Most Popular Charcuterie / Sausages (Embutidos) in Spain
Spain is a true kingdom of sausages (embutidos), which emerged as a way of extending the shelf life of meats, but nowadays, beyond a method of preservation, they are a delicious way of consuming pork. These are the most popular:
Chorizo is the most popular pork charcuterie in Spain and is a must in any Spanish kitchen and restaurant.
A sausage to be considered as chorizo needs to be made with garlic and paprika, cured in the open air or smoked, contain minced pork as the main base, and be marinated with spices such as paprika, which gives it its typical red colour.
It comes in dozens of varieties: Smoked, spicy, cured or raw, chorizos are a must in the kitchen and also on the table. Cular from Salamanca, from Pamplona, from Cantimpalos, from El Bierzo, from La Rioja, from Soria, from Aracena, from Ronda, Ibérico from Huelva, from Los Pedroches, from Extremadura, from Teror (Canary Islands)
The recipe is not unique, but what they all have in common is the use of lean pork, pork belly (panceta), and pork jowl, minced and seasoned with salt, garlic, and paprika. They are then stuffed into beef or pork casings and left to air or smoke, depending on the area.
Depending on their intended use, they are cured to a greater or lesser extent. If they are to be consumed in slices, for tapas or sandwiches, they are usually left to dry for three to five months in the case of large pieces such as the famous ‘cular’.
Chorizo is eaten alone with bread, or sliced in a sandwich, grilled, or fried. It is also used as a partial replacement for ground (minced) beef or pork.
Depending on its shape and curation, chorizo could be of these varieties and formats:
- Sarta (horseshoe): A single piece that is tied with a string at the end so that it can be hung up; hence it has a characteristic horseshoe shape. With an intense flavour, this chorizo can be eaten raw, without cooking, since its curing is usually perfect.
- Vela (candle): A straight and not very wide piece – between 3 and 4 cm in diameter – that is usually about 40cm long shaped like a candle, hence its name. It is not usually cooked and is eaten from boards, as tapas, and in sandwiches for example.
- Cular: This term refers to the casing that stuffs the ingredients of chorizos and corresponds to the final part of the pig’s large intestine. In the case of cular sausage, its thickness can vary from 45 to 70 mm and allows the sausage to dry slowly and obtain that characteristic and delicious flavor. The larger size of the sausage requires a curing process different from that of other chorizos and, as a result, these pieces weigh more, between 800 and 1,200 grams. Chorizo cular is typical of the region of Castilla and León, and more especially of the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila.
- Ibérico: It follows the same production method as the white or Duroc pig chorizos, and the raw materials must come from Ibérico pigs (black pigs). It is sold cured and is presented in slices, shaped like a candle or a horseshoe.
- Sliced: Easy to buy because the different types of white, Duroc, or Ibérico pork chorizo are available pre-sliced. It is usually made from a vela, cular, or another chorizo created in a similar way in order to be sliced thicker with a larger diameter. This sliced chorizo has a good amount of curing too.
- Oreado: Small in size, well cured, and with an unmatched intense colour, it is perfect to use when cooking; although it is easy to cut, it can also be added whole to stews as it adds a very special texture and touch to what we are cooking.
- Fresco (fresh): Chorizo on a string. It is made from a gut and then tied off by dividing it with a string, forming a row of smaller sausages. Generally, this type of chorizo is ideal for grilling and barbecuing because when eaten raw it is very soft and oily.
The most famous salchichón is probably the one from the Catalan town of Vic, made with white pork, although in recent years it has gained ground with Ibérico pork (black pig). Whatever the breed of pig, salchichón is made from the best cuts of pork: lean pork, pork belly and pork bacon. They are finely chopped and seasoned with ground white pepper, black peppercorns and salt. Once well kneaded, the mixture is left to stand for a couple of days in the cold. It is then stuffed into ‘cular’ or ‘vela’ casings (natural for the higher category) and left for two days in a room with a high level of humidity and a medium temperature to achieve the optimum texture.
It is then hung in the drying sheds until the ‘flor’, the mould that covers the casing, appears. Curing by natural means takes up to one year. Salchichón de Salamanca, made from Ibérico pork, is more like a chorizo without paprika, as its seasoning usually includes nutmeg, garlic, oregano and, in some cases, wine, in addition to pepper.
