As an Expat myself to this wonderful host country, I owe it to both myself and the Portuguese people to understand and accept certain traditions as well as customs to keep integrating into the culture as much as possible.
I rather suspect I’ll be updating you all on a regular basis, as I keep learning more from this Country, that I have called home for more than 20 years.
So let’s go with a brief explanation of some but not all of those basic things you should know when deciding in making your move to Portugal…
Bacalhau (and other fish)…
Bacalhau is dried, salted cod and Portugal have been great consumers of it for centuries, and I assume the original habit came largely from the early sea going Portuguese explorers that still love the stuff and you’d be hard pushed to find any restaurant in Portugal that doesn’t have it on the menu on a daily basis. You can also expect all kinds of other fish to feature on most restaurant menus and most private households on a very regular basis.
The secret of good bacalhau and other salted fish is to soak it sufficiently and for long enough time.
My favorite is “À Brás” and you can find my simple recipe on the following post:
Bees are big business in a small way in Portugal and not only do the majority of farm supply shops and farmer’s co-operatives sell hives and other bee related kit, so do some of the local Câmaras as it’s not unusual to see entire shops dedicated to all things bee and honey related or hives.
Under Portuguese law, hives have to be at least 50 metres from any public roads or residential homes. Home made honey is for sale in most if not all local markets.
Chouriço, also known as Chorizo, is a Portuguese traditional sausage and is similar to the Spanish version of the same thing and a variety of meats, herbs and spices with seemingly and endless recipes for such. Most common meat used is pork and as with most types of sausage from anywhere in the world the small offcuts of meat and less great cuts of meat are used. Peak season in many parts of Portugal are the colder months especially December and January and this is largely due to the colder weather, meaning the meat doesn’t go bad as quickly.
Chouriço comes in both smoked and unsmoked versions and both are very commonly seen in a lot of Portuguese cuisine as they even have a specially designed dish to cook them in.
Cork oaks are extremely slow growing, long lived trees and they are not only highly protected but also all locations are mapped by the authorities where the cork is harvested every +/- 9 years or so by skilled, licenced cork cutters who after harvesting, will spray paint the year of harvest onto the orange newly stripped tree and the cork is used for not only corks in bottles but also numerous other things from ‘cork leather’ to extremely fire resistant insulation.
Festa and Arraial…
The Portuguese people LOVE a party and will celebrate anything from sardines to cakes to bread to historical and (or) religious events and festas often go on for several days and well into the early morning of the next day as they happen in all sorts of locations from small, rural villages to big cities and often involve parades, bands, music festivals and LOTS of wining and dining.
The Knights Templar city of Tomar is a good example of really good festas and the 4 yearly ‘Festival Of The Trays’ attracts visitors from all around the world & the highlight of that is the Medieval Feast that takes place in the Tomar Convento itself… This is a must do for your bucket list not for the food which is indeed ‘Medieval’ but rather for the fabulous entertainment that happens during the feast.
Lisbon’s celebration of “Santo António”, as well as the parades known as “Marchas”, or further North in Porto the celebration of “Noite de São João” are also not to be missed.
Further North in the Minho the celebration of “Nossa Senhora de Agonia” in Viana do Castelo or the “Feiras Novas” in Ponte de Lima… Melgaço and Monçao celebrate the festa do “Alvarinho”, a grape variety exclusive from the Minho Region.
As you can see there are no shortages of either a festa or arraial to meet the locals.
I know this subject will not sit well with some so if you don’t approve of the subject then I suggest you scroll past this section!!!
Whilst many or most visitors visiting or moving here, would simply pay a visit to the supermarket if our home grown crops were not eaten by the wildlife, those people aren’t so lucky and I don’t blame them in the least for protecting their crops or livestock and it cannot be denied that the game birds, wild animals especially the javali / wild boar make very good eating indeed!!!
