Spanish Chorizo

by Ainhoa Barrio - 29 November 2013

spanish-chorizoSpanish Chorizo is a cold meat sausage that originated in Spain and has also spread to other Latin American countries in different variations.

Chorizo is the most traditional sausage in Spain. It is made up of chopped pork meat and pork fat and then paprika, either sweet or spicy, is used in the mixture to give it that rich red colour and wonderful smoky flavour. Other ingredients used in Spanish chorizo are garlic, olive oil, wine, salt and perhaps oregano or other spices.

There are many different varieties of chorizos in Spain. The cured dried chorizos can be eaten cold but the fresh sausages need to be cooked before eating.

Chorizo Riojano is one of the most famous varieties. It used to be left to cure in the hills of the region of La Rioja due to its excellent climatic conditions for the maturing process. Now the procedure takes place in chambers where temperature and humidity can be controlled. This type of chorizo has been granted the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certificate from the European Union.

Other famous chorizos come from Salamanca and Avila. These are made with meat and fat from the Iberian pig as opposed to the white pig commonly used for the other types of Spanish sausages. It is slightly less fatty than other chorizos since it is made up of 80% meat and 20% fat. It has a very rich red colour and it takes between 3 to 4 months to mature. These are by far some of the best quality chorizos in Spain.

fabada-asturiana

Chorizos in Asturias are usually smoked and the ones from Pamplona are thicker and use finely chopped meat, which makes it ideal as sandwich filler.

Depending on the type of chorizo, it will be cased and presented in different shapes. Some are thick and short, others thin and long and the famous horseshoe shape that is usually kept hanging from ceilings to ensure optimal ventilation. In 2010 the town of Puertollano managed to beat the existing Guinness Record for the longest chorizo in the world with a sausage that was 1018m in length and contained 750kg of meat. It is a pity that only a few months later, Mexico and then Colombia, beat their record with a 1850m chorizo!

In the tapas culture, Spanish chorizo is regarded as a versatile and popular ingredient. It can be served on its own, cut into thin slices and spread to fill up the plate; or it can be served on top of a slice of bread, fried or simply cured, with secondary ingredients to bring up the flavours. Chorizo a la Sidra is slow cooked in cider and usually served in the same clay pot where it was cooked. This dish is very rich with strong flavours and it is best accompanied with a little bit of bread.

Chorizo also adds incredible flavours to stews and it is used differently across the Spanish territory. The famous Cocido Madrileño is a chickpea stew with carrots and potatoes that uses a chunk of beef and a piece of chorizo to slowly cook and flavour the stew. The rich Fabada Asturiana uses white beans and a piece of the pork fat as well as chorizo to enliven the stew.

And then there is the thick lentil soup or stew, famous throughout the peninsula, which has many variations. Some people cook it with a piece of beef, other prefer to use ham or just a bone, but nobody makes a lentil stew without a juicy piece of Spanish chorizo.

One of the favourite dishes for Spanish children is Macarrones con chorizo. It is a very simple dish that adds chorizo to the home made tomato sauce and it's poured over freshly boiled macaroni. You simply cannot go wrong with that.

During festivities and street events it is very common to have a whole chorizo, either fried or barbecued, in a crusty bread roll; simple, filling, easy to eat and delicious!

Ainhoa Barrio is a Spanish food, drink and culture writer who lives in Barcelona.

Top photo by FotoosVanRobin

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