Spain is beloved for its traditional cured meat products, though some may not be as well-known as they deserve. While few people who enjoy cured sausage haven’t at least heard about chorizo, options like salchichon and lomo are often skipped in its favor.
At Yummy Bazaar’s online store, you’ll find a carefully selected assortment of cured Spanish meats, including traditional Spanish tapas samplers, so you can get a full taste of what each of them has to offer.
Meanwhile, in the article below, we’ll delve into what makes each of these cured meats unique.
What is salchichon?
Salchichon is a classic dry-cured sausage from Spain. It’s sometimes smoked before left to dry, though the non-smoked version is more common.
Traditional authentic salchichon is supposed to be made exclusively from high-quality pork meat, a mix of leaner cuts and bacon to achieve its characteristic smooth, slightly creamy texture. That said, in recent years, salchichon varieties made from other meats like beef, venison, and poultry, particularly turkey (chiefly due to the belief that it’s “healthier”), have become more and more common.
Classic salchichon is heavily spiced, and the complexity of its flavor profile depends heavily on the spice blend used. Using some kind of pepper is expected, so it often verges on the mildly spicy side, which is typically balanced out with sweeter undertones. Salchichon is bright red, sometimes even somewhat purplish, in color and sports extensive white marbling from fatty bacon.
How is salchichon made?
The key to making good salchichon is balancing lean and fatty cuts of meat. While the lean meats differ among manufacturers, the fatty cut is traditionally bacon. The ingredients are coarsely chopped without separating layers of fat to prevent dryness and ensure it gets its signature slightly creamy texture.
The best pig breed to use for salchichon making is considered to be the Spanish white pig, ideally on an acorn diet, so that the meat develops a slightly nutty flavor.
Once the meat mixture is ready, it's generously salted and seasoned with a signature spice blend. As is typical with traditional sausages, the seasoning recipe differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it always includes some kind of pepper. Other common spices include rosemary, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and coriander.
The meat mixture is left to marinate and soften for about a day. If deemed adequately matured after 24 hours, it’ll be stuffed into a thoroughly cleaned pig or cow intestine and left to dry. Nowadays, salchichon is most often dried in rooms or sheds with tightly controlled temperature and humidity levels. But the traditional process involves curing the sausage outdoors, with drying racks positioned in a way that allows taking advantage of the natural breeze.
The average salchichon curing process lasts for around 45 days.
Types of salchichon:
As is common with traditional European cured meats, there are several types of salchichon, depending on the manufacturing region and process:
Salchichon de Vic is Catalan-style salchichon made in the Spanish Osona district Vic Valley. It’s a protected geographical indication, which means Salchichon de Vic can only be produced in one of the 28 designated towns located in the valley (and a label from the Regulatory Council to prove it). It’s made with carefully selected lean cuts and bacon from pigs raised exclusively in the region. It also has another name: Llonganissa de Vic.
Salchichon de Aragon is traditionally made with pork from Teruel-raised pigs (but nowadays, using calves isn’t uncommon). It's distinctly different from other salchichon varieties, as it uses the liver for the lean cut of the meat. Another distinct feature is the use of marjoram as one of the leading seasoning ingredients, alongside nutmeg, black pepper, and white pepper.
Salchichon Cular is a Northern take on the sausage. The name comes from its casing: the meat is traditionally stuffed into the last section of a pig’s or cow’s intestine, which is called cular. The sausage is seasoned with spice blends made in Basque Country.
Salchichon Iberico is made exclusively from lean cuts of Iberian pig and is considered somewhat of a delicacy compared to other salchichon types. It has a very robust, nutty flavor, pungent aroma, and smooth texture. It’s most often made in Extremadura and Salamanca provinces.
Best uses for salchichon:
Salchichon is not traditionally used as an ingredient in complicated dishes. It’s served either as tapas or as an ingredient in a sandwich. It’s typically paired with only a couple of ingredients like tomatoes and cheese.
What to pair with salchichon:
Bocata or Bocadillo de salchichon is the most classic salchichon dish, so take a cue from it. Pair it with slices of fresh juicy tomato and strong cheese. For a complete Spanish experience, try Manchego cheese, but other distinct cheeses like gruyere, gouda, or provolone will work just as well.
