By Patrick Stuart [email protected]
Iberian black pig, or porco preto as it is known here, is to the pig what Wagyu beef is to the cow.
Quite simply, it is some of the best pork you can get and much like the very best Wagyu beef that comes from Kobe in Japan. Real Iberian black pig is a certified regional product, reared naturally on farmland here in southern Portugal and across the border in Spain.
Its legs, from the finest acorn-fed variety, produce the world’s best cured ham pata negra, which takes its name from the breed’s black hoof but the uncured meat is also of outstanding quality.
Much like Wagyu beef, the meat is high in fat that it naturally retains under the skin, and more importantly is marbled throughout the meat.
It does look rather unappetising at the butcher’s counter, as some cuts, like the ribs and secretos, (taken from the tops of the legs) appear to be higher in fat than meat. But others like the loin chops shown here are nicely speckled with marbled fat that melts during cooking, leaving the meat moist, sweet and supremely tender.
The best cut of all is the small tender loin fillet but this is expensive at around €25 or more per kilo, whereas the loin chops are usually priced between €14 and €16.
Due to the high fat content, this meat is really not well suited to direct barbecue cooking over coals, as the fat will catch fire. It is best roasted in a indirect barbecue like a Weber or in a hot oven. Or, chops that can be cut thick and grilled under a hot oven grill. But my preferred method is to roast a rack of the loin chops whole.
For a 1 kilo piece as shown here, remove from the fridge an hour or so before cooking then place into a pre-heated oven at around 225ºC for 50 minutes.
Apolónia’s butcher counters in Almancil and Galé always carry a good selection of premium quality porco preto as does Baptista supermarket in Praia da Luz. Most major supermarkets tend only to carry the cheaper cuts like the aforementioned ribs and secretos.