Sausages are an integral part of Spanish culinary tradition, bringing flavor and color to many dishes. As the sausages are already cured, you can enjoy them as a quick snack and compensate well when you have no time to cook or when hiking.
What are embutidos?
According to the Spanish Food Code, sausages are made from approved meat, minced or not, subject or not to drying, supplemented with or without offal and pork fat, vegetables, condiments and spices, and stuffed in natural or artificial casings.
They are classified according to their main ingredient:
- Meat sausage
- Offal sausage
- Blood sausage (like blood pudding)
Spain’s most emblematic sausages are: chorizo, lomo embuchado, salchichón, fuet, salchicha, butifarra, sobrasada, morcón…
Sausage-like products are encased in a cylindrical skin, in which we introduce different mixtures of minced meat (usually pork), then cured or cooked so that they can be kept for a long time. Spain´s geography, history and traditions are the foundation of an extensive catalogue of these delicacies which, alongside Ibérico pork, are some of the most characteristic foods in the Spanish larder.
The pig is of almost symbolic importance in Spain and pork is featured throughout Spanish gastronomy. There is not a single Spanish region that does not have a tradition of the annual matanza, or pig slaughtering. Families in rural areas used to raise a pig every year then butcher it, making maximum use of the meat and thus filling the larder for the rest of the year. A large proportion of the resulting pork was air-cured, resulting in the most representative and characteristic of the Spanish pork products – chorizo, lomo (loin sausage), salchichón, fuet, longaniza, sobrasada, etc.
The chorizo is the most emblematic and varied of the Spanish pork products. Every region and province in Spain has its own characteristic chorizo, except for the Mediterranean area which has other specialties. The mention of sausages can be found in literature as early as the 16th century, before pimentón (Spanish paprika), which was to become the most characteristic ingredient, was widely produced in Spain. Peppers were introduced in Spain by Christopher Columbus after his first voyage to the Americas, in 1493, and we know that production took place in the Yuste Monastery (Extremadura) as of the 16th century. Today chorizo is made on both small and industrial scales. The shape varies from the traditional horseshoe to the string of small chorizos divided up by a knotted string and candle-shaped chorizos of different sizes. The meat used to fill them is minced to different sizes depending on the type of chorizo, and the condiments used vary, with the most common being pimentón, garlic, salt and spices or herbs such as oregano, thyme, nutmeg, clove, etc. Most chorizo can be eaten either as is or cooked.
Great flavour, whether to be cooked before eating or cooked
There are two main families – raw products which are then dried or cured, and cooked products. The paradigm of the former is chorizo, which is matured not only by time and air but also by the salt and spices that are added to the pork, especially pimentón (a Spanish paprika), the main distinguishing ingredient. Among the cooked products, the most representative is morcilla (black sausage), of which there are many versions. Some products are even cooked and then cured, such as the many butifarra sausages made in Mediterranean areas, and the smoked sausages that are typical of Galicia and other mountainous, rainy parts of northern Spain. In the Mediterranean regions of Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands, most of the pork products are cooked, and the seasoning used is often black pepper rather than pimentón. An exception which does use pimentón is the famous sobrasada from Majorca. In the rest of Spain, including the Canary Islands, curing is the usual method, mostly for chorizo and black sausage, and pimentón is widely used as flavouring.
Cooking is another of the techniques commonly used in Spain to prepare and preserve meat products. The process starts in a similar way to curing, with a mixture of chopped lean meat and fat as well as the chosen condiments. This is then stuffed into casings and boiled. In some cases, a short air-curing period follows. Special mention should be made of morcilla – black sausage. This exists all over Spain and, while the ingredients may vary, most recipes contain pig’s blood, lean and belly meat with spices and other flavourings. Black sausages may also include other ingredients such as rice, onion, kernels, leeks, eggs, almonds and other nuts. Although you can eat some of them that are already been cured, most must be cooked. Another boiled product of note is butifarras, typical of Catalonia. In black and white versions, these are an essential element in the Catalonian pork processing tradition and have gradually become popular all over Spain.
A compendium of recipes
There is not a single region or district in Spain without its own, ancestral recipes and sausage-making traditions. Most of the products retain their local name and some have become known far from their place of origin, such as Burgos black sausage, or chorizo from Cantimpalos (Segovia), both traditional products from Castile-Leon.
Charcuterie is usually consumed as it comes but many types may also be roasted, grilled, fried or used as ingredients in a large range of regional dishes. The well-known fabada (a bean stew made with Asturian faba beans) would be unthinkable without the chorizo, blood sausage and pork fat from Asturias. The same can be said about the fresh chorizo in patatas a la riojana, or the many cocidos, Spanish traditional stews par excellence, which would not be the same without their local charcuterie products. The huge range of flavors, aromas, shapes, textures and colors of Spanish charcuterie is practically unique the world over and represents a distinctive contribution to western pork gastronomy.
