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Quince on Manchego... Get Nuts!

Quince on Manchego... Get Nuts!

Quince makes a magnificent flavor combination with Manchego cheese. In this case, we're using Manchego 6 Months cured cheese. This recipe is a perfect alternative for a snack or breakfast.

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION
1. Cut four rectangles of quince paste about 5 cm by 2 cm (and about half a cm thick).
2. Place two pieces of cheese on each bread toast and top with the quince paste.
3. The final touch will be the walnuts, as shown in the image. 

Enjoy!

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How long does vacuum packed Iberico ham last?

How long does vacuum packed Iberico ham last?

Ibérico ham, the crown jewel of Spanish gastronomy, captivates the senses with its unparalleled flavor and sumptuous texture. From its rich marbling to its complex aroma, each slice tells a story of centuries-old traditions and meticulous craftsmanship. But once the seal is broken, how long does Ibérico ham last, preserving its exquisite taste and quality? Join us on a culinary odyssey as we unravel the mysteries of preserving opened Ibérico ham, exploring techniques and best practices to savor its essence to the fullest.

The Essence of Ibérico Ham

Before we delve into preservation methods, let's first celebrate the essence of Ibérico ham. Crafted from the hind legs of Iberian pigs, renowned for their acorn-fed diet and superior genetics, Ibérico ham embodies the pinnacle of Spanish culinary heritage. Its marbled fat renders a luscious mouthfeel, while its nuanced flavor profile reflects the terroir of Spain's oak forests. Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with artisanal cheeses and fine wines, Ibérico ham is a testament to the artistry and tradition of Spanish charcuterie.

Preservation Techniques

Once the packaging is opened, preserving Ibérico ham requires attention to detail and proper storage conditions. Here are key techniques to prolong its freshness and flavor:

1. Wrapping and Refrigeration

After opening, wrap the exposed portion of the ham tightly in parchment paper or butcher's paper to prevent moisture loss and exposure to air. Store the wrapped ham in the refrigerator, ideally in the crisper drawer or on a dedicated shelf where temperatures remain consistent.

2. Airflow and Humidity Control

Maintain optimal airflow and humidity levels in the refrigerator to prevent the ham from drying out or becoming overly moist. Avoid storing Ibérico ham near foods with strong odors, as it can absorb unwanted flavors.

3. Duration of Freshness

While Ibérico ham can retain its quality for several weeks once opened, it is best enjoyed within a shorter timeframe to preserve its freshness and aroma. Aim to consume the ham within 2-3 weeks of opening for optimal flavor and texture.

Quality Assurance

Periodically inspect the opened Ibérico ham for any signs of spoilage, such as discoloration, off-putting odors, or excessive moisture. If any abnormalities are detected, discard the affected portions to prevent cross-contamination and ensure food safety.

Culinary Exploration

From gourmet sandwiches to savory tapas, the versatility of Ibérico ham knows no bounds. Incorporate this culinary treasure into your favorite recipes, experimenting with flavor pairings and culinary techniques. Whether thinly sliced atop crusty bread or rendered into indulgent pasta dishes, Ibérico ham elevates every culinary creation with its distinctive character and depth of flavor.

Conclusion: A Culinary Legacy

In conclusion, preserving opened Ibérico ham is both a science and an art, requiring diligence and reverence for its culinary legacy. By following proper preservation techniques and embracing its rich flavors, you can embark on a culinary journey through the heart of Spain, savoring the essence of Ibérico ham with every exquisite bite. So indulge your senses, explore new gastronomic horizons, and celebrate the timeless allure of Ibérico ham—a culinary treasure cherished by connoisseurs around the world.

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What is the difference between Serrano ham and Iberian ham?

What is the difference between Serrano ham and Iberian ham?

When it comes to Spanish cured meats, two varieties stand out: Serrano ham and Iberian ham. While both are revered for their rich flavors and artisanal craftsmanship, they each possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. Let's delve into the nuances of Serrano ham and Iberian ham to appreciate their unique qualities.

