Caldo Gallego (Traditional Galician Broth)

Caldo Gallego is one of the quintessential dishes of Galicia (northwest tip of Spain) consisting of a broth made with all sorts of meats and leafy greens. It is a proper winter warmer and packed with nutrients!

It is so popular that, as with many traditional dishes in Spain, it has left its mark in the Collection of Traditional Proverbs, Sayings and Folk Music. Here are a few examples in the Galician language:

“A quen caldo non quera, cunca chea.” (Whoever doesn’t want caldo, gets a bowlful). This is used when one bad thing happens after another.

“Miña sogra morreu onte, deixoume o pote a ferver, deixame comer o caldo, que eu tamen eu de morrer.”(Yesterday my mother-in-law died, and left a pot boiling away. Let me eat the caldo, because I too will die someday).

“Se queres ter ao teu home gordiño dispois do caldo dalle un gotiño sempre que sexa de viño.” (If you want your man to be nice and fat, give him a drop after caldo; as long as it’s wine).

There are a few ingredients which are key to this recipe and unfortunately are not easily found if there isn’t a large Galician community where you live. These ingredients are unto and grelos.

Unto is a layer of pig fat which is rolled, salted and cured. It is very potent and therefore you only need a small amount. You can make caldo without it BUT in my eyes it will no longer be authentic caldo gallego.

unto

Grelos are a leafy green from the turnip family.  They are also so important that they also have proverbs about them, such as:

“Do nabo sal a nabiza, da nabiza sal o grelo, son tres persoas distintas, e un solo Dios verdadeiro.” (Nabizas come from a turnip, grelos comes from the nabiza, they are 3 distinct things, but one true God).

“Nabo, nabiza e grelo, trindade do galego.” (Turnip, nabiza and grelo: the Galician holy trinity).

If you can’t find grelos you can substitute them for nabizas (which if you can’t find grelos, you probably won’t find nabizas either), collard greens or cabbage. Personally, I only ever make it with grelos and detest the cabbage version even though it is also quite popular in some Galician towns.

Caldo Gallego, like many broths and stews, is best eaten the day after it is made. This is even reflected in another Galician saying:

“O caldo, ben cocido e ben repousado.”(Caldo: well boiled and well rested).

Anyways, enough talk and more action.

Before making caldo gallego there are a few steps which you may need to do in advance. The first is to blanch the grelos to get rid of its bitterness. The second is to make carne salada (salted meat). If you are lucky enough to find carne salada in your area, you don’t have to bother but in the part of Spain where I live it isn’t very traditional so is quite hard to track down. And lastly, you need to soak the dried beans in cold water overnight.

How to prepare grelos:

1 Cut off the root end of the grelos. Roughly chop the grelos and add to a large stockpot with water.

2 Wash the grelos by rubbing them together in the water. Rinse thoroughly.

3 In a large stock pot add grelos and top up with cold water. Once it comes to a rolling boil, drain and rinse with cold water.

4 At this stage you can either pack into freezer bags and freeze or use directly in the recipe.

Preparing grelos

How to prepare carne salada (salted meat), if using:

500g pork loin/pork shoulder

3 handfuls coarse salt

Coat the pork loin/shoulder in salt and leave in a covered container in the fridge for at least 3 days. It can keep for at least 2 weeks as the salt acts a preservative. After a few days, the meat will release water; it’s best to remove this water from the container.

Preparing carne salada

How to prepare dried white beans

Soak dried white beans in plenty cold water and leave to soak overnight on a countertop.

After time has elapsed, wash in cold water and rinse.

DSC05647_Fotor

Ingredients

Plenty cold water

3cm unto

6 cooking chorizos

500g carne salada, prepared in advance

½ rack of pork ribs

500g beef chuck

2 pigs ears (optional), washed and whole

2 pig tails (optional), washed and whole

2 slices Spanish cured ham bone (optional)

3 handfuls dried broad beans, soaked overnight in cold water

4 large potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced medium-thick

1 large potato, thinly sliced

3 bunches grelos, prepared in advance (defrosted if frozen)

Salt, if necessary

Method

Fill a large stock pot with cold water and add unto, carne salada, pork ribs, beef chuck, pigs ears, pigs tails, Spanish cured ham bone and soaked beans. Cook on high.

N.B. You can add the chorizos at this stage but depending on the type of chorizo you use it may ruin the characteristic white colour of the liquid. I prefer to boil the chorizos in a separate saucepan towards the final 30 minutes of cooking all the other meats.

When the water comes to boil, skim the froth with a slotted spoon. Then add 1 glass of cold water. My mum says that this is so that the beans are “shocked” and will therefore cook better (gotta love the old wives tales). Lower the heat to medium and leave for 1 hour 15/30 minutes.

Caldo Gallego 1

When the time has elapsed and the meat is cooked remove it from the broth and leave it to rest on a serving dish.

Caldo Gallego 2

Add the thinly sliced potatoes (these will disintegrate and help to thicken the broth) and the medium thick potatoes. When the potatoes are nearly cooked (10-15 minutes) add the grelos. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Season with salt if needed; normally the salt that is released from the carne salada, ham bones and chorizos is more than enough.

Caldo Gallego 3

To serve: ladle the broth into bowls (traditionally in cuncas which are earthenware bowls) and serve alongside the dish with all the meats. You can eat the broth and meats separately or add the meat into the bowl; I prefer the latter, but each to his own.

Caldo Gallego 4

As they say in the Galician language: “Xa vai sendo hora de xantar, bo proveito.” (It’s about time to eat, bon appetite)

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4 thoughts on “Caldo Gallego (Traditional Galician Broth)

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your Caldo Gallego recipe. After searching for years, this is the only recipe that comes close to the one my mother’s family used to make. I have been craving it lately and when I make it, I am going to use your recipe! One question – do you know if there is an online source for the Untos?

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    • Before starting this blog I researched recipes for Caldo Gallego and never found anything close to my family’s recipe so I am glad after your own search I have been of help to you. I’m afraid I don’t know of any online source where you could get unto but I suppose any respectable Galician food importer should stock it. Bo proveito!

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  2. Hello, just an honest question, grelos are not the same as turnip greens or are they the same?
    im confused! I had this caldo when walking el camino, its delicious! and I would like to make my own…
    GRACIAS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grelos are indeed turnip greens but probably not as you know them; it all depends on the time when they are harvested. Nabizas are the turnip greens that are harvested first and then the grelos are harvested just before the plant starts to flower. This harvest, however, is cultural too so where you live they might not harvest them in the same way and therefore the turnip greens you may be familiar with will be quite different. Also, there are many different varieties of turnips…

      Honestly, it’s going to be hard to track grelos down if there isn’t a large Galician community in your area but you can try substituting with other greens such as collard greens, kale or cabbage. I’m sure whatever green you choose, the caldo will turn out delicious and transport you back to my land.

      Hope you had un buen camino!

      Like

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