It is a typical Catalan sausage, known by other names depending on the area of production: ‘somaia’, ‘espetec’, ‘secallona’. To prepare it, a mince is made from lean pork and debarked pork belly, seasoned with salt, ground white pepper, other species, and sugar. It is left to macerate for a day, stuffed, and dried for 15 days until it acquires the right texture.
It is stuffed into a thin pork casing with a caliber of 34-36 mm. It is similar to the salami-type sausage known as salchichón, although it is smaller in diameter, and never more than 40 mm.
Due to the mold or “bloom” that forms during the production process, the outside has a whitish color. It is sold in lengths of about 30-40 cm and with a diameter of 3 cm. It may have different flavors depending on the type of spices that have been used and the process of fermentation it has undergone.
4. Lomo (pork loin)
This sausage is obtained from the loins of Ibérico acorn-fed pigs and compete in quality and reputation with the best reserve Ibérico hams. The loins are selected with little fat and are coated in smoked ‘pimentón de la Vera’ paprika and salt. Depending on the area, garlic, oregano, and other spices may be added.
They are left to macerate for two to four days and are then transferred to drying sheds to cure for three months, well ventilated. In some areas, they are previously smoked for a couple of days with holm oak or oak wood. The resulting pieces are about 40-75 cm long, not very thick, firm and aromatic, and are eaten in thin slices.
The production areas coincide with those of Ibérico hams: Salamanca, Extremadura, Huelva, Cordoba and Seville. White pork loins are also produced following the same process, and those from Teruel, a ham-producing area, are very famous.
The white marbling is one of its distinctive features. In Extremadura, it is common to use pimentón from La Vera, garlic, oregano, nutmeg, cloves, olive oil, white wine, and sugar for the marinade. The name caña (meaning ‘tube’) is due to its straight, elongated shape. It is presented in the form of a cylinder, slightly flattened and with a lengthwise cleft. When sliced it reveals a fine white marbling, evenly distributed throughout the meat, the result of the amalgamation of fat during the curing period.
5. Chistorra (txistorra)
This fresh sausage, with its intense flavor and reddish color, is extremely popular in Navarre and Basque Country regions in the north of Spain, and also in some parts of Aragon. It is made with a mixture of pork and beef. Pork belly and bacon from white or black pork (also called ‘euskal txerri’), a breed native to Navarre and Esukadi, 50%, reinforced with beef to make a compact mass which is seasoned with the usual paprika (smoked or not), a good proportion of garlic and salt.
It is macerated for 48 hours and stuffed into fine intestine casings (almost always artificial). A month in the air is enough to cure it.
It is usually eaten grilled, fried, or barbecued.
Sobrasada’s origins lie in the ancient practice of storing cured meat in intestines (modern-day cured sausage). This was introduced to Spain by the Romans – but sobrasada is first mentioned in a letter between Mediterranean Kings in 1403.
It is the most famous sausage in the Balearic Islands, especially from Mallorca, although it is not the only one in Spain. Mallorcan sobrasada is the most renowned owing to the black pig that produces a more flavorful, unctuous version versus its counterparts. It is protected by a Denomination of Origin (DOP) and the regulatory council ensures that the ingredients and production method are the traditional ones. It can be found on the three main islands (Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca) and all three have variations in the seasoning and the mincing of the meat. It is made with lean pork, pork belly, and bacon.
The minced meat is seasoned with unsmoked sweet red paprika (tap de curtí is indigenous to the islands), black pepper and salt. The proportion between the pieces and the minced meat gives the characteristic creamy texture. It is stuffed into large intestine casings and left to air at room temperature for a month and a half. Ideally, it is kept for six months to mature, but it can even take years for large pieces that are refined over time.
It can be eaten raw on the famous ‘quelitas’ (crispy bread cubes), grilled with honey or cheese and as a ‘secret’ ingredient in almost all island stews.
The most popular morcilla is the type made in Burgos (Castile and Leon), but it is not the only type in Spain. The distinguishing ingredient of a morcilla is the pork blood to which rice is added, in the case of Burgos and other Castilian localities. Morcilla without rice is more common in the north of Spain, for example in Asturias and Leon. Another feature that distinguishes them from each other is the way they are cured: on the Cantabrian coast they are smoked, whereas on Castilla they are not.
Burgos morcilla and almost all morcillas that contain rice are seasoned with lard and paprika, pepper, oregano and other spices (each locality has its own recipe). The rice can be raw or semi-cooked. It is usually eaten fried, grilled, or grilled, but it can also be found in some stews.
