Muxía is famous for its church, Corpiño’s lookout, A Barca Sanctuary and “a Pedra de Abalar”, among others. However, we recommend you to visit some of the existing conger curing rooms too. They are an unknown heritage, but they are very valuable because of their singularity. Let’s discover why!
The forestry sector will be the factor which will help other sectors in the transition towards a new circular bio economy, offering solutions with a PEFC sustainability certification.
Conger curing rooms
Food conservation has always been a concern from ancient times. Drying, smoking, seasoning or marinating fish was a way to conserve it when it wasn’t consumed fresh. We are going to talk about two of these methods: drying and seasoning.
Drying consists of partial dehydration of fish due to the effects of air and the Sun. In the smoking method wood which is not very resinous (birch and laurel tree mainly) is used, because it reduces fish humidity, what increases the conservation time. The immersion of food in salt (seasoning) or in an acid sauce (marinated) also stops decomposition. However, these handmade procedures were disappearing when the commercialisation of hermetic canned food was widespread.
Conger drying and curing is a tradition which dates back Middle Ages; at least it was used in the XV and XVI centuries. Some exchanges are documented between Muxía and villages in Catalonia, Aragón or Castilla. People from Aragón, for example, used to bring ropes for the vessels and they were paid in kind with dried congers.
The curing rooms were located waterfront, in floored places and with northwest wind. They are formed by a structure made of crossed wood sticks (cabrias). Following the traditional procedure, the conger is subjected to the“esmunifado”, which consists of opening its head with an axe. Then, in a leaning board, the “lañado” was done, which consists of opening the fish longitudinally in order to take out the innards and the piece of meat. After that, using a big knife, some holes in the fish skin are made, in order to get a more intense and faster drying. It has to be washed in sea water and a stick is stabbed in the top holes (this action is called “envarar”) to keep the skin stretched. The stick is hanged in the “cabrias” and it remains there for 1 or 2 weeks (depending on the weather), to bale it in a press and pack it up later.
In Galicia some salting houses are documented in Roman period, and medieval documents refer to the export of seasoned fish and dry octopus from our harbours. However, it is not until the XVII century when the canning industry takes off in Galicia, thanks to the traders from Catalonia.
Initially, Catalonians used to come to buy fish (mainly sardine, but also mackerel,garfish, anchovy or tuna) in order to apply seasoning methods from the Mediterranean. They used to put little wood barracks next to the sea, and they exchanged wine, oil or soap for fish. However, from the beginning of the XIX century, they start to settle here setting up little businesses, introducing new seasoning techniques and new systems to work. The same as in the case of wood, the means of production are privatised and the first salaried workers appear.
In Galicia, the usual seasoning method was the “escochado”, which consists of cleaning each fish individually, taking its head, bones and innards out, and then soaking them in “salmoira” (water saturated with salt) for a whole day. Then, they put them in wood barrels, with salt again; they were covered and they were ready for sale. The waste of the fish (heads, innards…) was pressed to remove the fat (saín), which was used to refine leather, protect wood, make paint or as oil for luminaires. However, following this method, the fat of the seasoned fish wasn’t used since it became yellowish with time because of oxidation, what made it difficult to sell. This didn’t happen with the method of “salpresado”, the one introduced by Catalonians, since the fish was also pressed.
Photo by Xenaro Martínez Castro, model of the Museo do Pobo Galego.
Normally, the seasoning warehouses are in the coast line, in accessible places from the sea, in order to make the disembark of raw material easy. Most of them have a rectangular ground floor, with a central patio (called claro) where there was a gutter to drain the liquids after washing the fish. Next to the patio there was the “chanca”, where the sinks to season the fish were located, and the “alfolín”, the storage for carpentry tools. Here, they used to build the“cascos”, cylindrical bowls made with pine wood staves held with chestnut tree or alder ribbons rings. The first ones were really big, with capacity for 20.000 sardines, what made them difficult to move; for this reason they were reduced until the popular “pandeireta”, which contains about 20Kg of fish.
On the other side of the “patio” the “morto” is located, were fish was pressed, and its fat flowed along the open gutters on the floor and pour “saíns” into deposits.
Over time, the conservation in hermetic containers, first in glass and later in tin cans, prevailed as conservation method instead of seasoning. The first canned fish industry was set up in Galicia in 1879 in Illa de Arousa, and few years later, in 1907, more than 100 companies of this type are registered.
The virgin arrived at Muxía by sea, in a stone boat. We can still see the remains of the boat next to the sanctuary devoted to her; they are the “pedra de abalar” (the hull of the boat), “a pedra dos cadrís” (the sail) and the rudder stone. That is Barca Sanctuary is not just a temple, but also the magic stones around it.
The Pedra de Abalar has the attribute to cure and foster fertility; moreover it can just be moved for those who are in God’s grace. The “Pedra dos Cadrís” relieves backache and rheumatism if you go under it nine times in a row. According to historians, it is about a previous pagan worship, which is repeated in other places in Costa da Morte, as in Nero Hill and in Mount Pindo, related to fertility rites.
The sanctuary suffered several incidents; even the “pedra de abalar” was hit by a lightning. In 2013 there was a fire which totally destroyed the temple.
From here you can get to the “fonte da pel” (skin fountain), a natural spring where pilgrims wash themselves before entering in the sanctuary to avoid passing on leprosy Following a path you will get to “alto do Corpiño”, and you will see a panoramic view from the village, the open sea and a wonderful sunset.
Come back in September to celebrate the “romaría da Barca”, recognised as fiesta of National Tourist interest.
The role of PEFC
Many sectors, such as farming or fishing, take the forestry sector into account for the supply of raw material in many of their working elements, ships, boats, baskets, troughs, shipyards, curing rooms, salting houses, boxes, packages, pallets, etc,.
The forestry sector can offer new sustainable solutions based on nature in order to lead the transition to climate impartiality. Without any doubt, the forestry sector will be the factor which will help other sectors in the transition towards a new circular bio economy.
PEFC promotes certification as a tool to make sure that products coming from the forestry (such as packages, bags, glasses, cases…made of wood, paper or cardboard) respect social, environmental and economic criteria.
Consumers start to demand more often the replacement of plastic for natural renewable, recyclable and biodegradable materials, for example, wood, paper or cardboard products.
To meet the expectations of their customers, more and more manufacturers choose to certify their processes with PEFC system, to guarantee that the materials which they use come from legal and sustainable sources.
Ethical consumption is growing, so companies are required to use eco-labelling, as PEFC in their products, showing transparency, integrity and traceability, generating trust in the consumer.