Chorizo is that wonderfully tasty sausage to be found and enjoyed all over Spain. There are many different ones, each Spanish family having its own particular favorite but, basically, they fall into two different types... fresh chorizo, which will need cooking before you eat it, and cured chorizo, which you can slice and consume just as it is.
Chorizo sausages are normally a strong, orangey-red color. This is because of the paprika or pimentón they contain - a main ingredient of chorizo sausages.
Paprika comes in two different types - "picante" or spicy, and "dulce" or sweet. Depending on the type of paprika used to make the sausage, the resulting chorizo will be either a spicy or sweet variety.
But, how is chorizo made, and what are its origins?...
How To Make Chorizo
Going back, more Spanish families lived in the country. More-often-than-not, they'd have a little plot of land, where they'd grow their own vegetables, keep some chickens... and fatten a pig.
The beauty of keeping a pig was that it could be cheaply fed from kitchen leftovers and, once killed, nearly every part could be used, with practically no waste. When November arrived, and the pig was nice and fat, the family would gather together - each having their own particular role to play - and kill the pig.
In Spanish, this slaughtering of the pig is known as the "matanza", and is still very much celebrated in Spanish villages to-day, with fun-loving fiestas, free-flowing wine, and much rejoicing.
Why did the "matanza" traditionally take place in November? Well, the weather was cooler then, with less chance of the meat going off. Also, it meant that village people were well-stocked up for the winter. This was particularly important as - even to-day - more-isolated villages in mountainous areas are completely cut off for a spell during winter when heavy snows have fallen.
Going back, each family would kill its own pig. This was no easy task, as getting a big, fat pig settled, ready for the knife, is quite hard work!
The pig was killed by stabbing it in the neck. This also released the blood, which the ladies of the family would catch in a bowl. Care had to be taken to ensure the blood didn't clot, for this was needed for mixing with rice and spices to make "morcilla" or black pudding.
It was also the task of the females to make the chorizo sausages. For this, they would take the pig's intestine, empty it, clean it, and then leave it to soak in salt water, to remove any unpleasant odors.
Once ready, the intestine would be filled with a mixture of finely-chopped pork, paprika, garlic and salt, and the end tied in a knot. Originally, the chopping of the meat and the procedure of squeezing it into the intestine was all done manually. Nowadays, however, there's a machine to help with this.
Once filled and securely tied, the chorizo sausage was ready for hanging. It would be left to cure in a well-ventilated place, probably for at least 3 months.
Nowadays, the pig is killed in the local abattoir, under strict, hygienic conditions. A vet will test the meat and, once it's been approved, the owner of the pig will collect it, take it home, and carry on with preparing it.
And now, for those of you with a pig roaming around in your garden, which you plan to slaughter in November, here's a basic recipe for making your very own, tasty, chorizo sausage!...
- 1 kilo pork
- 40 gr paprika - sweet or spicy, according to taste
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and crushed
- 20 gr salt
- 50 cm pig's intestine
- A little water
1. Chop up the pork fairly finely.
2. Mix in the paprika, garlic, and salt.
3. If necessary, use a little water to facilitate mixing.
4. Cover with cling film.
5. Leave in fridge 24-48 hours.
6. Fill intestine with the mixture, leaving a few centimetres of intestine free at one end.
7. Tie a knot in the end of the intestine.
8. Leave to hang in a well-ventilated place, normally for 3 months plus.
Well, I do hope all this talk of killing pigs and filling intestines won't put you off enjoying all those delicious chorizo sausages you'll find in Spain!