| Iberian Adventure:
Hamming It Up With a Few Babes From Corteconcepción
Story and photos by Tom Weber
another bag drag for the intrepid "band of merry media," 29
travel journalists and photographers invited by Insight Vacations
(Insight) to sample a portion of its premium-escorted Iberian Adventure
through Portugal and Spain, as we board the sleek Mercedes luxury coach
and bid adeus to Évora,
the atmospheric UNESCO World Heritage city, while Helder, Insight's
GQ-worthy pilot, sets the GPS for Seville, the capital of Andalusia,
via a pig farm in the Huelva that produces the prized jamón
ibérico (Iberian ham).
Like the opening line from the time-tested
nursery rhyme, This Little Piggy, the Insight galleon drops anchor
outside the sprawling Eíriz
estate in Corteconcepción, where we're about to witness
prized black Iberian pigs roaming free until they're turned into succulent
hams and sausages and sent to the market
Domingo, one of the present owners from
the current generation of the nearly 200-year-old Eíriz legacy,
greets us at the entryway and quickly brings us up to speed on the family
business before taking us on a walking tour of their dehesa (grasslands)
inside the Nature Park of Aracena.
While little brother Domingo narrates the
scene, big brother Manolo bangs on the limbs of sturdy oak trees, calls
out and a small drift of pigs rushes in and feasts on the bellota
(acorns) scattered about on the ground.
A steady diet of sweet and sour acorns
is what makes the black Iberian pig so treasured at the table. During
their abbreviated lifetimes, each one will continuously dine off the
fallen fruit from a hectare of land filled with Holm, Gall and Cork
According to Domingo, "Approximately
400 kilos of acorns per pig contributes to one kilo of weight gain."
He adds that their pata negra (black hoof) pigs are only brought
to market after they're two years old and reach the Denomination of
Origin (DO) requisite weight of 340 lb. (160 kg).
It's the combination of age, weight and
free-range lifestyle that earn these acorn-eating "babes"
the coveted title of jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed
Donning mandatory plastic smocks, shower
caps and blue booties, as if we're getting ready to "walk the grid"
in an episode of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), we enter Eíriz's
production facilities to see firsthand most of the steps involved in
bringing the prized black Iberian pork products to market.
From salting, washing, drying, curing and
aging, we view it all. Thankfully, at least to our knowledge, no pigs
were harmed during our "investigation."
Back outside dressed in our civvies, we
gather in the flower-draped patio of Hacienda Eíriz for a healthy
sampling of our host's award-winning Jamón de Oro (Golden
There are plates filled with a variety
of acorn-fed hams and sausages along with an assortment of regional
cheeses. And on ice, delicious Andalusian wines, jerez (sherries)
and Spanish beer.
"It's time to go," announces
Toni, aka El Guapo, Insight's tour director, but no one moves
a muscle. Like the babes of Corteconcepción, if you want this
"band of merry media" to board the motor coach you'd better
start throwing acorns.
For complete information on Insight's 112
premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you in about an hour when we pull into
Seville, the capital of Andalusia, savor some churros and hot chocolate
at an outdoor cafe, and then take a leisurely stroll along the cobble
of Barrio Santa Cruz.
Medieval Village of Monsaraz; Enchanting
Évora, Portugal's Laid-Back Museum City; Sampling
World-Class Wines at the Alentejo; Cascais
and Sintra: To the Edge of the Earth; Framing
Lisbon's Mosteiro dos Jerónimos; The
Age of Discovery Began in Belém