One of the most interesting of the many Greek preserved meat products is the highly aromatic louza of Mykonos and its variations in the Cyclades.
On Mykonos, louza is seasoned solely with allspice and savoury, which makes its taste more robust. On Tinos they use black pepper and an abundance of fennel seeds, while on Syros they make a blend of wine, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon and cloves.
Traditionally, the preparation of louza on Mykonos took place at the end of an elaborate ritual, the annual pig slaughter, a beloved festival on the island. Every rural family had a pig and every autumn they would slaughter the animal which they had been feeding all year. At that time experienced butchers would take out the fillets and rub them with a mixture of coarse sea salt and fine salt. After rinsing, they would dry them and season them with lots of savoury and pepper. Then they would pass the meat through a thickish piece of pork intestine, close it with twine top and bottom and dunk each piece once more in brine made from sea water. Finally they would hang them in an airy spot and let the winds of Mykonos dry the meat.
Up until the late 1990s, the local farmers would do the job themselves and from each pig they would get two louzes (the contrafillet) and two noumboula (thinner pieces, called psaronefri in Greek). They would keep one of each for their own use (one inevitably destined as thanks for some favour, usually to their representative in parliament) and the rest they’d put on the market. Being so few, it was difficult for a non-local to sample a louza, since all in all the island’s pigs numbered no more than five hundred.
Louza became a much sought-after though rare delicacy in the last decade of the 20th century. Gastro journalists and by extension the public discovered the product and it has remained in fashion. The Pig-Slaughters of Mykonos, the Taste of Sacrifice, a book written by island native Dimitris Rousounelos, had much to do with its popularity. By now the professional butchers of Mykonos have taken matters into their own hands and are making louza in larger quantities. They have set up preparation units and, using meat from other island, they have increased production while retaining the basic processing principles.
The three main butcher shops/louza producers – Madoupas, Menagias and Markaras – agree that demand is way up and every year they strive to meet it.