Postcard from... Montferrat


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The Independent Online

The black puddings were coiled on a table, and served with chips. The spicy mulled wine had a hint of orange. But when Jean-Michel invited about 20 friends to his fête du cochon, to celebrate the slaughter of a pig, they were actually attending a semi-clandestine party.

The butcher was dressed in camouflage. On Friday night, he had slaughtered the pig which had been left to hang in the garage. By Saturday lunchtime, 144 saucissons were drying in the garage.

In the hills of Montferrat, 22 miles from Grenoble at the foot of the Alps, farmers traditionally used to slaughter one of their pigs in winter, when the cold helps to preserve the meat. But with a decline in local farming, Jean-Michel had bought his pig at a market. The blood – which must be cooked as soon as possible – was poured into gut casing and the blood puddings boiled in a vat.

But EU food hygiene laws are threatening the tradition. Pigs are supposed to be slaughtered in an abbatoir in most cases and their meat prepared in approved conditions. “Who knows how long the tradition will carry on?” said one guest. “The EU is killing it.”

So far the people of the Isère region are not deterred. Jean-Michel pointed to a man sipping mulled wine. “You see him? He’s having a fête du cochon next weekend,” he said.