Although the cuisine of Cádiz is well known for fish, it’s quality beef, game and Iberian pork products create a fine balance between land and sea. The province of Cádiz produces high quality cattle, which roam pastures stretching from the Janda area to the Straits of Gibraltar, with the main concentration in the Grazalema area. There are many different types of beef on offer in the area and the following is a selection.
The marbled beef is from a breed of cattle native to the area, known as ‘Retinta’ and found principally in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Most herds are to be found in Cádiz, specifically in Janda. The cattle have traditionally roamed free in wide pastures, feeding on grass and acorns. Powerful animals, they were historically used as beasts of burden, pulling heavy loads through rough terrain. The animals are reddish in colour and can easily be seen in the pasture and their meat is pink, tender, tasty and juicy.
In order to protect the breed a national breeders association (la Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Ganado Vacuno Selecto Raza Retinta (A.C.R.E.)) was set up in 1970 and, in 1993 the name “Carne de Retinto” was authorised and approved by the Spanish Agriculture Ministry.
The beef classification depends on the age and sex of the animal at slaughter:
- White Veal: Male or female animal slaughtered at no more than 8 months. Mainly suckled by the mother.
- Veal: Male or female between 8 months and a day and 12 months. Mainly suckled by the mother, but with additional breeders association (A.C.R.E.) approved feed.
- Yearling: Male or female slaughtered between 12 months and a day and 24 months. Fed with ACRE approved feed.
- Steer: Male or female, slaughtered between 24 months and one day 48 months. Fed with ACRE approved feed.
- Fattened: Castrated male, slaughtered at maximum 48 months, fed with ACRE approved feed.
- Ox: Castrated males, slaughtered at minimum 48 months and a day, fed with ACRE approved feed.
- Cow: Female, slaughtered at minimum 48 months and a day. Fed with ACRE approved feed.
- Bull: Male, slaughtered at minimum 48 months and a day. Fed with ACRE authorised feed.
Iberian pork is one of the most popular meats in Andalucian and Cádiz gastronomy. The Iberian pig is unique and the whole animal is used. Iberian ham is internationally probably the best well known Spanish food product. The juicy, tender and tasty Iberian pork is also popular. Some of the best cuts have unique names that cannot be translated – ‘el secreto ibérico’, ‘la pluma’, ‘la presa’ or ‘el lagarto’. The fillet and loin are also highly recommended. Cheeks are used in tasty stews. Spanish sausage, such as chorizo, salchichon (similar to salami), black pudding are delicious, as are the various pork cuts in red or white pork ‘butter’. Another speciality of the region is the pork crackling unlike any other.
Iberian pigs are bred all over the province and roam over wide areas, feeding off the delicious acorns and grasses whilst growing naturally and without any manufactured feed.
The mountains or ‘Sierra’ of Cádiz are famous for excellent game such as wild boar and venison that is traditionally prepared in stews. Another star of the region is the tender baby lamb.
All these meats can be found in most of the restaurants in the Sierra. Traditionally known as ‘Ventas’, many are small and family-run, providing home cooked meals.