From the basic product in any kitchen to the most select ‘delicatessen’. All this can be found without leaving the province of Teruel; vegetables, animals and mushrooms that dress the best tables and that, in many cases, seals such as the Denomination of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication certify their quality and origin.
Thus, from oil to foie gras, including truffles, peaches or saffron, these are some of the most outstanding foods of a province that finds in the agri-food sector one of its fundamental aspects, as highlighted in an interview with this newspaper by the president of the Provincial Council of Teruel, Manuel Rando.
Teruel ham is the first meat product of its kind to be recognized with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal in Spain, almost 40 years ago. The province’s climate, cold and dry, favors the curing of the ham and shoulder, which since 2014 has also had this quality label.
It is a white pig ham that, specifically, must come from the Large White, Landrace breeds or the crossbreed of both, through the mother’s line and Duroc, through the father’s line. The weight of the piece must reach or exceed 7 kilos and it must be cured at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level.
Among the qualities of Teruel ham are its reddish color and the partially infiltrated fat in the muscle tissue. It also has a delicate, slightly salty flavor. To distinguish its origin, the eight-pointed Mudejar star marked on the rind is the official indication.
But beyond Teruel ham and shoulder, pork products in the province have gained even more presence with the recent approval of the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Cerdo de Teruel, the text of which was published in the Official Gazette of Aragón on May 12, making the seal official.
Olive oil from Lower Aragon
This PDO, which is shared with the province of Saragossa, which covers almost a third of the territory, refers to an oil whose olive trees currently occupy almost 40,000 hectares, with a production that has always been linked to the area.
It is obtained by mechanical processes and the result is a clean, yellow oil, with shades ranging from golden to old gold and a smooth, pleasant taste. In this oil, the empeltre variety is key, as it must account for at least 80% of its proportion, while royal and arbequina can never exceed 20%.
The only peach in Spain to obtain the Denomination of Origin, in 1999, is a fruit whose production in the area dates back to the Middle Ages. The municipality that gives its name to the seal is located in the area where the production of this late yellow peach takes place, which covers 4,654 square kilometers and 45 localities and which, as is the case with the oil from Lower Aragon, also includes enclaves in the province of Zaragoza.
The flavor, especially its sweetness, are its hallmarks, so that to be considered a ‘black label’ it must obtain a minimum score of 12 degrees on the Brix scale.
Recently, the Calanda peach has been in the news when presenting its new version in the form of ‘gourmet’ ice cream, a format with which it wants to reach the tables of large restaurants and also break with the seasonality of the product, limited to the period between mid-August to the end of October.
The ‘tuber melanosporum’ or black truffle finds in Teruel the area that most produces and exports this fungus in the world. In fact, last year it accounted for half of the national exports, far from other territories such as Lérida, which sent abroad a quarter of the national black truffle.
And, although there is not yet a figure that recognizes its quality, the procedures have already been opened for the black truffle of Teruel to obtain the Protected Geographical Indication seal.
At the moment, more than 10,000 hectares are dedicated to this fungus in Aragón, most of them in the province of Teruel, where it finds stony and limestone soils and holm oak groves, propitious elements for its growth, as well as the climate of the area.
The flower of the ‘crocus sativus’ is the origin of this precious spice which, in the Jiloca region, is a territory traditionally rooted in its collection, famous since the Middle Ages.
However, the passage of time has not favored this product, which has seen its production significantly diminished in a century; if in 1914 Aragon collected 200 tons of this ‘red gold’, in 2014 it was 12 kilos, an amount similar to the current one, as Aragón Noticias recently advanced.
However, from groups such as the Association of Saffron Producers of Jiloca (Azaji) or institutions such as the Center for Agri-Food Research and Technology of Aragon (CITA), efforts have been made to recover the production of this outstanding gastronomic product.
Foie gras and pâté
No less than one third of Spanish foie gras production is located in Teruel, specifically in the municipality of Santa Eulalia del Campo, where the only duck farms in the province are located, Almizate and Tierra Mudéjar, and which work with the Mular breed, the best for producing foie gras.
The positioning of this Aragonese town as a producer of the ‘delicatessen’ and its derivatives has led the Provincial Council of Teruel itself to decide to promote this food as one of the stars of the food scene of the territory.
In fact, a significant fact about foie gras is that Spain is the second most consuming country in the world and the fourth in its production, which means that there is still room for growth for companies in this market.
All this… and more
In addition to these six products, Teruel also offers other high quality and renowned products such as, for example, tronchón cheese, and the Turolense Association of Milk and Cheese Producers has made efforts to obtain the IGP Queso de Teruel (PGI Teruel Cheese).
Honey, breads such as cañada and pintera bread, wines and preserves made in the province, as well as ternasco de Aragón, which covers the territory of Teruel, are some more examples of the gastronomic richness of a province with very good taste.