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History of Sobrasada

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Origen of Sobrasada

The exact origin of the sobrasada is unknown but the indications suggest that it was in the Middle East where this conservation technique began to be practiced at some point in the Middle Ages.

The need to extend the conservation of meat in ancient times led to the practice of stuffing minced meat into the animal's own guts.


In the Balearic Islands, sausages began to be produced during the Roman Empire. This technique is abandoned during the presence of the Muslims on the islands and is taken up again with the arrival of Western Christian culture after the conquest of the island of Mallorca in 1229 by King Jaime I of Aragon.

Etymologically, the word "sobrasada" comes from the Italian word "sopressa", which means pressed (in reference to meat for sausage).


Although the Balearic sobrasada is one of the most valued and known, it is very likely that its origin is Italian because, thanks to the intense Mediterranean maritime trade that already existed in the 15th century, the technique of making sobrasadas reaches Valencia from Sicily and from there to the Balearic Islands. This is demonstrated by the first historical reference in a document from the year 1403 in which King Martín I of Aragon requests sobrasadas and other meats from the butler of King Martín I of Sicily.


From the 16th century on, a great tradition of charcuterie developed in Mallorca and sobrasada became a common form of food preservation after the execution of the "slaughter", carried out for the production of sausages (sobrasada, sausage, sausage, camaiot, ... ) that can be kept throughout the year.


We can find multiple references to the use of sobrasada in 17th century Balearic gastronomy, but it is in the 18th century when paprika was incorporated into its preparation, an ingredient that gives sobrasada its current and so characteristic red color.


Since ancient times, the “slaughters” (matanzas) have been carried out in winter, not only in Mallorca, but also in other autonomous communities and other countries. Since ancient times, and coinciding with the winter solstice, the pig was sacrificed to ensure food during the cold months.

Traditionally, the raising and fattening of a pig was one of the most used resources for the sustainability of the family's food, as it guaranteed the consumption of meat throughout the year.


Regardless of the fact that Mallorcan pantries are currently more and better stocked than in times of scarcity, the tradition continues. The slaughter of the pig continues to be celebrated according to very specific customs.


The slaughter of the pig is a practice that has a much deeper meaning than the simple act of killing an animal for private consumption since, on the occasion of this act, family and friends come together in the spirit of mutual help and partying.

Traditional day of matanzas.

The day before the seasonings are bought, utensils, machinery, knives and firewood are prepared.

The day of "killings". It begins before sunrise, when the “matancer” and the helpers tie the pig once it is deposited on the sidewalk. Before going to work, the women have already boiled a pan of water that will then help clean and peel the pork.


When everything is ready, the “matancer” or butcher slaughters the animal with a knife, without making it suffer, and a woman with a basin collects the blood that will be used to make the fried blood, typical for a snack.


This is when the work of the others begins. With hot water and special knives the pork is peeled. Formerly there were special rules: the matancer had the right to cut the hairs on the back, the longest, which were used to make brushes. The queue was for the children, which they used for their games. With the pig already peeled, the work continues opening the pig in the carcass and separating the different parts. Nothing is thrown away, everything is used. The men cut the meat into pieces while most of the women are in the kitchen, preparing the food.


The noblest parts of the animal are used to make butifarrones. According to tradition, women in menstrual periods cannot touch or participate in the activities of that day because the sobrasada could turn white, since menstrual blood, considered impure, could turn the sobrasada white.

The tasks continue with the removal of the intestines. It is done by hand and with great care because in case of rupture they would dirty the pork loin.

The village veterinarian, who has been notified in advance, must then analyze a sample of the meat to check that the pig is good and healthy.

Women prepare the intestines or where the mixtures will be stuffed, mixed with spices. One part of the meat is used for own consumption and the other to prepare the sausages. They also cleanse the intestines with vinegar, lemon, and salt. Some break off and need to be sewn, a job that takes a couple of hours. The finest intestines are used for the butifarrones and the others for sobrasadas and longanizas.

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At noon it is time to rest, the "madonna" of the house will have already prepared the typical "frit de matances" (frying blood). For lunch there is no shortage of cookies, dried figs, roasted nose, wine, liqueurs…. It is the well-deserved rest, when the slaughter is already well advanced.

Formerly the party of "matences" lasted until late at night. At the end of the work a dance was held, poems were sung and recited.

But there is still a lot of work. In a large container, after having passed it through the crusher, all the pasta from the sobrasada must be placed and, in another, all the pasta from the rest of the sausages The mixture is stirred constantly while the women are tasting it. The meat of the sobrasada contains lean meat (it is of better quality) and a little fat. That of the butifarrones, fat and blood. The seasonings for the first one are paprika, black pepper and salt.


More spices are added to the butifarrón, although each family has a certain custom, some season by kilo of meat and others do it to taste. An older person is in charge of salting the meat of the sausages. They are usually people with long experience and perform their task "by eye".

The next step also carries several worksheets. It is about filling the pasta sausages. Traditionally it was a task for men, women were in charge of closing them as they came out of the machine.

By means of a special thread or cord, the already filled guts are separated into pieces. It is a work that is carried out without pause and in which no time has to be wasted since the men are still engaged in the filling work and the sewing has to be immediate.

In the case of butifarrones, once prepared they are boiled for a little over half an hour and, when they are cold, they are ready for consumption. The sobrasada, on the other hand, is consumed raw or cooked after a curing period (15 days in the case of longanizas).

After this it can be said that the slaughter is over. The sausages are hung in the pantry and, part of them, on the same day of the "slaughter" are distributed among relatives and neighbors. The satisfaction of the owners of the house depends on your opinion and taste.

It remains to mention the "ventrisca" and the bones. The "ventrisca" is frozen or salted and the bones are salted and kept in an "alfàbia" to later make stews. It can be seen that everything is used from the pig.

With the job done, it's party time. In the old days, once the “slaughters” were finished, a large fire was used to light in which people roasted and danced to the rhythm of traditional songs.

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