Serrano Ham

Serrano ham, a staple of Spanish cuisine, is crafted from the hind leg of white pigs bred primarily in Spain. The term "Serrano" refers to the mountainous regions where this ham was traditionally cured and aged. Serrano ham undergoes a meticulous curing process that involves salting, resting, and aging for a minimum of 12 months. This extended aging period imbues the ham with a distinctive flavor profile characterized by savory notes and a slightly salty finish. Serrano ham is celebrated for its versatility, often enjoyed as thin slices in sandwiches, salads, and tapas dishes.

Iberian Ham

Iberian ham, also known as "Jamón Ibérico," is hailed as the pinnacle of Spanish gastronomy. Crafted from the hind leg of Iberian pigs, a breed native to the Iberian Peninsula, this ham embodies centuries of tradition and expertise. What sets Iberian ham apart is the unique genetic heritage of the pigs, coupled with their acorn-fed diet during the montanera season. This diet contributes to the marbling of fat within the meat, resulting in a succulent texture and unparalleled depth of flavor. Iberian ham is categorized based on the pigs' breed and diet, with the highest grade being "Jamón Ibérico de Bellota," sourced from pigs fattened on acorns in oak forests. This premium variety boasts a melt-in-your-mouth texture and complex flavor profile, making it a prized delicacy among connoisseurs.

Conclusion

In summary, while Serrano ham and Iberian ham share similarities in their curing process and cultural significance, they offer distinct sensory experiences that reflect the diversity of Spanish culinary heritage. Whether you're indulging in the robust flavors of Serrano ham or savoring the luxurious taste of Iberian ham, each bite is a testament to the artisanal craftsmanship and time-honored traditions that define Spanish cured meats.

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How long does vacuum packed Iberico ham last?

How long does vacuum packed Iberico ham last?

Delving into the realm of Spanish gastronomy, one cannot overlook the exquisite delicacy of Ibérico ham. Renowned for its unparalleled flavor and succulent texture, Ibérico ham holds a special place in culinary traditions. But how long does vacuum-packed Ibérico ham last, preserving its authentic taste and quality? Let's unravel the mysteries of preservation and savor the essence of this gastronomic treasure.


Preserving the Essence

Before we embark on our exploration, it's essential to understand the intricacies of preserving Ibérico Ham . From packaging techniques to storage conditions, every aspect contributes to maintaining its distinctive flavor profile and tender texture.


Understanding Vacuum Packing

Vacuum packing is a time-honored method employed to preserve the freshness and flavor of Ibérico Ham . By removing air from the packaging, vacuum sealing creates an airtight environment, safeguarding the ham against external contaminants and oxidation.


How Long Does It Last?

The longevity of vacuum-packed Ibérico Ham  hinges on various factors, including packaging integrity, storage temperature, and handling practices. When stored under optimal conditions—typically in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight—vacuum-packed Ibérico ham can retain its quality for an extended period.


Factors to Consider

While vacuum packing enhances the shelf life of Ibérico Ham , it's essential to remain mindful of certain considerations:

  • Packaging Integrity: Ensure that the vacuum-sealed packaging remains intact, free from punctures or tears that may compromise the ham's freshness.
  • Storage Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature range between 0°C to 7°C (32°F to 45°F) to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.
  • Handling Practices: Handle vacuum-packed Ibérico ham with care, minimizing exposure to air and moisture that could accelerate deterioration.

Quality Assurance

To ensure optimal quality and flavor, conduct periodic inspections of vacuum-packed Ibérico ham. Check for any signs of discoloration, off-odors, or unusual texture, which may indicate spoilage or loss of freshness.


Savoring the Experience

When it comes to enjoying vacuum-packed Ibérico ham, remember that quality is paramount. Whether served as thin slices on a charcuterie board or incorporated into savory recipes, savor the essence of this culinary treasure with each indulgent bite.


Conclusion

In the realm of Spanish gastronomy, the preservation of vacuum-packed Ibérico ham is both a science and an art. By understanding the principles of preservation and adhering to best practices, one can prolong the lifespan of this gastronomic delight while preserving its authentic taste and quality.

So, the next time you embark on a culinary journey with vacuum-packed Ibérico ham, savor the richness of its flavor and the legacy of Spanish culinary heritage. With proper care and appreciation, this timeless delicacy will continue to captivate the senses and delight the palate for generations to come.

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Can you get Iberian ham in Canada?

Can you get Iberian ham in Canada?

