Every Wednesday and Saturday in the city of León, vendors set up stalls in the Plaza Mayor to sell meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and even socks and underwear. In the past, prices weren’t always fixed and haggling was the norm. Today however, you might have a harder time shaving off a few euros from your bill, but many abuelos still insist on negotiating the price of their cheese.
León’s most famous delicacy is cecina. Similar to Italian bresaola and Turkish pastirma, cecina is made from lean cuts of meat that are first salted, then washed, smoked and air-dried, a process which takes a minimum of seven months. While some cecinas are made from horse and donkey, cecina de León is made strictly of beef. León’s cold dry air is perfect for the curing of cecina and the promotion of the particular microbes that give it its characteristic nuanced flavor. Depending on the particular cut and curing process, the color of cecina ranges from cherry to a dark purple-red. It keeps for a long time (from the 16th century onwards, it was the meat of choice for sailors on long ocean voyages for this reason) but that’s only if you don’t eat it all quickly. It’s hard not to. Try it sliced thin, with a drizzling of olive oil. And then see how long it lasts. Photos ©Mike Randolph