By Sara Millbank
The great British breakfast would not be complete without the good old English sausage, and how could we eat toad in the hole without a banger or two? When buying sausages at the supermarket or butchers in England, the choice was usually very simple, Cumberland, Lincolnshire, Pork and Beef or with bits of herbs in them, but here in Spain the sausage is very different, although perhaps born the same way.
In the Beginning
Sausages started way back when people had their own pig in the garden and could not afford to throw any of the animals away. The sausages were usually homemade, and were intended to last the whole year. The raw pork was hand chopped, mixed with back fat and spices, then stuffed into casings (made from the pigs gut). The more meat in the sausage, the less fat content and the sweeter the meat.
Some sausages included extra ingredients like onions and rice and regional variations such as nuts from the strong Moorish presence. Garlic showed it came from the south or west (although over use was found to turn the sausage rancid) and Salamanca sausage has a strong presence of cereal. There are also sausages made with beef and vegetables as well as venison.
How Sausages are Made
The mixture for Spanish sausages is stuffed into the casings, which vary in size and shape depending on the sausage and ingredients, unlike the British sausage, which tends to be the much the same shape. The sausages are then hung on strings in a cool place and will lose as much as 35 per cent of their weight if left for a full year. Smoked sausages can also be found in Spain, but these tend to swell with cooking and are better eaten raw. Many dried sausages can also be eaten raw, but this is not always the case. Sausages tend to be classed by their colour and so we have provided some guidance below.
Also know as blood puddings or Morcillas and similar to British black puddings as they are made with the fresh blood of the newly slaughtered pig. Once they are made, they are boiled to keep the freshness and then dried for storage. They are always cooked before eating and come mainly from Seville and Ronda and are found in links or rings. Northern variations are flavoured with aniseed and cloves, and can be fattened with either onions or rice as mentioned before. Burgos Morcillas contain pine nuts and is usually eaten raw and found as tapas. The Valencian blood puddings are sometimes very spicy and are made with cumin and cinnamon. Botifarra is the black sausage from the east of the country and is made in links or rings and is always cooked, mainly grilled or fried.
Apart from in Catalonia, red sausage is made with paprika to give it its colouring and flavour. Chorizos are named after choricero chilli and there are over 50 different regional varieties, but two main ones. Red Chorizos are made in links, contain ground-minced meat and are mottled with fat. They can be boiled or fried and the longer varieties are usually sweeter than the small round ones, which are hot and spicy. The knobbly garlic red sausage is found mainly in central Spain and is used mainly for stews and soups. The second type of Chorizo is cured and much longer and fatter than the first red sausage. These are served as tapas, sliced thinly and eaten with bread or added to salads and may be marbled or chopped. Variations of Chorizo include the Pamplona variety, which resembles salami because of its orange coloured fat. Another is the Chistorra, which is typically Basque and is a narrow cigar-shaped sausage with a mix of pork and beef. Also widely used in Andalusia is the Morcon sausage, which is made from marinated loin and shoulder and looks like a hand grenade. The Murcians have a larger version of this Morcon.
Lomo Embuchado (or cinta)
This looks like a sausage, but is actually the spinal loin muscle. It is marinated in paprika and garlic and sometimes oregano and nutmeg and is dried for two to six months. It is expensive and has a delicate flavour so it is quiet a treat, but not to be confused with sausages.
Sausages that are neither black nor red are classed as ‘white sausages’ although they may not have a white appearance. Fuet is a Catalonian sausage containing white pepper and sugar and is usually sold in double lengths. It is long and thin so dries very fast and can be extremely chewy. Salchichon is a typical white sausage and comes in rings and strings and is usually powdered on the outside, which gives it the ‘blanco’ appearance. They tend to be dry, like salami and laced with peppercorns. Longaniza is the name used for a variety of sausages and is often the ones you see hanging up in hanks. Short lengths are used for cooking, as these tend to be hard, bland and fatty while the larger coils are hung to dry and sliced and eaten with bread. White blancas or botifarras are the brother of the black ones and are made in Catalonia. These fresh sausages are usually grilled or boiled and are often eaten with beans.
Of course don’t forget the embutidos, which is fresh sausage similar to our British one and very popular all over Spain. They are made everywhere and can be bought in any supermarket. So next time you are out shopping, why not look at the sausage section and try some of the wonderful sausages on your door step.