A Family Tradition—Making Chorizos

I cannot remember when I first tried Mario’s parents’ homemade embutidos (the Spanish word for all types of sausages and salt-cured meats). I do remember, though, the times I’ve eaten chorizo  or salchichón in a bar, though. These version are too salty or too chewy, too tough or too lean. I suppose, in a way, I’m a total chorizo snob. (Funny when you consider that chorizo is also a slang word for thief.)

A few autumns ago, I accompanied Mario and his parents to their friends’ finca, or estate/property. Really it’s just a  house with a large backyard and a pool. Oh, and now there are a few chickens running around, laying farm-fresh eggs with thick yellow yolks—best consumed fried in olive oil with chichas (known in other parts as picadillo or zorza).

Finca Zamora Spain

Mario and his godmother/cousin enjoying the finca

My in-laws are zamoranos, Zamorans. They are both from small villages in the Zamora province, located in the northwestern part of Spain, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León. As such, they are accustomed to eating good food. When they were children, their mothers cooked what was local, what was in season, and what tasted good. My father-in-law, Jesús, recalls not being able to afford olive oil, an expensive treat. So they cooked with lard. And you know what? My mother-in-law, Pepita, makes some tasty desserts with lard. Pig products were (and still are) king, and thus cured meats are king: jamón, lomo, fuet, chorizo, and salchichón.

When I got to the house, my in-laws and their friends had already put their manos a la obra!

Chorizo making ZamoraChorizo making Zamora

They don’t actually do their own matanza, though I do know a few families that used to (and some that still do!). They do buy only the best meat, though carne ibérica 100%.

The ingredients for a good chorizo are:

  • Pork. 100% Iberian meat. Do not skimp on quality; you will notice later.
  • Paprika.
  • Coarse salt.
  • Garlic.
  • Oregano (optional, but it gives the young chorizo and chichas a great flavor).

Chorizo making Zamora
Look at how pumped I am!

Steps

  1. Wash the guts. Yes, I said wash the guts … If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen (or the finca). You may need to remove some fat.
  2. Chop the meat into elongated pieces, but not too thick. This helps when you’re trying to put the meat through the machine (as seen above).
  3. Knead the meat. Once the meat is chopped and the condiments prepared, they are mixed together, until the paprika and salt are well distributed. It should look red.Chorizo meat
  4. Let stand for several hours or overnight.
  5. One person should fill the machine and turn the crank while the other stuffs the sausage.Chorizo making Zamora
  6. Once the sausage is finished, it’s time to tie the free ends.Fresh chorizo salchichón
  7. You take the uncured chorizo and salchichón to a cool, dry place to cure. Mario’s parents use an old village house and hang them from the rafters. (Really!) The ideal temperature is cold, but not much lower than 0C/32F.Chorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curingChorizo salchichón curando curing
  8. Don’t forget to enjoy some chichas with red wine, the perfect way to coger fuerzas on a cold autumnal day!

Chichas picadilloCooking chichas cocinando chichasEating chichas Comiendo chichasEating chichas Comiendo chichas

You may not believe it, but after this mid-morning “snack,” we ate arroz a la zamorana for lunch. This rice dish is full of, again, all the pig parts: ear, hoof, ham, sometimes even snout. You know, a light lunch.

Arroz a la zamoranaArroz a la zamorana

What’s your favorite: chorizo, salchichón, or some other embutido?

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9 thoughts on “A Family Tradition—Making Chorizos

  1. Loved this up-close-and-personal look into how sausages are made in Spain! I love the photos of the salchichón before and after curing in the house. Here in Santiago we call chichas “zorza” ;)

    To me I couldn’t believe that your suegro’s family couldn’t afford olive oil—in Spain, of all places! But I guess even then Andalucía was much farther away and if you have lard left over from a matanza, why not use it?

    1. Hi Janet! Yes, I made a couple of silly typos in this post. I swear, I reread my writing, but I didn’t do a good job this time.

      Chichas = picadillo = zorza. Do you know any of those? http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picadillo_de_chorizo

      As the article says, it’s a “tapa” of the interior of the chorizo, served hot, usually accompanied by bread and wine. You can see Mario cooking some chichas in the photo! I guess in Madrid it’s called picadillo, but we’ve always called them chichas.

  2. Yum, just YUM!!!!!! Gracias for sharing this wonderful tradition of your family! How lovely is that Finca!?! I am so in love with the kitchen-those azulejos! The salchichón hanging from the rafters reminds me of the country hams hanging from markets and private curing houses in Kentucky. Now adding Zamora y Castilla y Leon to my “must visit” list!

  3. Wow, it’s so awesome that you got to partake in this! I love seeing Spanish foods made at home and always joke that I need to spend a few months with a family in a pueblo to learn how to do all it myself.

    1. I’ve gradually learned to make a few things, like lentejas or espinacas con garbanzos. But I don’t think I’ve gotten the hang of croquetas quite yet!

  4. Great post, Kaley! I love learning about traditions like this that have been passed down for generations.

    Do you and Mario plan to keep this tradition alive in the US?

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