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Spanish Chorizo – The Beginning

In Fermented sausage,Making salami,Salami on February 13, 2011 by fred

Spanish Chorizo for sale in Barcelona

Travelling to Spain this last summer I discovered a wonderful thing — the chorizo I was familiar with in Southern California but was never impressed with was a far cry from the Spanish chorizo available in nearly every store and restaurant in Spain.  The difference is astounding, and before describing the process I went through to make my own, I’ll outline the differences.

  • The most glaring difference is the processing — Spanish chorizo is a fermented sausage, unlike what I now know is called Mexican chorizo, which is cooked.  Being cooked, the Mexican chorizo I’ve had tends to be greasy because you nearly always reheat it causing the fat to heat up and run out all over the place.  Spanish chorizo is like a salami so the fat in it is solid and less conspicuous.
  • Spanish chorizo demands smoked paprika be in the ingredients list (notice how red the meat is in the picture).  This can be augmented, but it should be a large portion the spice mixture.  Mexican chorizo is more chili pepper based, typically with cumin and some paprika.  As you can see from this page of Mexican chorizo recipes, the recipes are all over the map but all lack smoked paprika.
  • Finally, the grind.  I think every Mexican chorizo I’ve ever had consisted of finely ground meat surrounded by liquid fat.  Many times the meat would come out of the casing due to a lack of binding, which in turned dried the meat out during the cooking process.  Spanish chorizo however is a mixture of large chunks of meat surrounded by meat paste, even moreso than a sopressata. Hopefully, I’ve peaked your interest by now so on to the preperation.

I started with my reference books, and although I haven’t mentioned it yet because it seems like I’ve written about nothing but smoked and cooked meats at this point, but my go-to book for fermented sausages is “The Alchemist’s Book of Salami and Other Fermented Sausages” by William R. Mende.

Bill’s explanations are technical but clear.  His advice is well researched and includes information about fermenting sausages I’ve not found anywhere else.  Plus, he’s a really nice guy still doing this in his kitchen in Pennsylvania.  I highly recommend anyone making fermented sausage at home add his book to their library.

The second book I used was Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie book because I remembered they had their own Spanish Chorizo recipe in it.  Using the two books, I’d make something that was my own based on what I had in Spain.  Next post I’ll talk about my first attempt.

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