The morcilla of onion, also quite popular in Spain, although it is also eaten fried, is more commonly found in stews such as fabada or tripe.
The famous fabada asturiana (Asturian fabada / stew) or the Madrid-style callos (pork tripe) are cooked with Asturian morcilla: onion and smoked.
In Galicia and other places, nuts are added to morcilla, such as walnuts and pine nuts.
A family of sausages that extends throughout the ancient kingdom of Aragon (an area characterised by its excellent sausage), from the Pyrenees to Valencia and the Balearic Islands, with a multitude of variations in Catalonia. One of the most famous butifarra sausages is the one of La Garriga, a region of Barcelona, where the white butifarra sausage is also popular in Lleida and other areas.
It is prepared using lean pork and white pork jowls, and sometimes some offal (lung and stomach). It is seasoned briefly with white pepper and ground salt. The mixture is cooked for half an hour, stuffed into casings, and shaped into a horseshoe shape. It is cooled suddenly so that the fat solidifies. It is left to dry and is eaten raw, cut into thin slices. Other varieties are eaten grilled or cooked in stews.
Other very popular butifarra sausages are black sausage, which incorporates pig’s blood; ‘perol’ sausage, typical of the Empordà region of Catalonia, which uses offal and second-rate meat and can be eaten raw or as part of a stew; egg sausage, typical of Jewish communities, which does not contain blood, etc.
A derivative of ‘butifarra’ is ‘blanqueta’ or ‘blanquet’, typical of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, which is usually prepared with the lean meat and fat from the pig’s head, seasoned with white pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and common salt.
This name is used to refer to different types of sausage throughout Spain. It differs from chorizo and salchichón in the way it is stuffed, as a thinner casing is used, and in the seasoning ingredients, generally without paprika.
The lean pork with some bacon is passed through a grinder and seasoned with white and black pepper, salt, garlic, and other seasonings: cloves, aniseed, cinnamon, nutmeg, depending on the region. The dough is macerated for a couple of days and then put into thin, elongated casings which give it its characteristic shape, many of which are closed in the shape of a horseshoe. It is left to air-dry for a few days if it is to be eaten fresh and continues to cure for up to a month if it is to be eaten raw.
Those from La Garrotxa and Ripollés in Catalonia are dark and spicy, while in Aragon there is a variety with lamb meat. In Castilla regions, they are made with Ibérico pork: a product similar to salchichón but with a different texture due to the thinness of the casing.
This is a famous sausage from El Bierzo, typical of Leon province in Castille and Leon. On its own, it constitutes a full dish: the most popular stew in the kingdom of Leon. It is a charcuterie made from the remains of second-class meat which is not used in other sausages: tail, ribs, jaws, etc., with their corresponding meat parts and fats.
They are cut into small pieces and seasoned with sweet and spicy ‘pimentón de la Vera’ (Leon is the largest consumer of ‘pimentón de La Vera’), oregano, and garlic. Water is added to bind the seasonings and it is left to macerate in a cool, dry place. It is then stuffed into a fat casing, closed at the ends, and cured in smoke for a week. It is then transferred to special drying sheds where it is kept for a month. It is eaten cooked with potatoes and vegetables.
11. Morcón Ibérico
The morcón has a reddish tone almost identical to that of chorizo; it is made with pork and cured and dried naturally, just like the best acorn-fed Ibérico chorizos; it is marinated with a touch of garlic and paprika, also similar to that of chorizo.
The size of the morcón of acorn-fed ibérico pigs is very different from the chorizo, bigger and thicker, and it is important to have a good knife with a large blade for a good cut. For this reason, and also because the meat is softer, juicier, you could almost say that it falls apart at times. Perhaps also because the Iberian bacon added to the dressing influences its juiciness, which is noticeable from the first bite. The drying time also differentiates it, in this case never less than 5 months. And finally, because the casing used to stuff it is also different, thinner in the case of chorizo and thicker in the case of morcón.
OTHER REGIONAL SPANISH EMBUTIDOS
Typical of Asturias, Chosco is made with pieces of pork loin and tongue marinated in garlic and paprika and stuffed into a large intestine. The best-known version of this speciality is chosco de Tineo (picture above), but Llosco de la montaña Leonesa, from Leon, is very similar.