You may be familiar with Prosciutto, the renowned Italian cured meat, but have you experienced its Spanish counterpart, Jamón Serrano? Similar in appearance yet distinctly different in taste, Jamón Serrano beckons exploration. How is it served? Can it be savored raw? What sets it apart from Prosciutto? Join us as we unravel the mysteries of this exquisite delicacy, inviting you to savor its rich flavors and incorporate it into your culinary repertoire.


Unveiling the Essence

Before we embark on our journey, let’s unravel the essence of Jamón Serrano—its origin, preparation, and unique characteristics that distinguish it from other cured meats.


Understanding Jamón Serrano

Jamón Serrano is a Spanish-style ham crafted from the hind leg of the pig. Its distinct flavor profile is meticulously crafted through a traditional aging process and the infusion of sea salt.

Aging is the key to unlocking Jamón Serrano’s rich, savory notes. Over 11 months, the hams are carefully stored in controlled environments, where temperature and humidity play pivotal roles in flavor development. Following this aging period, the hams undergo an additional 4 weeks of resting at elevated temperatures, further enhancing their depth of flavor and complexity.


Crafting the Perfect Jamón Serrano

The journey begins with the selection of premium pork sourced from trusted family farmers. Each hog leg undergoes meticulous trimming and salting, with a delicate balance of wet salt ensuring optimal preservation. Hung to air dry for over 11 months, the meat gradually intensifies in flavor, culminating in the distinctive taste of Jamón Serrano. During the final stage, an elevated temperature environment induces the desired aroma and texture, transforming the ham into a culinary masterpiece. Hand-inspected by our Master Salumiere, each slice embodies centuries of Spanish tradition and expertise.


Tracing its Roots

Just as Prosciutto epitomizes Italian cuisine, Jamón Serrano is deeply rooted in Spanish culinary heritage. With origins dating back to the Roman Empire, it has evolved into an integral component of Spanish gastronomy, reflecting the country’s diverse culinary landscape.


Indulging in Jamón Serrano

Can Jamón Serrano be savored raw? Absolutely. Its meticulous preparation, coupled with the antimicrobial properties of sea salt, ensures a safe and delightful culinary experience.


Preservation and Enjoyment

While a whole bone-in leg of Jamón Serrano boasts indefinite longevity, packaged slices are best enjoyed within four months of purchase to preserve their freshness and flavor. Once opened, consume within a week to savor its optimal taste and texture.


Contrasting Jamón Serrano and Prosciutto

Though both aged for twelve months and crafted from premium pork and sea salt, Jamón Serrano distinguishes itself through its unique aging process. The infusion of woody, nutty flavors and firm texture sets it apart from the earthy, slightly salty taste of Prosciutto.


Pairings and Presentation

Wine Pairings

Jamón Serrano’s robust flavors harmonize beautifully with bold red Rioja or Spanish sparkling wine, such as Cava. Explore diverse wine and Jamón Serrano pairings to elevate your culinary experience.


Serving Suggestions

The versatility of Jamón Serrano knows no bounds. Whether enjoyed as thin slices with crusty bread, integrated into charcuterie boards, or infused into Spanish-style sandwiches, its savory allure captivates the palate. Get creative with presentation, pairing it with Marcona almonds, Manzanilla olives, and Manchego cheese for an authentic Spanish experience.


Elevating Culinary Creations

From sandwiches to salads, pastas to soups, Jamón Serrano lends a distinctive depth of flavor to culinary creations. Its rich, savory essence elevates everyday dishes into extraordinary gastronomic delights.


Embrace the Culinary Journey

Embark on a culinary odyssey with Jamón Serrano—a timeless symbol of Spanish tradition and culinary excellence. Whether savoring its delicate slices or infusing its rich flavors into your favorite recipes, let Jamón Serrano transport you to the vibrant streets of Spain, where culinary delights await at every turn.


Dive into the world of Jamón Serrano today and discover a tapestry of flavors that will tantalize your senses and leave an indelible mark on your culinary adventures.

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Spanish Christmas

 

Vigo - Vigo offers visitors multicolor lighting with 11 million LEDs in 400 streets that is quite a spectacle

It is an already emblematic figure of Christmas in Madrid after attracting attention for its dimensions for several years. This is the giant Christmas ball that is located on Calle Gran Vía and Calle Alcalá during the Holiday season. 

