Chorizo, the Spanish star of sausages, originates from Extremadura but is eaten and enjoyed all over Spain and all over the world. Sausage made from Iberian pork with great flavors, spices and fats.
Today the chorizo that is world famous is red brick in color and comes in different flavors, some spicier than others, some with more or less fat, different quality of fat used, thicker or thinner, plain or smoked… However, before Spanish conquistadores introduces the pepper plant (paprika!) chorizo was a much more pale in color. What chorizo is essentially mixed with is garlic, paprika powder, salt and herbs, sometimes with a dash of white wine too (gives a slightly acidic taste).
Did you know? Chorizo was once known as ‘churico’ or ‘churre’ before becoming and staying named as ‘chorizo’. Churre is Castilian Spanish for “dripping fat” and implies how the sausages are hung up to dry before consuming.
Paprika powder is considered the key ingredient that not only lends in color and seasoning but contains oils that help keep the sausage edible for longer. In Spanish, paprika has been known as ‘pimentón’ since the 1500s, when it became a typical ingredient of the western region of Extremadura.
There are different types of Paprika, dulce (sweet and mild), agridulce (bittersweet and medium hot) and picante (hot) – it all depends on the type of peppers used, whether the seeds are removed and how it is processed.
Town La Vera, in Extremadura, is known for their chilli wood fires where they smoke paprika. Smoked paprika is typically used in paella dishes, giving that deep and woodsy flavor.
Nowadays, a sausage more pale in color is named a ‘salchichón’. It has different consistency and ingredients, naturally. Instead of paprika it has oregano, but it’s just as tasty. Another popular product of a ‘chacinería’ (charcuterie/butcher) is ‘lomo’.
Lomo is a air dried loin of pork which has all the fat removed, marinated and slightly smoked. It is air dried for 3-4 months to retain its tender suppleness. Together with Spanish Jamón (ham), Lomo is considered as the highest expression of the Spanish butcher’s art.
Moreover, the most important and key element to any Spanish sausage and cold meat is the premium quality of the meat. The best quality sausages and cold meats are from the Iberian pig; lomo iberico, chorizo iberico, jamón ibérico…
The Iberian pig is a Spanish gourmet delicacy, a local tapas that all (if not most) Spaniards are grown up to adore. It is as rare as it is expensive, due to the lengthy and costly production process.
Iberian pigs are a semi-domesticated breed which have adjusted best to the Spanish climate, a breed that dates back to the 16th century. Jamón ibérico pigs, that have also become known as pata negra (‘black trotters’) live in Dehesa, located in Extremadura, a forested area plenty or stone oaks and cork trees. These selective (but delicious) pigs mainly live in Extremadura (land of great wines too), but sometimes extend to Castilla (‘Castile’) and Andalucia. In Andalucia, the legendary ham is produced in Jabugo, in Sierra de Aracena (Huelva province).
Jamón ibérico is a deep red color and develops an intensely nutty flavor at room temperature. This is because of the acorns that the pigs are fed, with soft (and delicately savory) fat around the meat that yields smoothly when pressed with the fingers. This type of fat is no means harmful, quite the opposite. It’s scrumptiously good, we assure you.
There is a great art in the cutting of Iberian ham, it’s somewhat a ritual act. Many times in tapas bars and restaurants guests must wait for the chef, or designated ham cutter to do it, for it is not anyone who has the skill to cut this precious meat.
In Extremadura and Castile there are often competitions to find the best meat cutter. We’re telling you, this is serious meat. A ‘jamonera’ is used to cut the ham, a special piece of metal or wooden equipment that you rest the leg on.
When you come to Spain you must go out for tapas. Tapas bar hopping is a very traditional custom. When out for tapas it is not as easy as one might think to “get drunk” as you are constantly filling your belly and absorbing the alcohol. What better than some protein? Tapas can be as simple as a bowl of olives or more hearty, such as slices of Ibérico ham, chorizo, lomo, Queso Manchego (Manchego cheese) or an assortment of it all – in Spanish this is called ‘surtido ibérico’.
Many describe ‘Tapas’ as what Spain is all about. Standing whilst eating and drinking is a foreign concept to many, and loud bars, taverns and restaurants filled with loud people is different and exciting too.
It’s all part of the southern Spanish experience, sharing both food and chatter, with many welcomes from locals and smiles combined.
A very famous tapa is ‘Chorizo a la sidra’, a dish that originates form Asturias, a municipality in the very north of Spain. This chorizo is braised in cider, a cider brewed and produced in the region of Asturias – also famous for its cider pouring technique. Apples have been cultivated in this northwest Spanish region since B.C and this delicious cider is only decanted into green glass (unlabelled) bottles, and drank a pour at a time. ‘Chorizo a la sidra’ pretty much defines the cuisine of the rugged and mountainous Asturias region.
Another chorizo tapas that you cannot give a miss, is the fiery, literally fiery, ‘Chorizo al infierno’. A chorizo flambé in brandy, whisky, brandy, cognac, ron, tequila or some other preference of the restaurant/tapas bar you are at. What it does is beautifully glaze the chorizo on the outside keeping it moist, juicy, spicy and fatty in the inside.
If you would like to give ‘Chorizo a la sidra’ a try at home, here’s a recipe you could try.
Another Spanish delicacy, a milky one, is Queso Manchego, also known as Manchego cheese, click here to read more about it. If you are interested in coming to Spain to enjoy some local delicacies the local way, click here to find a Spanish destination for your trip.