JOAN CARLES LLACH
Entering Josep’s workshop is like going back in time. We can see the previous generations (his grandfather, his father) on the walls as dried clay. Other times… other ways of working that have been preserved, but not the means, because, luckily, some movements have been automated.
He does the clay himself; he makes a mix of refractory clay from Pinell de Brai and clay from Tortosa. Before, they took the clay directly from the river, but now “it doesn’t go down the river like before, and it contains a lot of dirt” according to what he tells us. He shows us the two materials that he has outside in two piles, and he tells us that, in order to make the clay that he uses, he takes half of each material, and then he puts them in a mixer which stirs them. The mixture is taken out through a tube, it is filtered, and it fills the pools. It takes him 9 hours to fill each pool, and another day to go over, which means stirring and filling again, because otherwise it would solidify, and it could not be used. From the two pools, he produces around 17 or 18000 kg that he must take himself to the workshop, little by little. Carrying weight up and down, “you end up clumsy” he tells us.
Back at his workshop, we visit first a room full of towers of different size ready to be fired. He works for wholesalers, and while we are with him, he prepares an order for a client related to gardening. The time it takes to the pieces to be dried depends on the weather and their size, “now it takes a week, and in winter it takes a month” he tells us. He only works with big pieces, the 7th generation of potters who work with big pieces. He has worked with clay since he was 14 years old, but his parents made him use the potter’s wheel when he was 6 or 7 years old while his sisters were in the pool.
He gets ready to turn. He puts on his apron, and he takes a piece which is already started to continue working on it. Big pieces are not made at one time, because the clay would not stand the weight and it would get flattened. His turn is bent because, as he works with big pieces, he cannot put them in front of him. The truth is that it is not a very comfortable position, but on the contrary… “the times I go to see my physiotherapist” he remarks, smiling.
He works… And it seems easy when you see him. Strong but delicate hands at the same time working the clay, making the piece bigger and finer. He says that, sometimes, it falls, and he must start again. He cannot leave it half done, once he starts working on a piece, he must finish it. This means that he must work every day until it is finished. Clay ignores the concept of holidays or working days.
And the saddest thing is that he does not have anyone to replace him. In his case, he does not have any apprentice, there is not anyone after him, he is the last member of his family. And apart from two other young workshops in the village, the remaining workshops in Miravet are in danger. It is a trade which is disappearing. A local tradition which finishes.
CHEESES LA BALDA, CARE AND LOVE FOR GOOD CHEESES
In the Vall de Llémena (“Llémena Valley”), located in La Garrotxa, Pablo Garcia makes high-quality cheese from raw cows’ milk. He collaborates with livestock farmers who are near him to ensure the use of organic, freshly milked milk in his cheeses, and therefore, keep all its infinite good properties. The fact of working with raw milk gives the cheeses a more enhanced flavour, because it has bacterial flora from the environment where the cows are bred. And the most important thing is that the cows are calm, they let the farmers milk them, because animal welfare is basic and principal to get good cheeses.
For Pablo, making cheese has always been his passion. First, it was a hobby for him, and then finally it became his profession, and he has been fully committed to his business. Initially trained in his country, he was able to put into practice all his knowledge acquired at Torre Marimon in an intensive course, in Ardèche, and later in the Abondance valley, in France (in the French Alps).
He is making three kinds of cheese at the moment: the Fermió, the Golany (both soft paste cheeses) and the Baldat (which is a mature cheese). The first cheese comes in a small format, with a mouldy rind and a lactic character, and it is presented in the shape of a plain cylinder with rounded corners. The rind, which is natural, is homogeneously covered with a white-ivory mould layer which is completely edible, and which also provides an important part of the cheese organoleptic richness.
The Golany has a mixed rind (mouldy-clean) which is edible. Made with vegetable rennet, it is a square-shaped piece with a creamy texture which, as it matures, it can melt. It has a complex flavour between the aromatic strength of the rind and the elegant and balanced notes of the paste.
And the Baldat, inspired by the large format maturing cheeses which are typical in the Alps, where they have plenty of milk. A Gruyere cheese made in big pieces of 12 or 20 kg which matures slowly in a drying room, and which is matured on a weekly basis with water saturated with salt. The rind is created with this erosion effect. The elastic paste gets brittle, and its colour may change depending on the feeding of the livestock.
The cheese factory La Balda makes part of the traditional cheese producers that we can find in Catalonia, a market which is in full expansion. In his workroom they follow the cheese traditions from here and there, increasing the diversity of traditional cheeses made with raw milk.
Thank you very much, Pablo, for receiving us and welcoming us so warmly.
THE FORAT OF LLABERIA
AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
Our sincere appreciation and thanks to each one of the producers who, with their work, help us offer an unforgettable experience at Mas Martinet winery. You are the main contribution to economic development in Priorat by creating, in a sustainable and continuous way, richness, better quality of life, and stable employment for its inhabitants. Their love and care for their work provide us a range of high-quality products that we have used to present them these past weeks on the blog. Because together we build a more sustainable world.
THE FORO ERA (SERRA ESPASA)
THE VIEWING POINT OF THE BATTLE OF THE EBRO IN LA FIGUERA.
Gemma is the person who writes all this to you. In other words, I keep the Blog of Mas Martinet alive, and I am also the person in charge of receiving you in the winery if you come to visit it. I am a talkative and easy-going person, and I will receive you as well as possible so that you leave with a good memory of your experience.
It was not an easy choice, but I finally chose one of the best places to enjoy the vastness of the landscape of Priorat. The place chosen is La Mola de Sant Pau, in La Figuera, where the Sant Pau hermitage is located, and from where people say that you can have a view of six regions (Tarragona, Lleida, Saragossa, Castellón, Teruel and Huesca). In fact, if you look northwards, you can see the Pyrenees, the Segre river area, Les Garrigues, Els Ports, the Maestrazgo and Aragón.
But near the hermitage, at a distance of only 500 m and with a much easier access, we get to the place where, during the Civil War, there was the viewing point of the Battle of the Ebro, a control point of the high command or the republican army. From there, you can see up to 40 kilometres of the river Ebro.
It is a trench reinforced with cement, and part of the roof which remains in good condition. And from there, you can have an incredible view of the old battlefields. Behind the viewing point, there are still some walls and dry-stone huts which were used as shelters by the soldiers who stayed there.
The most shocking thing for me is thinking that, not so many years ago, from there, the most recent and cruel war that has ever taken place in our lands was organised. You know how it ended, Franco’s troops took down the viewing point and they settled there during a period of time. Finally, in 1998, this place was recovered, and it was prepared to keep it as a proof of what happened.
A piece of our recent history which does not leave us indifferent, and that we do not forget.