A 65-meter tree with half a million lights, balls measuring more than 12 meters, kilometers of LED garlands or gift boxes as houses will shine this Christmas in Spanish cities, large and small, seeking the success of visitors to whoever marked the imprint for these dates: Vigo. 

La Rambla Barcelona - Since November, tourist and  locals can enjoy Christmas on La Rambla, the liveliest and busiest promenade in Barcelona.

“The Christmas Forest” is the title of the setting and the light and sound show on Larios Street. The best-known street in the city is these days a forest with 22 arches 12.8 m high and 730,000 light points. There are music and sound shows daily, at 6:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.

Torrejón de Ardoz - 20 km from Madrid is the largest Theme Park and Christmas Walk in Spain. In 2018, it was chosen as the first European Christmas Capital, along with Liege, and a festival of regional tourist interest. This year new things arrive like Christmas Adventure, for the whole family.

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Fideuà

Fideuà

Fideuà (fideuada) is a seafood dish originally from the coast of Valencia that is similar to paella, and even more so to arròs a banda, but with noodles instead of rice. Its main ingredients are pasta noodles (often hollow), fish, cuttlefishsquid, mussels, shrimp, crayfish, etc.  It is seasoned mainly with lemon.

Just like paella, it is cooked in a special wide and flat frying pan, also called paellera, although there are other traditional variants made in a casserole. The pasta is sautéed in stock, rather than boiled.

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SPANISH HAM , LOMO & CHORIZO

SPANISH HAM , LOMO & CHORIZO

SPANISH HAM , LOMO & CHORIZO

JAMON IBERICO

In the world of Spanish ham, there are two premium classifications: Iberico pigs and acorn-fed pigs. Unlike white pig breeds like Serrano, black-skinned Iberico pigs are descendants of the Mediterranean wild boar, and are colloquially called pata negra("black foot") for the hoof that accompanies each ham. They're athletic animals, runners and rooters, and thanks to the structure of their intramuscular fat, their meat is more flavorful, juicy, and distinctive.

 

​​Iberico pigs are expensive. They have smaller litters, yield less meat per head, and take time to mature, which is why many ham producers around Spain cross-bred them with other varieties. Up until recently, ham made from pigs that were as little as half-Iberico could be sold as jamon Iberico, but new legislation now requires Iberico ham to be labeled according to the percentage of the pigs' Iberian ancestry.

Then there's the acorns, the bellota, which fall from oak and cork trees from early October to early March on the farms where the pigs are raised. They're high in fat, a large percentage of which is unsaturated oleic fatty acid, and eating them is what makes the pigs' fat so soft and creamy, on the verge of melting at room temperature. Acorns also contribute to the ham's nutty flavor and aroma, as essential to the product as the meat itself. Of all commercially raised Iberico pigs, only 5% are both pure breed and acorn-fed.

Spanish ham culture has a vocabulary all its own. There are porqueros, not shepherds; pigs are "sacrificed," not slaughtered; and the farms where they're raised are called "dehesas".

The dehesas are a national treasure: each one to two thousand acres of forest partially converted to pasture, often hundreds of years old, with rolling grassy hills amidst crops of acorn-producing oak and cork trees. Just as acorns are an essential ingredient to the ham, so too are the dehesas. These pigs need to roam free, over the hills and through the woods, so their muscles develop and the ham produced is the most premium quality.

Over 18 to 24 months, the pigs will root around the dehesa, grazing on grass, mushrooms, bugs, herbs, whatever they can find. Come October all through March, the montanara, or acorn-dropping season begins, and the pigs march into action. Fatty acorns are the pigs' favorite food, and with a mandated five acres of dehesa per pig, there's plenty of room to look for them. By the pigs' second montanara, they'll have feasted enough to reach their kill weight, about 360 pounds.

The Curing Process

The curing facility is often over 100 years old: part modern office space, part ancient farm house. In one courtyard you can still see hundreds of hooks on the ceiling from when ham was cured out in the open. These days they rest in a sprawling brick-walled cellar.

 

 The ham-bound legs are then skinned, salted, rinsed, dried, and sent to the curing cellar, where they'll remain for about a year and a half.

