Nick tell me about…Chorizo
If you have a passion for good, authentic Spanish food, you’re probably already a lover of chorizo. It is one of Spain’s most popular products and can be incorporated into a variety of different meals, from stews to pasta, or is equally delicious on its own.
What makes Chorizo a unique product?
There is no big secret behind the best Spanish chorizo, just a few high-quality ingredients, combined with passion and time. Chorizo is a cured sausage consisting of minced pork meat and fat, garlic, salt and Spanish paprika or pimentón; the paprika gives chorizo its reddish colour. All these ingredients are mixed up, stuffed into either natural or artificial casings and then left to air-dry for several months.
What makes Chorizo unique is the quality of the raw materials; the lean pork meat from the shoulder of carefully reared pigs, good fat and authentic PGI Pimentón de la Vera from Extremadura.
There are many different types of Chorizo, but many of the traditions that go into making it remain the same. Historically, products resulting from pig slaughtering were bound for family consumption only and were preserved using natural methods: smoking, salting, and air-drying. Each family of farmers had its own favourite chorizo seasoning that was handed down from one generation to another. Pig slaughtering is a long-held ritual. It’s still one of the most popular gastronomic and festive traditions in many Spanish rural areas.
Over time, chorizo has been made from other meats, i.e. wild boar, horse and deer, but the real authentic Spanish chorizo is made exclusively from pork meat.
What are the different types of Chorizo?
In Spain, the variety of chorizo is enormous; the choices include: fresh, cured, iberico, smoked, spicy and sweet. There’s something to suit all tastebuds.
Many Spanish regions boast about making the best chorizo, some of them are particularly famous:
- Chorizo de León: a smoked chorizo made from white pigs. Its colour is dark red, and its aromas are influenced by the particularly cold local weather. There is both a sweet and a spicy variety.
- Chorizo Riojano: one of the most iconic artisan products of La Rioja. It was awarded the PGI status in 2008. It’s made with 100% natural ingredients: superior quality pork meat, fresh garlic, salt and Pimenton de la Vera. It’s frequently used to enrich stews, such as Patatas a la Riojana. It has a typical horseshoe shape.
- Chorizo de Cantimpalos: produced in the small village of Cantimpalos, a few km. north of Salamanca. Its PGI status requires artisan producers to stick to the strict norms with regards to genetics of the pigs and their feeding. One of the secrets of this chorizo is that it’s left to air-dry in natural cellars that benefit from the breeze of the Sierra de Guadarrama.
- Chorizo de Potes: is typical of Cantabria. It’s smoked over holm oak chips for 25 days. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and thyme. It’s a versatile chorizo, suitable to eat on its own, fried or in stews.
- Chorizo Iberico de Bellota: Made from black iberico pigs, this chorizo bursts with flavour. Since iberico pigs are allowed to roam freely in their natural environment, feasting on acorns and cereals, chorizo made from their meat is flavourful and tasty.
What are the different shapes of Chorizo?
Chorizos have different shapes depending on their curing period, their origin and also the casings used to stuff them. The most common shapes are as follows:
- Sarta: a horseshoe shape with the two ends tied up together so that it can be hung to air-dry.
- Ristra: a string of small chorizos; this kind of chorizo is typically not cured and requires cooking.
- Vela: a thin straight chorizo, diameter typically 3cm to 4cm curing usually 3 months.
- Cular: a straight chorizo but thicker than Vela with curing no less than 4-6 months because of its width.