Borough Market

Yesterday was my friends matanza*
We killed a guarro**
I reason that if I eat,  jamón, chorizo and salchichon I should be prepared to kill the pig

When we arrive at the farm I’m surprised how big and fractious the pigs are
The hog weighs one hundred and forty four kilograms but isn’t the biggest in the pen, by a long way
I’m not sure why we weighed him before the killing, presumeably for curiosity and future referance

Valen‘ is the best butcher in the village and the nicest man you could wish to know but when he’s cornering a guarro, with a knife in his hand, a steely coldness appears across his eyes

I was a little disappointed that we treated the hog badly before killing him
He’ll die quicker in the right position but to get him there we kick his legs, tie the mouth with cord and keep him on the ground with our knees

The throat is flaccid and flabby but Valen‘s knife finds the artery in a moment
Florencia‘s uncle crouches by the red plastic bowl as the blood leaves the hog and stirs it with his hands to prevent it coagulating
Steam rises off the bowl as the warm blood meets the cold December morning


I’ve never seen an animal die
The moment of death is as distinct as a snap of the fingers
He’s now no longer a hog but a carcass
We’ll cut it up later but first light blowtorches to burn off the coarse hair and outer layer of the hooves
Nicolas removes them by kicking them hard, with his boot, as the keratin is already hot to the touch

With a lingering smell of singed hair we lift the carcass into the Honda CR-V
It’s lined with cardboard to prevent any residual blood staining the carpet
We drive quickly to the house in Calle Nueva
The wood fire is blazing in the basement that opens onto a back terrace and Valen‘ is ready with his knives and chainmail glove to process the body

Valen’s knives work quickly and assuredly
Within minutes the carcass in open and split into two parts
In little more than an hour there’s a pile of fat, meat, bacon, ribs, ears, tail, feet, steaks, and cheeks, not forgetting the two jamón and paletas and a cualdron of fat bubbling away, on the terrace, to make the pringé with the minced liver

There are two pieces of the body that look like large walnuts lying on a side table
These are the cerebral lobes; quite small; I’m surprised
I’d always known the pig to be an intelligent animal

Ramón minces the meat finely for the salchicon, more crudely for the chorizo
Pimentón and garlic are added, where required, and he readies himself at the sausage-making machine with the pig gut
The long snakes of sausages come fast: chorizo, salchichon then morcilla: are tied and pricked, to remove excess air, and hung from the basement ceiling

Every extremeños family had a guarro in their back yard; sent out to the dehesa to feed on the fallen acorns of the encinas immediately before the matanza
The bellotas give the Iberica pig its distinctive flavour


These days there aren’t many guarros in the back yards of Feria
Carrefour will do all this for you and supply chorizo, salchichon, bacón, pancetta, morcilla, secretos, solomillos, carilladas, orejas, patas, rabo and more than a pair of jamónes and paletas
All year
Only for the effort of queuing at a checkout

But some rhetorical questions pass through my mind as another part of the hog’s carcass is thrown to the side: should we know what our food is, where it comes from and be more involved in the production

The charming, duty-bound lady at the pescadería in Carrefour always asks me whether I want the head, fins, scales and gut removed from my Dorada
She’s aware I always say no
Not just because I want to be a part of its processing
When I’ve pan fried it, after removing the guts, I take pleasure in looking at a recognisable fish on my plate

Borough Market is jammed between Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge and London Bridge Station; and beneath the mainline railway bridges
It’s a busy transport intersection; a collection of heavilly engineered girders, iron plates, rivets, engineering bricks and glazed sheds
A sense of Dickensian London pervades the market with the simple but majestic cathedral as the backdrop


You’ll pay, at least, twenty pounds a kilo, whether your buying bread, cheese, fish or meat
Expensive, but it’s hard to find better quality, good provenance and food processed with the minimum additives
If you can’t kill your own hog
It’s problematical in London
Borough Market is the best place to go

I’ve just paid twenty pounds for some monkfish tails and clams, fortunately some samphire went into the bag for nothing
Understandably, there’s no pig in a poke
Here, everything has it’s provenance: beef cattle, dairy cattle, fish and fowl

Subtleties of sourdough, affected by airborne bacteria; cheese by pasture; fish by water and meat by grazing
Like vine grapes they’re affected by the terroir

I stepped across to Monmouth Coffee to think about the Catalan Fish Stew that I was about to cook
Like the bread, cheese, fish and meat, the subtleties of taste, aroma and not least the provenance of the coffee is important
Sourced from around the world, produced by single farms, estates or co-operatives


The lofty warehouse has chalked-up prices and wiry ladders to precarious mezzanine galleries; crates of coffee crowd against each other
To one side of the counter is a table and chairs where you can taste the coffee, but finding a seat is difficult

So too in Brindisa at the corner of the market
It’s always necessary to book a table

Originally they were importers of the best Spanish food products, sold, from a basic market stall, under the glazed shed: Pimentón de la Vera, Jamón Serrano and Iberico, Bacalao, Salchichon, Chorizo and Morcilla, Manchego, Valdeon Blue, Mahon, Tetilla, Calasparra rice, Anchoas, Boquerones and of course Aceite de Olivo

In Spanish the word for a female breast is teta, the diminutive tetilla, and indeed the tetilla cheese is in the form of a small female breast, complete with nipple

I’ve always admired Spanish disambiguation

Sixteen years later it seemed natural to open a tapas bar with food no worse than the finest tapas bar in Spain

*   the annual killing, and social event, of one or more pigs to feed an extended family
**  a hog domesticated for slaughter; usually a castrated male
photography and text by Tim Harris
This entry was published on May 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm. It’s filed under Food, Shopping, Spain, UK and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Borough Market

  1. hi, beyondtheduero,
    I thought it was really interesting how you tied in a real ‘matanza’ with London Borough Market.
    A lovely website, and I can see I’m going to enjoy reading much more.
    Regards. Marie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much Marie, I’m really happy you enjoyed Beyond the Duero. If you ever get a chance check out a matanza, they’re part of the deep tradition of rural Spain and very interesting.
      At the moment I’m working on upgrading the site and it’s taking a while! Some of the posts on the current site aren’t ready yet but whatever they seem to have their own life and are publishing themselves! They may slow for a while before the new site emerges but I hope you’ll keep coming back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve managed to avoid ‘matanza’ so far, but I’m the first to enjoy ‘un plato delicioso de jam’on de pata negra.’
        You have a lovely site anyway. Very enjoyable.
        Regaards. Marie.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post. I eat meat, but I am not killing my own. Instead I often buy a whole chicken or rabbit because I think it shows more respect to the animal, and it lets me discover new parts which taste good as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks askans, very nicely put. We can only do our best and if so feel proud about it… bet your chicken and rabbit taste good, we have a lot of rabbits here but I’ve yet to taste one!


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