Spanish 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 added to the mixture to give it that rich red colour and wonderful smoky flavour. Other ingredients used in Spanish chorizo include garlic, olive oil, wine, salt and 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 was traditionally left to cure in the hills of La Rioja where the climatic conditions are perfect 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 some of the best quality chorizos in Spain.
Chorizos in Asturias are usually smoked and the ones from Pamplona are thicker and use finely chopped meat, which makes them ideal as sandwich filler.
Depending on the type of chorizo, it will presented in different shapes. Some are thick and short, others thin and long, while some are presented in the famous horseshoe shape that makes them easy to hang from ceilings for 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. Unfortunately, just a few months later, 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 flavour to stews and it is used in different ways across the Spanish territory. The famous Cocido Madrileño is a chick pea 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!
Words by Ainhoa Barrio.
Ainhoa is writer and film producer from Barcelona.