What is lomo?
There might be a little confusion when it comes to lomo. Lomo itself isn’t sausage. It’s a cut of meat, pork tenderloin to be exact. You may have heard of lomo saltado, a popular Peruvian dish. Well, don’t expect it to contain any cured sausage since it’s made with sauteed pork tenderloin.
When speaking about dry-cured Spanish meats, we usually refer to lomo curado (cured pork tenderloin). But as Spanish is by nature a very contextual language, the name gets shortened as the context makes it understandable what one means when speaking about lomo.
As it may already be apparent, lomo, the dry-cured sausage, is made from lomo, the meat cut. The sausage is made entirely from pork tenderloin, so it has virtually no fat.
Lomo, the cured sausage, has a very bright red color that is paler on the outside and deeper on the inside, delicate streaks of white from fat that is often faint, unlike what we’re used to seeing with most dry-cured meats, a tight, chewy texture, and a robust, meaty aroma.
How is lomo made?
Unlike most dry-cured Spanish meats, lomo is made from a whole cut instead of various cuts being chopped or ground and mixed.
The whole cut of pork tenderloin is generously seasoned with sea salt and a spice blend that typically consists of black pepper, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, sometimes with the addition of lemon or paprika.
The meat is left to cure for a few days, after which it’s stuffed whole into the thoroughly cleaned pig intestine (the bung) and left to dry for 2 to 3 months.
The most complicated part of the process is casing the meat. Since it's a full cut and not ground meat, straight-up stuffing it into the intestine isn’t easy, especially considering that the casing should be very tight. To make the process easier, a little olive oil is applied to the surface of the meat, and then one end of it is tied to a butcher’s twine. Once the meat is in position, it’s pulled through the intestine until the entire cut is snugly encased.
After that, both ends are tied, and the meat is hung to dry.
Types of lomo:
There are several types of lomo curado, mainly distinct from each other by the breed of pig used for making it. The manufacturing process stays virtually the same.
Lomo Embuchado is the most common type of lomo sausage. When there’s no specific guideline about the breed of pig used, this is the variety we’re referring to.
Caña de Lomo (Iberico) is made exclusively with pork from Iberian pigs. This type of lomo is traditionally aged for about three months. The process is tightly controlled, as there’s a law in place that lomo Iberico cannot be aged for less than 80 days.
Lomo Iberico Bellota is the most expensive version of lomo, often considered a delicacy. Bellota refers to the pigs’ diet. The Iberian pigs used for this sausage variety must not only be raised on a diet of acorns exclusively; they also must be bred in freedom to perform physical activities during the fattening process. It’s a delicate balancing act as too much exercise may cause the meat to tighten. But when correctly utilized, it renders a delicious, chewy sausage with a robust nutty flavor.
Lomo Serrano is made from the meat of Spanish white pigs. Contrary to Lomo Iberico Bellota, the pork from Lomo Serrano comes from pigs bred exclusively on farms and kept on a special diet with maximally reduced physical activity to keep the meat tender. The lack of activity takes away complexity from the texture, so this type of lomo is considered to be of lesser quality compared to Lomo Iberico (still delicious, though).
Best uses for lomo:
Lomo is sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Spanish sausages” and is prized for its texture and flavor. It’s not used in complex dishes. Typically, it’s either served independently as tapas or is an element of a charcuterie board. It’s traditionally sliced very thinly and paired with cheese and crisp wine.
What to pair with lomo:
Manchego cheese and lomo curado are a classic pairing. Serve it with some tortas, honey, and nuts, and you’re good to go.
What is chorizo?
Chorizo is undoubtedly the most famous and well-loved among dry-cured Spanish meats (even though some varieties aren’t cured at all). Chorizo is made exclusively from pork, with a mix of leaner and fattier cuts. The standard ratio of lean meat to fat is around 3:2.
“What is chorizo made of?” is a more complicated question than with most other Spanish sausages. There’s no ubiquitous recipe for chorizo, with pork jowl, loin, belly, and Cabecero (neck to the fifth rib) all considered good cuts, and pork shoulder thought a decent substitute if those cuts aren’t available. There’s only one non-negotiable cut of meat that must be used while making chorizo: fat from the pig’s back (Tocino).
