Food and drink are two of the most powerful elements that make a travel destination appealing, and this is particularly true in Extremadura. If you’re a real foodie who would only consider trying local food when travelling, make sure you take note of these 9 unmissable treats you need to try in Extremadura
The list below includes Extremadura’s products with a Protected Denomination of Origin (Denominación de Origen Protegida or D.O.P. in Spanish) status, a sign of undisputed quality, as well as a few other quality products without this status but that you should consider trying anyway.
Jamón ibérico is, without any doubt, Extremadura’s flagship product. Although widely available throughout the region, the best areas to try it out are the south of Badajoz province, Alburquerque (Badajoz) and Montánchez (Cáceres).
The Denomination of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura only certifies pigs that are, at least 75% Iberian, as ibéricos. For more information about ham and to know the difference between serrano and ibérico, read my article: The ham fight–Serrano vs Ibérico.
Apart from ham, don’t leave Extremadura without trying other Iberian products. Try cold meats such as lomo (loin), salchichón (cured spiced sausage), chorizo or morcilla (black pudding). You can also order some prime pork cuts such as solomillo (fillet), lomo (tenderloin), secreto or pluma (the last two cuts being juicy and rich) as a main course.
And don’t worry about the ibéricos’ fat, because it’s monounsaturated (good for you), like olive oil.
The Denomination of Origin for lamb in Extremadura is Corderex, Cordero de Extremadura, and the best area to try lamb is the south of Badajoz province, in places such as Llerena and Azuaga. Some traditional recipes include lamb chops, roasted leg of lamb and Extremadura-style lamb stew, cooked with onions, garlic, kidney, bay leaves, wine and paprika.
Cheese is one of my favourite foods ever. I like them all, except the blue ones. If you love this guilty pleasure too, in Extremadura you’ll be spoilt for choice, whether you like sheep milk cheeses, goats’ cheese or cow milk cheeses.
Queso Ibores is made with raw goat’s milk and is usually covered in paprika. Torta del Casar is a rich-flavoured, spreadable cheese made with sheep’s milk. Queso de la Serena is also a torta-type of cheese, and the only cheese made with raw Merino sheep’s milk.
You may not want to miss… Trujillos’ National Cheese Fair, which takes place around April-May.
The Denomination of Origin Ternera de Extremadura includes six native Extremaduran cattle breeds (such as the highly regarded retinta) and two further breed crossings. Quality beef can be found anywhere in Extremadura.
There’s nothing better than pairing a board of ham and cheese with a good glass of red, don’t you think? Many people don’t know this, but Extremadura’s winemaking area is the second biggest (80,391 ha) in Spain. Extremadura’s wines aren’t yet known abroad, but they are a high-quality product you shouldn’t miss. There are six winemaking areas in Extremadura, the majority of them located in Badajoz province.
The main Denomination of Origin is Ribera del Guadiana, and some of the best places to try wines are Tierra de Barros (Badajoz) and Cañamero (Cáceres). Within the Ribera del Guadiana Denomination of Origin, these wineries below offer guided tours and tastings:
- Ruiz Torres (Cañamero)
- Bodegas Pozanco (Mérida)
- Cosecha Extremeña (Fuente del Maestre)
- Bodegas Medina (Zafra)
- Bodegas Romale (Almendralejo)
Another winery that offers guided tours and tastings is Bodegas Habla, located in Trujillo, producing wines under the Denomination of Origin Vinos de la Tierra de Extremadura.
I must admit that, before Brexit, I brought olive oil back from my trips to Extremadura. Although I could find Spanish olive oil brands in UK supermarkets, they’re not exactly the best. I find them lacking flavour and overpriced, so my home kitchen had a strict Extremadura-only olive oil policy.
Extremadura is the third Spanish region in terms of olive oil production (around 29 million kg), with more than 250,000 ha of land of olive groves. Olive oil is produced on a small scale in many areas, although the ones with a higher production are Sierra de Gata-Las Hurdes (northwest of Extremadura) and Tierra de Barros (Badajoz province). The two types of olive oil that have been awarded a Denomination of Origin are Gata-Hurdes and Aceite Monterrubio.
Having grown up in Jaraíz de la Vera, in northern Extremadura, I can still remember the strong smell of paprika that impregnated the town in autumn, during the pepper milling season in the local factories. The Denomination of Origin Pimentón de la Vera includes 16 brands of paprika. Some of the ones I regularly use are La Chinata, El Colorín, La Dalia and Clavel de la Vera (my favourite brand being La Dalia).
Locals sometimes refer to our beloved pimentón as ‘red gold’, such is our appreciation for this product, which comes in three different flavours: dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy). Paprika is widely used in all sorts of products and dishes, be it fried eggs, stews, cold meats or La Vera-style fried breadcrumbs.
The Villuercas-Ibores area, in the southeast of Cáceres province is where you’ll find the best honey in Extremadura, awarded the Denomination of Origin Miel Villuercas Ibores. Under this denomination they produce four types of honey: chestnut monofloral honey, retama sphaerocarpa monofloral honey, multifloral honey and honeydew honey. If you like to top up your porridge or granola with honey, a jar of this golden product will make a good souvenir from your trip to Extremadura.
The picota cherry is a variety native to Jerte Valley, in northern Extremadura. Picotas are extremely delicate fruits that need to be hand-picked and sorted manually one by one and their quality is guaranteed by the Denomination of Origin Cereza del Jerte. Cherries are harvested in May-June and visitors are welcome to take part in the harvesting process or join other cherry-related activities organised by the local tourist office. If you visit the Jerte area in the summer, you’ll be able to buy picotas in the markets and try things such as cherry gazpacho, sorbet or mains served with a cherry-based side in restaurants.