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Tradition of open-air pig slaughter abides on Spanish island

December 24, 2018
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In this photo taken on Nov. 24, 2018, Francisca holds a sobrasada, a raw cured sausage, made of pork bladder during the annual pig slaughter near Petra, some 60 kilometres from Palma, the capital of Mallorca, Spain. Beneath wintry gray skies on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, families, friends and neighbors gather for a centuries-old tradition that is not for the faint-hearted: the open-air slaughter of a pig, a custom which due to industrialization has been dying out. (AP Photo/Francisco Ubilla)

MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — Beneath wintry gray skies on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, families, friends and neighbors gather for a centuries-old tradition that is not for the faint-hearted: the open-air slaughter of a pig.

The onset of cold weather on this island, which is better known for its sunny summer beaches, signals the moment for a custom that, due to industrialization, has been dying out.

“The cold cures the sausages,” explains Guillermo Bezzina, owner of a large Mallorcan estate where the tradition of the annual “matanza” lives on.

For a long time it was a Spanish family’s way of stocking up on pork meat for the rest of the year, at a time when few had means of refrigeration.

A professional butcher uses a long knife to slaughter the Mallorcan black pig early in the morning.

Laid out on a wooden table in the farmyard, locals burn the hair off the animal and shave its skin. Almost all of the pig will be used or eaten, either as cuts of meat or sausages.

A team of men butchers the pig, scraping out its innards and grinding some of the meat for sausage. Women clean and boil the intestines, some of which will be used as sausage skins.

The sausages are hung on poles to cure inside farm buildings.

At the end of the day, it’s time for a fiesta with local wine.