The Road to Lisbon

Today we set off for a drive from Seville to Lisbon, Portugal. En route we saw a lot of beautiful scenery and a number of old castles on hilltops.  We passed through mountainous areas filled with  oak trees. These are used for cork and the acorns from them are used to feed black pigs found in this area. The ham from these Iberian black pigs, called Jamon Iberica is said to be the finest in the world, and certainly very expensive, going from 60 to 160 Euros per kilo.   We visited a factory to find out just why the ham is so delicious and so expensive.  We found out that production of the ham takes about four years. The production is started after slaughtering by burying the hind quarters in salt for up to four months depending upon weight. The photo with the shovel shows a pile of salt containing the ham quarters.  The ham is then hung in a room with the temperature and humidity being regularly adjusted and with the windows open so that a local fungus will grow on the hams (see close up). When the mould  has turned brown after some considerable time, each ham is individually cleaned with sunflower oil and rehung. This process can go on for up to four years, depending on the weight of the ham.  When they are ready for sale, a buyer will come to the factory and personally test each ham on offer before accepting delivery. While we were there such a buyer was testing several hundred hams. This process would take him all day. He inserts a needle made from a femur, presumably of a pig and then takes it out and smells it. He will insert it in each of the three muscles of each ham. Hams that turn out to be not suitable for sale will be destroyed.  We were treated to a small sandwich with a piece of the cheapest ham. It was very tasty but I’m not sure I would pay 60 euro per kilo for it.  We then departed for Lisbon and before going to our hotel, we stopped to see the Christ Statue overlooking the Tagus River. It is a copy of the one in Rio de Janeiro. We first saw the Tagus River in Toledo near its source.

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