Extra-virgin olive oil
With thousands of olive trees across the island, many of which are hundreds of years old, it’s no great surprise that Mallorca produces a lot of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Due to the terrain where trees grow, many of the olives are harvested by hand and are used to develop two types of oil, one using young green olives, and the other using ripe olives. Long recognised for its high quality, Mallorcan olive oil is always made with Arbequina, Picual, and Mallorquina olives, and is strictly regulated and controlled (with no chemical processing). Always look for the Oli de Mallorca DO label on brands such as Oli Solivellas , Olis Soller and Oli Son Mesquidassa, which indicates you are buying the real thing.
Gin seems to be having its moment the world over, and although the smaller island of Menorca is better known for its gin (Xoriguer being the famous one), Mallorca also produces some excellent varieties. Gin Eva is produced by a German and Spanish couple in Llucmajor and is made in small batches using water from the Sierra Tramuntana, around 20 different botanicals, local citrus fruits, and wild juniper which grows on the sand dunes of Es Trenc beach. Each bottle is labelled with a handwritten number detailing the month and year of production. Dos Perellons, a Mallorcan distillery run by the fourth generation of the family that set it up, now produces two gins, one pink, and one blue. They recommend that these distinctive gins are either mixed with tonic, or Palo, a traditional Mallorcan black liqueur made from the bark of the Quina plant.
When plagues of insects wiped out most of Mallorca’s vineyards in the 1800s, desperate farmers planted almond trees in their place and a new industry was born. These days there are swathes of almond trees on the island, and at the beginning of each year tourists travel to Mallorca to see the blanket of almond blossom that covers the island’s plains. Due to climate and water content, Mallorcan almonds are sweeter than other varieties and are used and sold in many forms, from oils, creams and pastes, to the nuts themselves, plain or roasted and seasoned. Ametlla de Mallorca produce a range of beautifully packaged almond based products which make excellent (and delicious) holiday souvenirs, while local co-operative Camp Mallorquí, sells almonds in more basic form, either whole, ground, chopped, skinned, or toasted. Traditional Mallorcan almond cake is also popular and is sold in cafes and bakeries all over the island.
With an increasing number of wineries on the island, Mallorcan wines are steadily growing in popularity. Mallorca has two regions awarded the Spanish D.O. (Denominación de Origen) – Binissalem and Pla i Llevent – and thanks to their proximity, it’s easy to take a tour, visit several vineyards in a day and sample and buy a range of local wines. There are many local wines to choose from, but for wines with an incredible history, head to Bodega Ribas, the oldest winery on the island, who produce some wines from hand-harvested, premium grapes from ancient, local, Manto-negro vines, while Macià Batle produces more modern wines using grapes from traditional Mallorcan vines.
Sobrassada is a traditional cured and spiced sausage. Not particularly pleasing to the eye, but delicious nonetheless, the colour of the string tied around the sausage indicates its spiciness (red=hot, white=not). Made with ground pork, paprika and other spices, the sausages come in a variety of sizes and you will see huge arrays of them hanging on market stalls and in shops throughout the island. In Palma, the Santa Catalina covered market is a great place to shop for Sobrassada, while elsewhere on the island quaint shops like S’Hort de Cartoixa in Valdemossa are perfect for buying local products.
Feather-light ensaïmada pastries are traditionally a breakfast food but make a delicious and indulgent snack anytime of day, and come as a small individual pastry or in large sharing sizes, presented in distinctive octagonal pizza-style boxes. Swirl-shaped and usually dusted with icing sugar, they are either plain (lisa), topped with apricot or apple, filled with sticky sweet pumpkin threads, or even savoury and stuffed with spicy sobrassada (sausage). Thought to date back to the 17th century, the pastry is traditionally made with pork lard (saïm in Arabic, hence the name), and though sold all over the island, not all bakeries carry the official Indicació Geogràfica Protegida Ensaïmada de Mallorca – a plaque indicating that the pastries are truly authentic.
Thousands of tons of salt are harvested every year from the salt flats in the south east of the island, and some of the salt crusts that form are used to produce gourmet sea salt, with the flor de sal (salt blossoms) being skimmed by hand and then dried in the sun. The salt has a unique texture and high mineral content, and is sold as a health-conscious organic salt, often with added herbs, spices and other natural flavours, by companies such as Llum de Sal, and Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc, who also produce a range of limited edition seasonal salts, using traditional, local products.
Local brand Pep Lemon produce traditional lemonade using the thousands of surplus Mallorcan lemons that the supermarkets reject as misshapen (they also make a similar sparkling orange drink, a cola and some truly fantastic marmalades). Very drinkable in its own right, the lemonade is also particularly good when mixed with local gin to make the Balearic drink known as pomada. Their drinks are very tasty, the branding very hipster, and the ‘no waste’ ethos of this small local company is worth supporting, but sadly they have been taken to task by global giant Pepsi who are trying to force them to change their name. Not giving up lightly, the company has mounted a good-humoured, well supported and admirable campaign to appeal against a court decision.