BLANQUET (Valencian Community, Murcia and Balearic Islands)
Known as Morcilla Blanca, this cooked sausage, baked in a boiler, is made with lean pork, eggs and spices (usually cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper) and also sometimes, with pine nuts. Althought it´s called Morcilla, it is free of blood giving a lighter color to the sausage and often mixed with white bread and fresh milk.
The mixture is made of pig’s blood, wheat flour and corn flour, onion, butter, pepper, cumin stuffed in large casing. Usually, it served fried with potatoes and sometimes sprinkled with sugar.
BOTILLO DEL BIERZO (Castile-Leon, Galicia, Asturias)
A meat product made from various cuts of the white pig, mainly rib and tail meat, marinated and stuffed in casing, before being smoked and semi-cured.
Typical in Catalonia and made from pork loin, bacon, salt and pepper. There are numerous varieties of butifarra, depending on the area in Catalonia where it is made, but in general there are two types, white and black. There are those who add eggs or truffles to the white, whilst the black may also contain onions and blood. The ingredients are chopped, salted and left to stand for approximately five days, after which they are stuffed into casings and cooked. Butifarra is eaten all through the year, although the egg variety is more common during Lent and the truffle type at Christmas. It may be eaten as is, fried, roasted or stewed. A typical and easy to prepare Catalan dish is butifarra with white beans (botifarra amb mongetes) : the butifarra is fried slowly until done inside; then the beans (previously cooked) are lightly fried in the same fat. The two ingredients are served on the same plate garnished with chopped garlic and parsley.
CHISTORRA/TXISTORRA (Navarre and Basque Country)
A typical sausage-type meat in Navarre, it is long, thin and red, due to the addition of pimentón (Spanish paprika). Its name comes from the Basque word ‘txistor’, which means ‘longaniza’ (another type of sausage), and so is known in the Basque Country as txistorra. Its appearance is similar to chorizo, but with a softer consistency. It is made basically from pork, bacon and lard, salt, pimentón and garlic. It is generally eaten fried or may also be lightly cooked in a small amount of cider.
CHOSCO DE TINEO (Asturias)
Of reddish color and made from select cuts of pork loin and tongue, seasoned with salt, pimentón and garlic, smoked and cured. The mixture is packed in pig’s intestine which gives its shape, usually rounded and irregular. The aroma and taste are characteristic of smoked sausage, which may be more or less intense depending on the smoking time.
The most iconic sausage is made of fresh intestine of varying lengths, filled with pork, pork fat, pimentón (a type of Spanish paprika), garlic, salt and other spices. There are many varieties of chorizo found throughout Spain, and which can be eaten as is, fried or boiled, depending on the type. Chorizo is in many ways the most versatile food. It can be fried, sautéed, grilled or roasted, added to soups and stews, used to flavor beans and vegetable dishes, or eaten thinly sliced on crusty bread.
CHORIZO DE CANTIMPALOS (Castile-Leon)
A cured sausage made from fresh fatty pork, with salt and pimentón as the basic ingredients, to which garlic and oregano may also be added, and subjected to a drying and maturing process. It may be presented in thick or thin slices.
CHORIZO DE PAMPLONA (Navarre)
A cured stuffed sausage presented in an elongated shape, the ingredients are chopped pork, beef, and pork fat. It is marinated with salt, mild and hot pimentón, spices, garlic and sugars. This mixture is then stuffed into a thick casing. The particular characteristics of chorizo from Pamplona as compared to other types of chorizo with a similar composition is that the meat is chopped particularly fine, giving it a very distinctive texture.
CHORIZO RIOJANO (Rioja)
Classified as “Extra”, this stringed chorizo sausage is additive free. A stringed sausage recognizable by its typically cylindrical horseshoe shape, it has a firm and compact consistency. It normally has a wrinkled appearance, cuts smoothly and is well blended, with a clear distinction between the pieces of meat and fat. It is made with top quality ingredients, meat and fat that are excellent for making charcuterie products, all seasoned with dry fine salt, 100% premium quality pimentón and garlic, all packed into a natural casing of pig’s intestine.
This chorizo has a balanced and intense aroma with a noticeable emphasis on pimentón, together with a touch of garlic. It has an intense and very long-lasting flavor and a great balance between lean meat and fatty content. It is not bitter and can sometimes have a pleasant spicy taste. It has a balanced texture, good cohesion, is satisfyingly chewy and very juicy.
CHORIZO DE TEROR (Canary Islands)
Also known as Chorizo Canario, it is characterized by its softness, spreadable paste allowing it to be spread on bread. The most famous one is red in color (because of the pimentón); there are also white one (without pimentón). It is made of head cheeks, bellies, shoulder blades and sometimes with ground beef. Seasoned with black pepper and white pepper, oregano, garlic, salt, white wine it´s left to marinate a couple of days before being stuffed in case.
