Since the medieval times many families in rural Portugal have been raising pigs, for domestic consumption, in an effort to be self-sufficient. The slaughtering of the pig, known here as ‘Matança do Porco’, has been practiced for several centuries and has become a tradition during the winter time.
More than just providing for food, it is also a social happening. As families, neighbors and friends get together in a spirit of mutual help and celebration. The economic and symbolic value of this animal cannot be compared to any other animal in the Portuguese culture. The pig and its meat belongs to the national identity of Portugal.
In Madeira this tradition is very much alive too, comes the month of December. The person responsible for the pig slaughter is called the Matador. This dish is our tribute to this guardian of a traditional way of life.
To represent the blade we make a parsnip schnitzel. The parsnip is peeled and cooked in the oven (180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes). Then we cut in a blade shape, breadcrumb it and cook it on the stove, in melted pork fat, until the schnitzel is crunchy.
On the handle of the blade we add a mix of 2 types of preserved lemons. The first is a lemon which has been preserved in salt and lemon juice. The way lemons are preserved in North Africa. This gives a salty acidic taste. The second is a lemon which we ferment in honey. This gives a sweet and acidic taste. Both preserved lemons take about a month to be ready.
The mixing of preserved lemons provides a very interesting blend of tastes: sweet, salty and acidic. This lemon brunoise is then fixed onto the handle with a basil aioli. This brings an added layer of flavor and a creamy texture, which works great with the crispy schnitzel.
The sauce is made to represent the blood of the pig. It is essentially a blackberry gastrique sauce. Sweet, acidic and fruity.
A gastrique is a type of french sauce made by mixing caramelized sugar with vinegar and fruit. In our case we use cane sugar from Madeira, combined with apple cider vinegar from santo da serra and our homemade red wine vinegar, made from local red wine.
The fruits we use for this sauce are blackberries coming from jardim da serra. Which we first ferment, during a week, through lacto fermentation. To change their taste and get something with less sweetness and added tartness. We then blend them and add them to the caramelized sugar and vinegar mix. Before letting the gastrique reduce to a syrupy consistency.
Pork tenderloin cooked sous-vide at 60 degrees celsius for 90 minutes. Then we sear it on the stove, at very high heat. This allows us to obtain a nice crust on the outside, while keeping the inside pink, juicy, and perfectly cooked.
When searing a meat cooked sous-vide we like to use a bit of mayonnaise, rather than oil. It has a higher smoke point than oil, and therefore it is able to tolerate exposition to higher temperatures. When searing we are looking to expose the meat to the highest temperature for the shortest amount of time. So that the outside gets a browning/crust (maillard reaction) without overcooking the inside.
Jerusalem Artichokes Puree
Jerusalem artichokes do not come from Jerusalem, and they are not even artichokes. They are a species of Sunflowers which originate from north america. The ones we use are produced in Madeira, in camara de lobos. We use the tubers, which vaguely resemble a ginger root in appearance, for our puree.
First they need to be thoroughly peeled. This is a painstalking and labor intensive process, but an essential step. Otherwise the puree will not turn out white but brownish. The taste would not be affected but it wouldn’t look as nice on the plate.
Once peeled the Jerusalem artichokes are cooked in salted milk for 20 minutes, before being blended into a puree with a little butter and cream. And finally passed through a fine mesh, making a beautiful white and smooth puree.