A few miles outside the village where I live is a small shrine in the countryside dedicated to San Antón Abad, St. Anthony Abbot, the patron saint of pigs and other farm animals. January 17 is San Anton´s festival day.
When the weather is fine (and often it is brilliant winter sunshine), the locals make a day’s outing to the shrine, to attend a late morning mass. In bygone times it was an occasion for the blessing of farm stock. Now, people bring their household pets to receive the priest’s benediction. Horses and ponies, giant mastiffs and wee chihuahuas, cats, rabbits, birds, turtles, a ferret. Nevertheless, it is really the day of the pig.
St. Anton is usually depicted with a pig at his heels and he is said to be the pig’s protector. However, the occasion falls in the coldest time of the year, traditional season for the matanza, or hog butchering. It is also one of the last festivals before the beginning of Lent, when “pigging out” will be forbidden.
The ladies of the San Antón society cook up huge vats of traditional potaje de callos de San Antón, a stew with chickpeas, sausages and all the parts of the pig—tripe, ears, ribs, trotters, tail and fatback. This is real stick-to-your-ribs fare. Requires some lively folk dancing to work off the caloric input!
The small image of San Antón inside the chapel now has a protective glass screen. That’s because of a long-standing local tradition, which says if an unmarried girl manages to hit the saint’s image with a pebble, she will find a novio, a suitor, before the year is out. Today, the women aim their missles at an image of San Antón outside the shrine.
Tripe Stew for St. Anton’s Day
Potaje de Callos de San Antón
This version of tripe stew is made with pork rather than veal tripe. I have omitted the ear, trotter and tail from this recipe. Should you be starting from scratch, scrub the tripe with salt and vinegar, blanch it in boiling water, then cook in fresh water for 1 hour. If using trotter, remove bones. Cut tripe, ear, tail, trotter into small pieces.
The recipe calls for roasted garlic. To roast a whole head of garlic: Spear the head of garlic on a fork or grasp it with tongs and hold over a gas flame (or put under the broiler), turning, until it is charred. Peel the garlic cloves, rinse in running water and add them to the stew.
Serves 6 to 8.
1 pound chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 pound cooked pig’s tripe, cut in 1-inch squares (4 cups)
1 pound fresh pancetta or lean pork belly, cut into dice
1 head garlic, roasted
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
1 small chili pepper
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tomato, quartered
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ tablespoon pimentón (paprika)
a few threads of saffron, crushed
½ tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ pound chorizo sausage
½ pound morcilla (blood sausage)
Drain the soaked chickpeas and put in a deep pot with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off froth. Add the pieces of cooked tripe, pancetta, roasted garlic, bay leaves, parsley, chili, onion and tomato. Bring again to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Combine the pepper, cloves, pimentón, saffron, salt, cumin and crushed garlic. Dissolve in some of the liquid from the pot. Stir the spices into the pot. Cook slowly 1 hour more. If necessary, add additional boiling water.
Remove and discard the chili. Add the chorizo and morcilla. Cook 30 minutes longer. Use scissors to cut the sausages into small pieces. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. (Stew can be prepared in advance and reheated.)