanks for that information. It would make sense if a lot of it is imported because there must be thousands of pig legs being cured up there at any one time, not to mention the pre-packed chunks that are sold in the tourist shops and supermarkets.
      Later in the day I stood on the bridge in the middle of town and thought I saw a pig in the riverbed below, until it was pointed out to me it was the end of a vegetable cloche sticking out from under a tree. Should have gone to Specsavers.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. Maybe all the pigs are hanging in the sheds. If there were any left outside they’d only have three legs, wouldn’t they?

    I still haven’t found out why a ham producer’s pork left in a room cures, but when I leave a piece of pork in a room it goes rotten!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris. We bought a pig’s shank in Prague once and felt pretty guilty for the three-legged beast still limping about the countryside. But it didn’t stop us cooking it with potatoes, garlic and green beans.
      Yeh, leave a lump of pork on a worktop and it goes grey pretty quickly, not the nice warm pink of English ham or the cherry red of the stuff over here. There must be more to it than meets the eye.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Perhaps the very last pig was slaughtered? Or could it be pigs from space hanging around in all available houses?
    Trevélez looks very charming.
    Lovely introduction to the highest village in Spain!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alen! I will stop searching now. Could you possible ask the locals where the pigs are raised? Maybe the pigs are living in fenced fields and woods further down the mountain?

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  5. Been to the Alpujarras many times but never met a pig farmer. Those hams are shipped in from all over. The only reason they are brought there is because of the ideal chilly climate.

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    1. Hi David. Thank you for that piece of information. So the poor old pigs are reared elsewhere. I suppose if you’ve got to end up somewhere, Trevelez is better than a lot of places.
      Cheers, Alen

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