Thick brick walls, a breezy, hilly climate, and a stable population of ham-friendly microorganisms are most of what the meat needs to finish its journey into ham. Skilled specialists monitor the cellars at all times, noting fluctuations in temperature and humidity, but their adjustments are amusingly low-tech. 

 

Need to change the temperature? Open or close a window. Air too dry? Spill some water on the floor. It's more complicated than that, of course—hams too close to a window may get moved if they dry out too quickly, and the legs are regularly rubbed down with oil to prevent insects from taking up residence—but the most vital and final measurement Carvajal takes is very much a human one.

Before any ham leaves the cellar, it gets a sniff test. A trained nose can purportedly detect 100 aromas from a premium ham, some sweet, some meaty, some nutty. Different regions of Spain have their own hammy terroir, and even different cuts of the same leg bear unique aromas.​​​​

A True Spanish Ham

The ultimate result is long, thin leg of ham with marbeld veins of fat that are a deep golden hue against a dark red meat.

 

We had an incredible experience in the city of Caceres. There Pedro Lancho, the owner of Encinar de Cabazón, served us a feast fit for a king. The highlight was when the professional waiter at his favorite restaurant brought out plates of his Gran Reserva Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.

It was served in paper thin slices on a plate that was warmed to about 80 degrees. At that temperature the fat literally melted onto the plate. On first bite, the flavor of the ham was incredible. Sweet, nutty, and not too salty. Then the complexity of ham flavors increased. An essential part of the flavor and mouth-feel was the way the fat melted away, releasing flavors that told the story of the noble Ibérico swine, of the dehesa forest pasture, of the years of careful curing, and of the countryside of Spain itself.

LOMO IBERICO BELLOTA (ACORN IBERICAN LOIN)

Cured Spanish Lomo is not as well known as other cured Spanish meats such as the Serrano ham or the ever popular chorizo.  We think that's a real shame as good cured lomo is a real gastronomic treat.

 

Lomo is basically the loin of the pig and in Spain is either cured to make regional specialities or sold fresh the same as you can buy from your local butchers in the North America or anywhere else.

When it comes to curing lomo the Spanish have this perfected as you would expect and there are several variations of lomo depending on where the cut has come from. Many local artisans season their tenderloins before the curing process begins which results in an infusion of flavours. One popular way of presenting lomo is to tie it to a wooden board with string, this is known as “table de lomo” and these loins can range from small cross sections to full lengths up to three feet long.

 

The table de lomo is certainly an impressive piece of cured meat which is always seasoned with rosemary and other herbs. Once cured the lomo turns a deep burnt orange colour, dressed with herbs it defiantly makes a great centerpiece for any Spanish table.

Iberian lomo which comes from the acorn fed Iberico hogs is something different altogether… This lomo is mottled with creamy white/yellowish fat but it is the texture of this speciality as well as the flavour that will impress. Iberian lomo has nutty tones and is literally melt in the mouth not unlike its cousin the Iberian ‘jamon’.

 

Iberian lomo can be expensive but will deliver a gastronomic experience unlike any other, weight for weight, this lomo is even more costly than Iberico ham which should suggest that it is very much one of the finest cured meats in the world.

There is one more specialty that is very popular in the Granada region of Andalucia. “Lomo de Orza” is in fact not cured but a local recipe that involves frying fresh lomo pieces and then preserving in extra virgin olive oil. The recipe is quite easy to make yourself at home but for a real taste of Spain nothing beats a jar of lomo de orza from the local artisan butcher. Each butcher will have his own recipe and will swear that his is best, one thing is for sure though and that is you can be confident that this recipe will have been down through the generations. ​

 

The pork is lightly fried with a subtle blend of herbs and spices giving this meat a unique and delicious flavour. Sometimes wine will be added along with other more secretive ingredients. One preserved the lomo takes on the extra virgin olive which is crucial for the flavour, once served the meat will literally fall apart giving it a supreme melt in the mouth texture.​

CHORIZO IBERICO BELLOTA 

Chorizo is in many ways the most versatile of our Spanish cured meats. It can be fried, sautéed, grilled or roasted, added to soups and stews, used to flavor beans and vegetable dishes, or eaten thinly sliced on a crusty baguette.

