For a taste of the real Cyprus, you should try a glass of wine or perhaps the fiery spirit zivania accompanied by one or more of the island’s wide range of preserved meat delicacies.
These include spicy sausages or loukanika, lountza, apochti, zalatina, posyrti, tsamarella and hiromeri. The last of these, hiromeri, is made from smoked pork leg matured in salt and red wine. Its production is a complicated procedure and can take several months but it then has a long shelf life, an important factor when there was no refrigeration in Cyprus. It has a strong taste and is used by locals as a snack with drinks or as part of a meze. Hiromeri is specifically produced in the village of Potamitissa, Pitsilia, an area renowned for high-quality preserved meat products. In the past, every village family would keep a pig so that they could make their various pork meat products for the entire year.
The animal was fed with barley and acorns and other plants found in rural areas. Slaughtering took place between Christmas and Theofania (Epiphany) on January 6, and was a big event. Relatives and friends would meet early in the morning in the house of the host and help with the procedure. The same night they all met for dinner and ate pies with epsima (concentrated grape juice) and an array of local meze (afelia, liver etc). Often, the banquet was a reason to celebrate the marriage of a young couple. The following days, preparation of various meat products would begin.
To make hiromeri, you need pork leg, thick salt and red wine. It is a three to four-month process during which the pork leg, carefully cleaned of excess fat and veins, is matured in red dry wine and salt for 20 to 25 days. Every day it is checked and more wine is added if needed. When it is removed from the wine it is placed in a press for 48 hours then smoked slowly in burning wood three to four times a week for a period of three to four months. After some time of soaking, draining and pressing, it is left to cool in smoke rooms for two months. Like most Cypriot delicacies, hiromeri is highly aromatic. Nowadays not all preserved meat products are homemade. Several state-of-the-art manufacturing units use latest technology, paying great attention to hygiene and safety. The continuous quality control and modernisation of production and packing procedures ensure top-quality products.
But in mountain villages, local people still produce homemade hiromeri for their family and as a treat for relatives and friends.