After three and a half exhausting months staging at restaurant Martin Berasategui I moved on to the second part of the Basque Stage, Sammic program. I would be spending my last two and half months in Basque Country working with several different artisans and small establishments. First stop, Ezkurtxerri.
If there is one thing Spain is most known for, its their pigs. The infamous Iberico pig, free roaming, foraging on acorns, resulting in some of the most amazing meat and rich, luscious fat. Hence the exceptional pork products, fresh and preserved alike, that are so prized in Spain and around the world.
Needless to say I was especially excited to have the opportunity to spend two weeks at Ezkurtxerri, which literally translates to acorn-fed pigs. Even more so as I pulled up to the farm and realized that it was someones home. Ezkurtxerri is a small, family run pig farm in the hills of Getaria in the Meaga barrio, surrounded by picturesque views of rolling hills, livestock and vineyards. I immediately felt at home. It looked, and even smelled like my grandmothers house in Portugal.
They specialize in traditional artisan sausages, chorizos, ham, and fresh and cooked pork products. The fully equipped workshop is in the lower level of their gorgeous Caserio (country home) and is run by the dynamic father, daughter duo. They provide their high quality products to local bars, restaurants, and gourmet/specialty food stores.
The Subijana family has owned and cultivated the land and Caserio since 1984 and began raising pigs in 2007. But it wasn’t until 4 years ago that they included artisan pork products to their repertoire. Ezkurtxerri is located on 28 hectares of land, 20 of which is prime roaming land for the piggies. The remaining is rented out and used to grow Txakoli vines.
Ezkurtxerri has two main breeds of pigs: a Pietrain/Duroc cross and Euskal-txerria. The Pietrain/Duroc cross combines the leaner, more muscular Pietrain breed, with the fattier Duroc for the optimal breed. They are usually pink and spotted. These pigs are fattened for 9 months, as opposed to the 6 months at most other farms.
The Euskal-txerria breed is domestic to the Basque region and was nearly extinct until recently. Thanks to the efforts of a French Basque farmer, the breed was preserved and began to flourish again in 1997. It’s rather silly characteristics include large floppy ears that practically cover its eyes, and a distinct pattern of black at its front and rear, with pinkish in the middle. Sort of like an oreo. I think they’re adorable! These pigs are fattened for an entire year and allowed to reach 160-180 Kilos before sacrificing. In one year, they raise about 550 pigs, with about 350 at the farm at any given time.
If you’re looking for Jamon iberico, Pata Negra, or Bellota products, this is not the place. If you’re looking for amazing quality Spanish pork, fresh and cured products, made by people who have tremendous pride in their work and take great care of their piggies, you’ve come to the right place.
Patxi and oldest daughter Agurtzane do it all. I had the privilege of working under them, butchering, making traditional Spanish sausages like fresh and cured chorizo and txistorra, slow roasted codillo (knuckle), ham, pork belly, black pudding, head cheese and more!
Best of all I got to work on some recipe development. During the holidays they sell pre-stuffed tenderloin, so we worked on some stuffing ideas. It was unanimous. The winner was the foie gras, caramelized onion, and apple compote stuffing. It was absolutely delicious.
They are currently in the process of expanding the business to include guided tours of the gorgeous landscape and farm, an on-site store, and small cafe/eating area. I’m so excited for them and look forward to seeing all of the changes on my next visit to Basque Country. I thank the Subijana family for opening their home to me and allowing me to contribute something to what they’ve worked so hard to create. I’ll never forget the hospitality they showed me, their open mindedness to my ideas and suggestions, the beautiful landscape and of course the adorable little piggies.
Ezkerrik asko Patxi, Arantxa, Agurtzane y Maitane!