What is Chorizo? Everything You Need to Know
Have you spotted Chorizo sausage on menus in restaurants or at your local store? Perhaps you have been tempted to try it out but wanted to know more first? Originating in Spain, this cured sausage can transform almost any dish and combines beautifully with fish, vegetables and other meats such as chicken. Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know about this delicious and increasingly popular food.
What is Chorizo?
The name Chorizo is Spanish in origin but you may see it written as chouriço which is from the Portuguese language. It is a type of traditional sausage made from pork and spices. It has been around since Roman times and historically it would have been made from animal intestines filled with treated meats.
There are two main categories of Chorizo sausage. The European version is sausage meat which has been fermented, cured and smoked. Therefore, it does not contain any harmful microorganisms and can be eaten cold without you having to cook it. You can also add it to other dishes to give extra flavor.
In other parts of the world, Chorizo sausage is made from meat that has not been fermented and cured and therefore needs to be cooked before it is eaten. It is important that you make sure that you know which one you have purchased!
What Does Chorizo Look and Taste Like?
Chorizo has a rich flavor. The strong meaty taste of the pork meat is paired with a sweet and smoky taste provided by spices. The dominant spice is pungent, spicy and sweet paprika (which is called pimentón in Spanish) which tastes amazing and also gives the sausage its dark red color. It also has a distinctive and smoked taste which comes from red peppers which have been dried in smoke.
You can buy Chorizo as a whole sausage and there are many different sizes. The variety that needs to be cooked is soft and the variety that can be eaten straight away is firmer and drier. You may also find it being sold sliced, a little like salami, and it can be eaten in tapas.
Uncooked Chorizo sausage releases a spicy red oil when it is cooked so you will not have to add additional oil to the pan.
How is Chorizo Made?
The traditional Spanish Chorizo is made out of pork meat to which is added garlic, paprika and salt. There are literally hundreds of varieties of Chorizo that originate from Spain and they are available in many textures and shapes not to mention flavor profiles. Spanish Chorizo is made with smoked pork but Mexican Chorizo uses fresh pork.
The one ingredient that is found in every Chorizo is paprika. Several different types of paprika can be used including smoked, sweet and hot. In some varieties of Chorizo, there are added ingredients such as wine, peppercorns, cumin or other herbs.
The method used to make it is much like that used for other Mexican sausage products. It starts with the pork meat being minced as it is combined with a generous helping of lard but pork fat cut into cubes can also be used. Then the salt, garlic, paprika and other spices, herbs and flavorings are added. This mixture will be left for a few days when it marinades and ferments. During this time, the flavors combine and mature and the mixture becomes slightly acidic. Then it is forced into the casing and hung up to dry like other charcuterie products.
How to Eat Chorizo
To cook Chorizo you can grill it, fry it or simmer it in liquid such as apple cider or aguardiente. There are many ways to enjoy a Chorizo recipe It can be eaten alone in tapas dishes or combined with other ingredients such as pulled chicken and potatoes. The simplest way to serve Chorizo sausage is as wafer-thin slices that have been cut from a much larger sausage. You may find these ready-packaged in your local store. They are perfect for sandwiches or you can serve them as you would Parma ham. You could even wrap chicken breasts in them and serve them in a salad.
Once it is cooked, you store it raw in the refrigerator and it should be kept away from uncooked foods. You need to use sliced Chorizo within a week of opening but the whole unopened sausage can be kept for two weeks.
Some Varieties of Chorizo
Some popular varieties of Chorizo include Sarta which is shaped like a horseshoe and tied with string. It is cured and can be eaten straight away by cutting it into thin slices and combining with Manchego cheese. It can also be added to other recipes.
Another option is Ristra which is a fresh, soft Chorizo sausage. This is a type of semi-cured sausage and it will need to be cooked before it is eaten. The texture is soft and the flavor less intense than in some other Chorizo. You can cook them in oil, grill them or pop them on the barbecue.
You may also come across Achorizado Chorizo. These are small and because they are cured, they are ready to eat as soon as you get them home. However, you may prefer to add them to casseroles and soups where they give an intense and spicy flavor that is perfect for winter recipes. You could even put a whole one into some sauce to intensify the flavor or chop them up and add them to soups.
A final variety of Chorizo is Ibérico which is one of the more expensive Chorizo sausage products. It is made using meat from the famous Ibérico pigs which is known throughout the world for its great taste. This high-quality Chorizo does not need to be cooked as it is already cured. In fact, cooking it will damage the taste. You can enjoy the full flavor by keeping it simple – serve it alone with freshly baked bread. Enjoy!