Let's face it--the pig that gets the most attention around these parts is the black-footed Iberian breed whose legs and other body parts get cured for months and then sliced thinly into jamón ibérico. However, recently I had the pleasure of visiting the caserío Eguzkitza, the home of Ezkurtxerri, a Basque pig farm and artisan producer of some incredible pork products.
Patxi Subijana, along with his young daughter Agurtzane, run this farm. Agurtzane returned home to work with her father after finishing her university career. Not exactly your typical twenty-something graduate's path, but aren't you a little jealous?
They work from six in the morning to midnight, on the schedule of the animals they tend. These pigs are of two races, some a cross and then some Euskaltxerri, the indigenous Basque breed that is shrouded in mystery. Patxi and Agurtzane watch over them starting at birth, which, during my visit had just happened ten hours earlier! You think you've seen cute? Not until you've seen this:
They care for this pigs from birth and not just to death but all the way to the end processed product. They create a line of pork products that ranges from chorizo, txistorra, salchicha and fresh tenderloin. Recipes are created and tested in house by the father-daughter pair.
Ezkurtxerri isn't your typical pork producer. "We don't go for quantity, we go for quality," says Patxi. And they aren't afraid of innovation, either...see the online store and the unique offerings, such as this cute little suckling pig, ready to be crisped up and served.
In the end, what makes Ezkurtxerri stand out is their hands-on commitment to both products and pigs. They feed their animals a mix of barley, corn and beans. They refuse to hike the price of their products up to the level that you might expect from an artisan company. Hearing Patxi talk about the struggles of their small farm, so many of them imposed by bureaucrats and jealous competitors, made my blood boil. These are good people, doing good work, and making excellent products.
And it's working, according to the Subijanas: "What we make is sold. What we need is pork."
The trip was part of a pilot for Getaria Gourmet, which will be organizing these gourmet excursions for anyone who is interested. More info coming soon...follow them on Twitter. Ezkurtxerri is also on Twitter.