The Balearic Islands off Spain are one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country. There are beautiful beaches, enchanting coves and exceptional sunsets. Lots to offer visitors.
But perhaps one of the most special things about the islands is their incredible culinary tradition, based on the innovation and legacy of the people who have settled there.
Euronews traveled to the islands of Majorca and Menorca to discover some of the best products from this Mediterranean archipelago where, over time, many different cultures have marked the local cuisine.
A gift from nature
Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc, a natural sea salt harvested by hand from the Es Trenc nature reserve in the south of Mallorca, is one of the most famous premium natural salts in Europe.
As the sun and wind evaporate seawater during the summer months, a thin layer of salt crystals forms on the surface of salt pools. This is then harvested by hand by skimming the crust using traditional rakes.
The crystals, which look like white flowers, hence the name Fleur de Sel, are transported to a drying area in natural jute baskets that filter excess water. It then takes long hours of sunshine, sea breezes and low humidity for the product to dry.
“Our salt is certified organic. And this artisanal method guarantees that it has zero emissions. We use clean, renewable, sustainable, local and unlimited solar energy, hence the quality of this product,” said Laura Calvo, director of the company Salinas d’Es Trenc.
Thus, nature has created and tradition has been able to refine this gourmet salt with a unique texture and taste, which will sublimate all dishes, including desserts. It also contains less sodium chloride and higher levels of magnesium than regular salt.
Modern version of a traditional sausage
Towards the north of Majorca, the Can Company produces another specialty of the islands, the sobrasada, or spreadable sausage. It is made from the meat of a rather special animal.
Mallorca’s black pigs originate from the Balearic Islands. They are believed to be a cross between Iberian and Celtic pigs, and have dark hair and large ears that fall over their eyes, protecting them from the sun.
They are raised freely on the farm and the family business grows its own grain to feed the animals.
“The added value with these animals is that we control production from start to finish. And with this type of breeding, we obtain an excellent product that is different from anything on the market,” said Javier Irazusta, director of Can Company.
The dried products are handcrafted at the factory using the meat of their animals and the best local ingredients, combining traditional methods, innovation and new technologies, to produce a superior quality product.
The natural drying process in a special room gives the sausage its unique aroma, flavor and texture. and taste, and its reddish color comes from the local spice, paprika. Sausage is a standard ingredient in countless popular recipes, but it can also be eaten on its own.
Today, producers are adding a modern twist to the traditional version.
“We produce sobrasada with curry, blue cheese and even Mahón cheese,” said Javier Irazusta.
A touch of salt
A farm on the island of Menorca produces an exceptional cheese that takes full advantage of its proximity to the sea.
At ‘Son Mercer de Baix’, the cows roam freely in the fields. When the sea winds blow over the pastures where they graze, it adds a salty touch to their milk. The Mahón cheese they produce is made using very old practices that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Cheese artisan Magdalena Begur says the use of fresh milk and artisanal methods, as well as local foods, are part of the secret that makes this cheese so special.
“We grew our own feed for the cows. We have always done it this way. And that’s how we get really good quality cheese,” she said.
In collaboration with other craftsmen, the traditional method produces no waste and is not as simple as it seems. In the drying and ripening cellars, the rind is rubbed with butter or olive oil mixed with paprika to give it a reddish color.
“Each cheese is different. Each piece goes through different hands, so each cheese is unique. It’s like eating a piece of Menorca,” said Begur.
Mahón cheese is sold at different ages ranging from two to ten months. Produced only on the island, it is protected by Spain’s Denominations of Origin Regulatory Council.