It’s Christmas Market Night in Madeira.
Madeira is the small Portuguese island with a size inversely proportional to the number of traditions and festivities, especially during Christmas and New Year. The land of Madeira wine and “espetada” embraces Christmas traditions always in good spirits with plenty of food, traditional drinks and joyful people. On the 23 of December, the city of Funchal lit by the colourful and artistic Christmas illuminations welcomes thousands of Madeirans and tourists in one of the longest nights of the year.
The Lavradores Market and neighbouring streets (closed to traffic) are filled with wicker baskets bursting with regional fruits, vegetables, flowers and, sweets forming multi-coloured and aromatic displays. The bars in the city centre and shops are open all night long for some last minute shopping. By tradition Madeirans buy their fresh fruit and vegetables on this day, directly from farmers that arrive from all over the island in trucks filled with natural healthy goods – food could not be any fresher!
In the evening, crowds of people stroll through the city, visiting numerous nativities in display all over the city and roaming towards the market. The main street leading to the market is now occupied by pop-up wooden chalets selling traditional drinks to the thousands passers-by. Once people reach the market it’s time to eat the traditional sandes de carne vinha d’alhos (Pork meat in wine and garlic sandwich) to balance some of the alcohol consumed already.
From 11 o’clock to midnight carols are sung by a local choir, with many familiar faces. After the choir, the party will carry on all night long, in a contagious buzz that transmits the true spirit of the festivity.
For a Madeiran Christmas festivities start with the Christmas Market Night and this is a synonym of Pork meat in wine and garlic sandwich, Poncha, singing and dancing all night long.
Spreading a little of the Madeiran Christmas spirit I now leave you with the “Carne Vinha d’alhos” recipe.
Happy Festivities, Madeiran style
- 1 large boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5 cm chunks
- white wine, 2 cups
- wine vinegar, 1⁄2 cup
- water, 1⁄2 cup
- 2 large bay leaves grossly chopped
- 1⁄2 cup salt
- 8 large garlic cloves, not peeled (washed), crushed and grossly chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄2 teaspoon of red dried chilies (seeds)
- 1 -2 loaf French bread, sliced 2,5 cm thick
- Cut the meat into 5cm chunks, leaving fat and rind
- Combine the pork, wine, vinegar, water, garlic, oregano, bay leaves and salt in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for one day
- In a deep pan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and let it warm. With a skimmer remove the meat (reserve the marinade) and add it to the warm olive oil, let it fry turning occasionally until golden brown
- Add the marinate and let it simmer, evaporating the exceeding water and wine and producing a thicker and reduced sauce (be careful not to dry and burn)
- Moisten the slices of bread by dipping each side quickly into the hot sauce (be careful not to get soggy) place the meat between the bread slices, and voila… Pork meat in wine and garlic sandwich
- Last year more than 2 tons of meat were prepared and sold during the Christmas Market Night