Chourizo Ceboleiro is composed of second-rate meat, a little fat and previously blanched onion are the basis of this specialty from central Galicia, especially popular in Lalín (Pontevedra), according to some, the world capital of cocido (stew). There are similar versions in the province of Ourense in which the onion is replaced by cooked pumpkin.
Longaniza de Graus
Original from Aragon, it is traditionally made with the best quality lean meat, which must make up at least 70% of the weight of the product. It does not include paprika and is seasoned with cloves, nutmeg, oregano, and sometimes also with wine. Although it is highly appreciated raw, as a tapa, it is also frequently used as an ingredient in some local recipes.
This Catalan sausage belongs to the dry or matured sausage family and differs from ‘fuet’ in that it is less moist and does not usually have white mould on the outside. It is made from lean pork, bacon, salt, and pepper and is left to dry naturally for at least 10 days.
It is very popular in the Valencian Community, but also in the regions of Murcia and Albacete. It belongs to the cooked sausage family and is made with lean pork, eggs, and spices (usually cloves and cinnamon) to which, on occasions, pine nuts are also added.
Typical of Murcia region, the ‘chiquillo’ is a sausage that is nowadays made from both white pigs and Murcian Chato. It is made from concentric layers of the animal’s skin which are intensely seasoned with oregano, black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon before being cooked.
It is particularly popular in the province of Salamanca, especially in Ciudad Rodrigo, where it is also known as fariñón, but can also be found in areas of Zamora and southern Leon. Farinato is made with lard, flour and/or breadcrumbs, paprika, brandy, garlic, onion, salt, and sometimes olive oil and cumin. It is usually eaten fried with fried eggs.
This sausage from Cantabria, which can also be found in the mountains of Palencia and eastern Asturias, is made from pig’s blood, onion, lard, pepper, cumin, and wheat and maize flour, which is used to make a dough that is stuffed into a large intestine. It is usually served fried with potatoes, although it is sometimes sprinkled with sugar.
Sabadeño / Sabadiego
This family of offal sausages is very popular throughout the Iberian Peninsula, although the best known of them all are probably the ‘sabadiego’ from eastern Asturias and the ‘sabadeños’ from Castile. They are sausages that arise from the need to make use of second-quality cuts and offal and which in other areas are known as chanfainas (north of Lugo), birika (Navarre), chorizos de livianos and a long etcetera.
Perro de Requena
From Valencia, Requena’s most characteristic sausage is made with around 80% pork belly and 20% lean meat, finely chopped, to which blood, garlic, pepper, paprika, and sometimes other ingredients such as rinds or even liqueurs are added. It is a sausage that is eaten raw with a very pleasant taste in the mouth, the colour is dark but the flavour is reminiscent of morcilla with a touch of cinnamon and cloves.
Salchichón Imperial de Bolaños
Made in Ciudad Real (Castilla-La Mancha), this sausage is traditionally made in candles (large pieces) from lean pork, bacon, black pepper, nutmeg, and brandy and is typical of the town of Bolaños de Calatrava, although very similar sausages are made in Almagro and other towns in La Mancha. It is usually eaten as a tapa or in sandwiches.
Salchichas de Zaratán
Original of Valladolid (Castile and Leon), these are fresh sausages made from chopped lean pork with a small proportion of bacon to which paprika, garlic, oregano, and salt are added before being kneaded and left to rest for 24 hours. Once stuffed into a small intestine, the sausages are eaten roasted, fried, or grilled alone or with fried eggs and potatoes.
Patatera (Morcilla Patatera)
One of the many varieties of morcilla with which the Extremadura region has always known how to make the most of a virtue: pork fat, potato, and some seasoning are capable of boosting the flavor – fat is a magical conveyor of flavors and aromas – to unsuspected heights. It could be spicy, with paprika or not.
From Sierra de Huelva (Andalusia), This preparation, based on cured pork, juicier, and with more fat infiltrated than loin, is one of the least known and at the same time most interesting specialties of the sausage-making regions of western Andalusia.
Chicharrón de Cádiz
Chicharrón is a type of cold meat typical of Cádiz and Andalusia in general that is prepared by grinding different parts of the Iberian pig (including fatty parts), seasoned with various spices, and finally pressed for consumption. Do not confuse ‘chicharrones de Cádiz’ with what other regions or countries call ‘chicharrones’ (fried or boiled products, also derived from pork).