 

It is a tapa in a bar, the protagonist at a picnic or an indispensable ingredient in many traditional or innovative recipes.​

If you’ve ever spent time traveling through Spain, you’ll find that while the cuisine changes noticeably from region to region, certain gastronomic elements pervade the Spanish cultural and culinary psyche with no regard for regional borders. One of the most important of these is chorizo, the traditional pork sausage par excellence, many versions of which have been made in Spain for centuries.

Despite its universality, it is common for each region and sometimes each town to have its own special way of preparing chorizo, meaning that there are hundreds of possible variations. Even so, the basic recipe remains the same.

The most recognizable trait of chorizo is its striking color, which can range from burnt orange to vibrant red, thanks to the addition of Spanish pimentón, or paprika, which was first made by monks at the Monastery of Guadalupe using peppers brought back from the New World by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. One of the finest types of pimentón used in chorizo comes from PDO Pimentón de la Vera in Extremadura. It can be sweet, spicy or smoked, each imparting a distinctive aroma to these hearty sausages.

The other ingredients include lean pork and pork lard (in varying proportions), salt, and other spices such as garlic and oregano, and occasionally white wine, sugar or sherry (in Andalusia and Extremadura). The latter aid in the fermentation process which gives chorizo its typical, slightly tangy and acidic taste.

​ To make chorizo, the pork and lard mixture is marinated for one to two days in the seasonings, and then is stuffed into either pig intestine casings or synthetic ones made from collagen or plant cellulose. They are then hung to dry and cure, or in some wetter parts of Spain, lightly smoked before hanging.

 

Another, less common variation is fresh chorizo that must be cooked before eating. The final product is usually given one of the following shapes: vela (long, thin and straight), ristra (small and tied together) or sarta (U-shaped). Chorizo from different regions will vary in diameter and other physical aspects such as having a smooth or bumpy exterior.

At SolFarmers we know Spanish cured meats.  We know them because we grew up with them.  We were raised in a food culture so rich and varied, so grounded in quality that we are passionate to share it with the rest of the world.  This way you can enjoy a bite of Spain, without ever leaving home.

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Found:  Superb Spanish Sardines  Ottawa Citizen

Found: Superb Spanish Sardines Ottawa Citizen

What: Small, top-quality canned sardines from Spain’s Galicia region.

Why: When Spaniards Alvaro Gonzalez and David Gonzalez (who are not related) wanted to start a business in their new home of Ottawa, they decided to bring the best that Spain has to offer to Canada.

“We analyzed the market and found that the quality of the olive oil was improvable and the quality of the canned seafood was very improvable,” says Alvaro Gonzalez.

Under the name Solfarmers, the pair now import four types of premium olive oil and 11 kinds of canned seafood to food shops and chefs from Vancouver to Quebec City.

“The quality, flavour and appearance are amazing and all the work is done by hand, which is really cool,” says Jon Svazas, chef and owner of Hintonburg’s new Bar Laurel where Conservas de Cambados razor clams, baby squid in ink, and small sardines in olive oil are on the menu.

The most popular of all Solfarmers’ products are those small sardines, says Alvaro. “People go crazy for them.”

Where to buy them: Epicuria, Jacobsons, Lapointe in the ByWard Market, Market Organics, Herb & Spice on Bank Street, Glebe Meat Market, Merivale Fish, The Soca Kitchen, Grace in the Kitchen, Pastina in Gatineau, Les Fougères and Solfarmers’ website.

How much: $9 for a 115-gram tin.

More:solfarmers.ca

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HOLA!  SolFarmers Brings Premium Spanish Products to Ottawa  Ottawa Magazine (October 20, 2016)

HOLA! SolFarmers Brings Premium Spanish Products to Ottawa Ottawa Magazine (October 20, 2016)

Three years ago, Alvaro Gonzalez’s wife accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Ottawa Hospital. He arrived in the capital with a business degree and lots of retail and marketing experience, but found a related job hard to come by. That wasn’t good news for Alvaro, but it was good news for Ottawa — the slow job market prompted the entrepreneurial Alvaro to join with fellow Spaniard David Gonzalez (no relation) to launch Solfarmers, importing tasty Spanish delicacies that are showing up with increasing frequency on restaurant menus around town.

