Types of Spanish Chorizo

While the basic ingredients of Spanish chorizo are more or less the same all over Spain, pork, pimentón (the smoked Spanish paprika), garlic and vinegar, there are various different types of this delicious Spanish sausage, depending on the length of curing and the use it is intended for.

A typical Spanish household will have two types of chorizo hanging in the larder. There will be a firm, cured chorizo to be sliced and eaten as a snack or tapas and a softer one for use in cooking. The lean to fat ration in the initial preparation determines the uses of the chorizo. Ones to be used in cooking have more fat, to flavour stews and prevent drying out when grilled. Chorizo for slicing is leaner and cured for a slightly longer time so that it is firm and slices well.

Another choice to be made is whether the chorizo is smoked or not. Spanish chorizo already has a gently smoky aroma from the pimentón spice, but in the wetter climate of Northern Spain the chorizo was typically smoked during the curing process to help the preservation process and this tradition continues today, even though industrial drying rooms mean that the smoke is no longer essential for preservation.

Chorizo comes in various degrees of spiciness, depending on the pimentón used and the addition of hotter spices. It can be dulce, sweet, when the mildest sweet paprika is used, picante, spicy, when the stronger pimentón is used. It is only very hot when additional chilli has been added which is less typical in Spain.

At the top of the chorizo range is the Chorizo Iberico de Bellota. Like the famous hams, it is made from the meat of Iberian pigs who have roamed free among the holm oaks and enjoyed an acorn diet in their finishing period. They have a unique sweetness and richness of flavour and are the most highly regarded chorizo of all.

As well as chorizo, Spain also produces the very popular lomo and salchichon, cured and air dried in a similar way. Lomo is a delicious lean cured meat to slice, made from the loin of the pig, which is marinated and then air-dried. Salchichon is another cured sausage without the pimentón seasoning of chorizo, but flavoured with cracked black peppercorns instead.