Despite his humble origins, (considered in the past as the poor´s man chorizo), the Farinato has recently regained its importance. Made with lard, onions, pimentón, wheat flour, breadcrumbs, and seasoned with cumin, salt, brandy or liquor and olive oil. The light tile color Farinato is originally from Ciudad Rodrigo and eaten all around Salamanca.
FUET (Catalonia, Extremadura)
This sausage is typical of the gastronomy of Catalonia and similar to the longaniza fina. It is made with finely minced fat and lean pork meat seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices. It is stuffed into a thin pork casing with a caliber of 34-36 mm. 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.
LOMO EMBUCHADO (Aragón)
Made from pork loin with the fat removed, marinated (with salt, garlic and pimentón). It is stuffed into a natural pork casing and cured for a maximum period of 60 days. Its taste is characterized by a delicate, slightly salty flavor, with a note of pimentón.
LONGANIZA (Aragón, Navarre, Catalonia, Valencian Community and Asturias)
Longaniza is considered the predecessor of most Spanish pork products and varies from region to region. It´s a long sausage which differs from chorizo as it is not seasoned with pimentón but rather black pepper and nutmeg. The casing is stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and pig intestine and cured in natural drying conditions for several months. In Aragon, we find many varieties of this traditional sausage called Longaniza de Aragón, and in Huesaca, the Longaniza de Graus (uncooked) is one of the best and entered the Guinness Book with the largest embutido in the world at 530 meters! Another fresh version of the Longaniza can be found in the Region of Zaragoza which is usually fried in lard before eaten. The Llonganiça Valanciana can be eaten a la plancha (roasted) or a la brasa (grilled).
MORCILLA DE BURGOS (Castile-Leon)
The black pudding known as Morcilla de Burgos is an embutidos made mostly with pork blood which, unlike other black puddings, includes rice, onions of the Horcal variety, and lard as ones of its basic ingredients. Stuffed into a natural pork or beef casing and subjected to a cooking process.
MORCILLA PATATERA (Extremadura)
The mashed potatoes black pudding is a typical sausage from the province of Cáceres in Extremadura, this morcilla is very similar to chorizo in appearance. It´s made with a mixture of Iberian pork and mashed potatoes seasoned with the sweet or hot autochtone Pimentón de la Vera, garlic, oregano and salt. It can be enjoyed fresh just days after it is first made.
MORCÓN (Andalucia, Extremadura and Castile-Leon)
This embutido is made with lean meat and bacon from Ibérico pork, seasoned with pimentón which gives it a deep red color similar to chorizo, stuffed into the cecum or “morcón” (hence its name), which is part of the large intestine. The use of smoked pimentón in the seasoning gives it its characteristic aroma. It has a firm consistency and, when sliced, has a deep red color, with an even surface and a marbling of fat throughout the meat.
SABADIEGO (Asturias and Castile-Leon)
Literally, this Saturday (Sabado) black sausage is called Sabadeño in Castile-Leon and has humble origins; it was mainly used for cooking to give dishes taste and aroma. Back in 1988, a group called the ¨the Knights of the Order of the Sabadiego¨ (Los Caballeros de la Orden del Sabadiego) haver reinvented this almost forgotten embutido by substituting the viscera, from the original recipe, with more noble meats.
SALCHICHAS DE ZARATÁN (Castile-Leon)
This type of fresh sausage is made from ground lean pork marinated with pimentón, garlic, oregano and salt. Left 24 hours and stuffed into natural casing, this bright red salchicha has its own festival held each year.
It is a type of cured sausage made in almost all parts of Spain. Unlike chorizo, it is not spiced with pimentón (a Spanish type of paprika) – meaning it is white, not red in color but rather with black pepper and a mixture of spices which, depending on the sausage maker, can include nutmeg or clove. Although most salchichón is made with pork, some salchichón made with boar, deer, a mixture of game and beef or game and pork can be found. Some especially renowned types of salchichón are Salchichón Ibérico, made with Ibérico breed pork, or Salchichón de Vic, made in the region of Vic in Catalonia and protected by a PGI seal (Protected Geographical Indication).
A longaniza type of embutido from Catalonia made with lean pork, bacon, salt and pepper stuffed in a thin casing and naturally dried for at least ten days. It is also called ¨Somalla¨, meaning dry and half-dehydrated.
Lightly-cured spreadable sausage obtained from minced pork mixed with pimentón, salt and other authorized spices. With an irregular cylindrical form (due to the casing in which it is wrapped), its exterior is smooth but with certain ruggedness, dark red in color. When cut, it has an intense red color.