City Bites Insider caught up with Alvaro to find out more about his business. We asked: Which restaurants have Solfarmer delicacies on the menu? What stores stock them so we can take them home to try? In the process, we got a crash-course in Spanish cuisine and business culture. 

Tell me about the name Solfarmers

It’s like it sounds. Sol is “sun” in Spanish, so we’re importing the best of Spain through our food — the sun, the coast, the beaches, the culture.

Open-cans-Solfarmers
Solfarmers‘ fresh seafood — including mussels, razor clams, sardines, octopus, and tuna — are all hand-packed in Spanish olive oil. Photo courtesy of Solfarmers

How did you know Ottawa was ripe for your business?

I toured around the city’s food stores and visited restaurants. I realized quickly that the best Spanish products weren’t available here so I was confident that chefs and other people would want the quality olive oils, canned seafood, and cured hams that I could import from Spain.

Spanish cuisine is not a big thing here — yet. Has that been tricky?

Yes, because I’m creating a market for something that didn’t exist here. It takes time to promote Spanish gastronomy because it’s not known. Once people taste the products, they believe, but you have to get people to try them.

Mussels-in-marinade-pintxo
Mussels, a popular snack food in Spain, are marinaded in olive oil. Photo courtesy of Solfarmers

How was the reception from chefs?

It has been really good. Many chefs are already using our products and we’ve been talking to people in Montreal, as well.

Do you have any examples?

Our olive oils have been really popular. The three Beckta restaurants (Play Food & Wine, Beckta and Gezellig) have ordered our organic oils and Cordon Bleu works with them. Fairouz uses two of our olive oils — one for everyday and one for finishing plates. Marc Lepine of Atelier is using one of our organic oils.

The restaurant Salt Bar has ordered some of our ham and canned seafood, and so has Bar Laurel. Aperitivo in Kanata and Soca Kitchen also work with our seafood.

It takes time to get to meet with the chefs and have them taste your products, but this is a passion for me.

Do you find doing business in Canada different from doing business in Spain?

Definitely! In Spain, we’re very direct. So, for example, if I am selling my products in Spain, the person I’m dealing with would tell me right away if he liked a product or what else he needed. He would tell me if he thought my product was too expensive or if he needed something different. It is very respectful, but also very direct. It is good to hear how you can improve!

In Canada, people are not so direct, so it is harder to get feedback on what chefs or store owners really think about your ideas and products. To learn about the restaurants in Ottawa, I go out to dinner and try their menus, then contact the chefs to tell them what products I have that can make their dishes even better.

What are your most popular products?

Everyone loves the sardines. If you buy Canadian sardines, they are quite large — three or four in a tin — and packed in water. Our Gourmet Spanish sardines are very small; very tasty and tender. You get about 20-25 in a tin and they’re hand-packed in olive oil. They are so fresh-tasting.

Our olive oils are very fresh. When you try one of our olive oils, you know it’s fresh — harvested this season — and that is so important.

We sell Iberian ham, which is very popular. The pigs feed on a lot of acorns, which is what gives the meat its distinctive flavour. Our customers include restaurants and the Spanish embassy in Ottawa.

Cutting-Iberican-ham
It takes a special knife (and special skills) to carve Iberican ham correctly (as demonstrated by Solfarmer‘s David Gonzalez). Photo courtesy of Solfarmers

You can buy some Solfarmer products at specialty stores around town, correct?

Yes, some of the seafood stores like Lapointe’s and Merivale Fish Market sell our canned seafood. Grace in the Kitchen stocks our products and so do Emulsify, Les Fougères, Market Organics, and La Bottega.

What if people are interested, but have no idea how to use your products? 

Right now, we link to easy recipes through our Facebook and Twitter sites, but we’re currently updating our website. Once it’s finished, it will list a few recipes to try with each of our canned seafood products, as well as our olive oils and hams. There will also be lots more information about each of our products so you can really understand it — where it comes from in Spain, how it was caught or harvested, what makes it special.

Holiday season is almost here. Do you put together gift baskets?

We do. Often people who have been on a holiday to Spain will fall in love with the food, but it’s hard to find here. We can put together gift baskets with the olive oils and canned seafood that they would have eaten at the bars in Spain.

Gift-baskets-Solfarmers
Solfarmers can put together customized gift baskets filled with Spanish delicacies. Photo courtesy of Solfarmers
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