Hunting is part of traditional Portuguese culture and whilst you may not agree with it, most hunting happens for good reason and largely with very sound conservation policies so it’s not unusual for hunting licenses or leases here in Portugal to include a clause that states a percentage of the animals taken or parts thereof to be left on the hill to feed vultures or other scavengers.
Hunting takes place in various formats from driven, walked up and blind shooting for birds or small ground game such as rabbits to montaria or driven shooting for deer and wild boar / javali stalking on foot… As javali are considered pests they may also be taken 3 nights each side of the full moon.
Deer, wild boar or other animals and some birds can do immense damage to crops in a very short time and many of the rural Portuguese population live on or near the breadline and they rely on their home grown vegetables and home produce immensely.
If you do want to get involved in the hunting scene here, don’t expect it to be easy as the hunting and licensing bureaucratic processes are extremely strict as well as very carefully controlled.
The first step is to pass a hunter’s exam on species identification, seasons and game laws… etc and then you have to attend an 8 hour firearms and firearms handling training course at your local PSP / GNR HQ and then on a later day, re-attend the PSP or GNR HQ to write an exam and then it’s off to the rifle range to prove your practical firearms skills… And assuming you pass all of that you can then apply for your hunter’s licence and firearms permit and only then can you purchase a weapon and ammunition and all of that training, exams and testing are done in Portuguese despite the law having allowance for translators.
But don’t for a moment think you can now go hunting as before you buy the weapon, let alone take it anywhere, you have to buy a personal hunter’s liability insurance policy that covers you for 500.000€ and if you want to target shoot as opposed to hunt then the only bit you dodge is the hunter’s exam at the start of the process mentioned here.
Even after going through all of that super complicated process, you still need to complete yet another training course and exam before you can legally handle a carcass of deer or Javali / wild boar and veterinary inspectors are required to examine every carcass or every deer or javali / wild boar to check it’s safe for human consumption.
I should add that there is an awful lot of misinformation in the immigrant community about hunting related issues from where and when a weapon may or may not be discharged and also where and when hunters may enter land not owned or leased to them but in short, a weapon may not usually be discharged within 100 metres of a road and 250 metres of a structure or dwelling. However, there may be exceptions in some cases such as is the structure or dwelling legal or not so don’t look for any easy path with answers on that.
Another popular misconception amongst immigrants is that hunters can go anywhere they choose and this is also incorrect and the landowner can for example register his land as non hunting and post signs to that effect.
Medronho is a commonly grown fruit in Portugal and sometimes referred to as the “strawberry tree and whilst medronho fruit can be eaten it’s very commonly used as a flavouring to aguardente or to make a fruit brandy with or without any aguardente added.
A good one can be an absolute delight on the tongue and harvest time is around November and neither fruit or medronho brandy are often seen for sale in large outlets as almost all fruit are picked by individual home producers and the vast majority of fruit brandy is home produced. It is possible however to order a glass of medronho brandy at many small family run bars, restaurants and cafes.
This might be a good time for me to mention that whilst home distilling is technically illegal in Portugal that ban is rarely, if ever enforced and a great many homes have a small still tucked away somewhere and I have even seen a range of sizes of stills openly sold in local markets.
Olives & Olive Oil
Olive harvest time is an immense family affair where anyone and everyone in the family all come together and pile in as a team.
Us immigrants go to all kinds of lengths and troubles to find an easy way to harvest olives and we really do make hard work of it but the truth is the Portuguese people have really got this sussed so just do as they do which is to spread large pieces of shade cloth around the foot of the tree and then either go the traditional way of ladders and hand rakes and comb the hell out of each branch or go the more high tech route and stay on the ground and use a powered shaker rake to harvest the olives and in either case, it’s damned hard work and at this point, you’ll have a LOT of leaves and twigs etc in amongst the olives, but don’t be put off… Rather just bag it all up, prune the hell out of the tree and move onto the next one.
