Chorizo and Other Spanish Sausages

January 2010

Every household in Spain serves at least one or two of the hundreds of varieties of delicious chorizo sausages. Spanish chorizo and sausages, often referred to collectively as embutidos, come in many varieties, thick and thin, plain or smoked, some containing lean meat to be served for tapas, or with more fat to flavor stews and grilled dishes. In general, Spanish chorizo always has less fat and is more finely ground than a Mexican one.

While Mexican chorizo is seasoned with chili peppers and vinegar, Spanish chorizo is made basically with pork, sweet paprika and garlic, and is cured either to a hard sausage consistency, to be sliced and eaten as an appetizer, or to a softer consistency to use in cooking.

Many of the chorizos are deep red in color because they contain pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika). Not only does pimentón lend color and seasoning, but its oils make the chorizo last longer without refrigeration. Remember, until recently, refrigeration was not generally available.

Depending on the use of the finished product, lean and fat pork is chopped up in varying proportions. Garlic, salt, herbs and other seasonings are then added, perhaps with a little white wine to speed the natural fermentation process. It then rests for two days. This curing gives chorizo its typical slightly acidic taste. The cured and seasoned meat is stuffed into skins using a sausage machine. Finally, they are then tied and hung up to dry. In the wetter climate of northern Spain, they are sometimes pre-smoked for further preservation.

Other related 'embutidos' are salchichón and lomo embuchado. The lomo is an air-dried loin of pork. All the fat is removed from the meat, and then it is marinated in a mixture of seasonings similar to the chorizo. The marinated loin is stuffed in a beef casing and slightly smoked, or else it is air-dried for three to four months so that it will retain its tenderness. Together with jamón it is the highest expression of Spanish curing art.

Salchichón is similar to the Italian salami. It differs from most chorizos in that it contains no paprika, but does have cracked black pepper. The salchichón from Catalonia contains wine for added flavor.

Related Articles