Chorizo is a pork sausage that has many different varieties and is eaten all over Spain. Most chorizo that you would buy in stores has been cured, but “fresh” chorizo, which is softer is also available. Chorizo is made by chopping or grinding the pork and “marinating” it in spices. Spanish paprika (sweet or spicey) is the spice that gives chorizo its characteristic flavor and distinguishes it from other sausages. The casing of the chorizo is usually made from pork if made at home.
Chorizo may be sliced and eaten alone or with crusty French-style bread or can be fried. It is very common to use it as an ingredient in other dishes, such as stews and soups.
Here in the USA, many people are familiar with the Mexican or Caribbean chorizo, both of which are very different from the Spanish chorizo in both taste, texture, and appearance. Mexican or Caribbean varieties cannot be used as substitutes for Spanish chorizo in Spanish recipes. If you need a substitute, try using Portuguese Linguica sausage, which is generally very similar to Spanish chorizo.
La Matanza - During the late fall and winter, many families travel from the big cities to the towns from which they originate and get together for the matanza or “slaughter” of the pigs. If they haven’t raised pigs themselves, they will buy a pig from a local farmer and slaughter it. The whole family usually gets into the act from the young children to the grandparents. They spend the weekend butchering, cooking, and stuffing sausages, with the women doing most of the work in the kitchen in huge vats or tubs because a grown pig can weight hundreds of pound and produces lots of meat! It’s not all work and no play. The bota, (sheepskin bag for carrying wine) or porrón (glass wine carafe with a long spout) is passed around. The neighbors and extended family gather to taste the latest vintage from uncle José’s cellar or grandpa’s aged batch of herb liquor. Once the chorizo has been stuffed into casings, the family usually divides up the sausage and it is hung to dry and cure.