Chorizo is typically bright red in color, though depending on the seasonings used, its flavor can be either very spicy, moderately spicy, or mild and sweet. Cured Spanish chorizo has a firm, chewy texture and a strong, smoky, and meaty aroma.
How is chorizo made?
The process typically looks the same regardless of which cuts are utilized during chorizo manufacturing. The meats are chopped (more coarsely than is typical of cured sausages) and seasoned with a blend of salt, garlic, and Spanish Pimentón smoked paprika, which is responsible for chorizo’s signature bright red color. Depending on the region, other seasonings, like oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves can be added. There are over a hundred chorizo variations, and their flavor combinations are unique to local recipes, some of which come from century-old traditions.
Once the meat is properly cured and seasoned, it's stuffed into either pig’s intestines (traditional) or an edible non-animal-based casing. If the chorizo is supposed to be smoked, it’s transferred to a smoking facility for a few hours and hung up in a tightly controlled environment (temperature and humidity) for around a month to dry.
Types of chorizo:
Spanish chorizo can be roughly separated into two categories: chorizo that’s eaten raw and chorizo that needs to be cooked.
The most popular varieties from the first category:
Chorizo Curado is the most popular variety and the one that a person typically refers to when unspecified farther. It’s the traditional fully cured sausage, made all over Spain.
Chorizo Navarra is one of Northern Spain’s specialties (there are a few distinct ones). While traditionally made in the Navarre region, it can also be found in other Northern communities. It’s a mild and sweet chorizo variety, seasoned simply with Pimenton Dulce (sweet paprika), garlic, and salt.
Chorizo Castellano is historically common in North and Central Spain. Its distinct characteristic is the spice blend. Chorizo Castellano is seasoned with both Pimenton Dulce and Pimenton Piccante (spicy paprika), oregano, and garlic.
Chorizo Riojano Curado is another distinct Northen variety, traditional in the La Rioja region. Similar to Castellano, it’s seasoned with both types of Pimenton and garlic (but no oregano).
Chorizo Andaluz is a Southern specialty and one of the most heavily spiced chorizo varieties. It’s typically seasoned with both types of Pimenton, black pepper, garlic, cloves, and white wine, and it’s not rare to encounter more complex spice blends either.
The most common varieties from the second category are:
Chorizo Picadillo is a fresh loose pork sausage flavored with paprika and crushed red pepper.
Chorizo Fresco is similar to Picadillo, as it’s fresh raw meat and needs to be cooked but is encased. It’s flavored with a generous amount of Pimenton and garlic.
Chorizo Semicurado is a semi-cured chorizo variety. It’s at the stage where chorizo is already cured and smoked but has yet to be hung up to dry. It has a longer shelf life compared to previous varieties, but it’s still unsafe to eat raw despite the curing.
Chorizo Riojano Semicurado is the same as Chorizo Riojano Curado described above, but similar to traditional Spanish Chorizo Semicurado, it’s at a stage where it has yet to be dried.
Best uses for chorizo:
Cured chorizo’s distinct and strong flavor has made it a favorite for sandwiches, as a pizza topping, or to be served by itself as an independent tapas dish.
Uncooked chorizo must be fried or grilled first and is a great ingredient in more complex dishes like frittatas, pasta, and soups.
What to pair with chorizo:
If served as a tapas, it’s best paired with zesty fruits like citrus to cut the fattiness and balance the spice.
If used in a sandwich or a wrap, it’s paired well with softer cheeses with milder and creamier tastes like mozzarella (incidentally, this makes it an ideal pizza topping), stracciatella, and ricotta.
If you intend to use it for a more substantial dish, stick to neutral and low-fat ingredients that won’t overwhelm its flavors. Eggs, corn, potatoes, rice, and beans are all excellent options, and chorizo can easily replace other meats in classic dishes made with one of these ingredients.
When paired with other meat, it works best with chicken or white fish, as more flavorful options sometimes overwhelm chorizo’s distinct flavor.