When you’ve finished harvesting and pruning then your next step is to separate the wheat from the chaff or in this case, the olives from the leaves, twigs and other bits you don’t want and whilst I’ve seen several powered machines that do this, the old way that’s still popular is to make a home made chute rather like a laddered cooling tray set at an angle and slowly pour the olives onto the top of the chute and let gravity do the rest so the olives roll all the way down into a bucket and the stuff you don’t want falls through the holes onto the ground. (This same piece of kit can incidentally also be used on grapes).
Then you need to decide whether you want table olives or olive oil and in the case of the former, the most important thing to remember is NEVER to get anything metallic even near the olives and whilst Google or Youtube will show you umpteen complicated ways to prepare the table olives, several of my friends simply fill 5 litre plastic water bottles with olives, fill to the brim with heavily salted water which is changed about once a week for several months at which point they’re very good.
If you prefer to go the olive oil route then most villages have some kind of co-operative where they take your olives, process them into oil and keep a small percentage for their own sale / profit which means you get the oil from your own olives but better if possible to book your slot to save waiting around for longer than necessary... And believe me, that oil from your own olives is MUCH better than anything you can ever buy and if a friend or neighbour gives you a bottle of their own olive oil, they’re doing you a huge kindness so be sure to show your genuine appreciation!!!
If you want to learn how to harvest your own olives or grapes and prune accordingly just speak to your neighbours who I have no doubt will be delighted to have you join them and learn by experience.
Pine Resin Harvest…
I’ll bet this one takes you by surprise, but believe it not, pine resin has been harvested here since the pines were here and the resin is sold for all kinds of uses from adhesives to varnishes to food glazing additives to perfume manufacture and many / most older Portuguese country houses will have a small collection of the small terracotta pots and other related paraphernalia tucked away in an outbuilding or adega.
I for one found it incredibly difficult to find out much about history of my local area when we first came here and then it struck me I’d been looking in the wrong places so I used the good old Facebook search and simply entered the names of my local towns and up popped a treasure trove of local historical groups complete with old photographs, movies & newspaper articles, all of which fascinated me although I have to say, it came as a bit of a shock to realise the degree of depopulation that has occurred in recent(ish) decades!!!
Wine… I have a really charming but elderly neighbour who in the summer sits outside in the sunshine and any time I walked past with the dog would call me in and welcome me with some of his wine but in a brim full, half pint tin mug & there we’d sit shooting the breeze... And if I looked away, he’d fill it again... And again and I’ve lost count of the times I staggered home three sheets to the wind. Many, most rural properties in Portugal will have grape vines growing somewhere, and an adega dedicated to the art of wine making. Whilst Portuguese wine is well known the best of it is (DIY) the ones made by the locals for their own consumption and for family as well as friends and these often come in the humble but very practical 5 litre water bottles but need to be drunk within a year or two of bottling or once opened, drunk within a week or so as they contain no artificial preservatives & the reds of my area are similar to an Italian Lambrusco (Vinho Verde or Americano)... But perhaps marginally stronger. As with the olive harvest, the wine harvest and making is often a massive family affair. Once the wine is made, the remaining detritus isn’t thrown away but is in typical Portuguese fashion not wasted and is then distilled into aguradiente which is the Portuguese equivalent of moonshine and is also liquid dynamite and often flavoured with various fruits, coffee beans and / or cut with brandy and water and that can be anything from fabulous to almost lethal. If you want to learn how to harvest your own grapes and prune accordingly just speak to your neighbours who I have no doubt will be delighted to have you join them and learn by experience. Portugal has 13 wine regions and you read all about them by clicking on the following link: https://www.infinite-solutions.pt/post/portugal-s-12-wine-regions-1 Work with a REALTOR® to get started!!! If I can add value to your move to Portugal, based on my experience of more than 20 years of living here, feel free to reach out and schedule a call and I will be more than happy to share my experiences with you. In the meantime this post may help get you started… Click on the following link https://www.infinite-solutions.pt/post/living-in-portugal-your-ultimate-guide-to-europe-s-sunniest-country Link to schedule call on Calendly:
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