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Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Botillo del Bierzo
Photo from: Reino de León
pig or pork belly. After the pig is slaughtered, the stomach is scraped and meat from the tail, ribs and loins is chopped on a huge wooden plate in the shape of a spittle with a machete and then with knives and scissors before stuffing it into the stomach with a few odd bones. The meat is kneaded and marinated in oregano, paprika (today, long pepper in the Middle Ages), garlic, salt and white wine. The entire family is present during this process as everyone has an opinion concerning the quantities of seasoning to be added. After the stomach is stuffed and sewn up, it is smoked for a month or more. It is thought that the stomachs should be round like the abbot’s for bony or weak ones look like those made in a poor home or monastery. When well dried, the stomach is pricked with cabbage root to prevent the bag from breaking open when cooked for if it breaks the flavor is lost. Then it is boiled in water and salt. Cabbage is added to the pot when half boiled.  Traditionally, it is eaten on Christmas Eve, New Years, Kings’ Day (January 6th) and Shrove Tuesday. Then the stomach is brought to the dinner table in an earthenware dish and eaters are given escudiellas, wooden plates from the meat smoking room.  The Province of Leon, especially the Bierzo Region, is famous for stuffed pig stomachs, which are called botellos. No pilgrimage on the Way of St. James is complete without eating it. Not all pig stomachs met their end on the dinner table. Some became soccer balls before the invention of rubber. That is why soccer is a winter sport as pigs traditionally are slaughtered in November. The soccer season ended when the pig’s stomach was no longer repairable. [Ares. 1994: 96-97:112; Pers. Memories. Slaughters Mostoles. 2000:2001:2003]



1 small pig’s stomach (today this can be ordered from the local butcher)
Botillo, cachelos, chorizo, garbanzos y repollo.
(Pig's stomach, boiled potatoes chickpeas and cabbage)
5 shallots
2 mashed garlic cloves
¼ c virgin olive oil
2 ½ lbs meat from the loins, ribs and tail including bones and fat
1 ½ lb chorizo
*1 c long grain rice
salt and pepper (long pepper if possible) to taste
2 tsp oregano
1 sprig parsley chopped
1 c white wine


Gently fry the shallots and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mix the meat, chorizo, shallots, garlic, raw rice, seasoning and wine. Knead well. Cover and let it marinate overnight.

Soak the stomach in water overnight. The following day, wring it out and tie 2 of the 3 openings with string.

Fill the stomach with the  marinated stuffing. Tie the opening with a string. Hang the stomach from the kitchen rafters or other dry place and leave for one month or more.

When ready to eat, soak 1 c chickpeas in water the night before.

The next day, fill a large pot with well-salted water. Prick to stomach to prevent it from exploding. Add it to the pot and simmer just below boiling point for 2 ½ hours.

When half done, put the chickpeas in a cloth bag, tie it and add them with a small cabbage to the pot.

When done place all in an earthenware dish. Have the carver slice the stomach into strips ½” thick.

*Today it would be 2 lbs potatoes.


  1. So botillo is made with the stomach! I learn something new everyday. To the Anglo-Saxon-New World People: you should not be afraid of trying this aparently terrible things. If you want to have a "medieval" experience easily, this is the short cut, for this kind of things (botillo, chorizos with chickpeas and so) are still typical dishes easy to find. This "cocido maragato" is considered perhaps the richest and heaviest. There is a restaurant in Madrid that offers you the meal (you musn't pay) in case you are able to eat all. Please note there is also a very rich soup, which unlike other cocidos, is served "after" the plate you see in the picture...!

  2. First of all, botillo is not cocido. We will get to cocido and "cocido maragato" without fail! The Scots have their version of botillo which is haggis, a kind of savoury pudding containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach. Haggis sold commercially is now encased in a sort of net bag, if I remember correctly. When Marks & Spenser had a store in Madrid, I used to buy it once a month. The whole family loves it.