Be a Genius at Spanish Cured Meats
The sausages and cured meats that Spain produces are a testament to the edible magic that results when a pig meets spices and a little bit of curing time.
Jamon Ibérico de Bellota
Rare, expensive, and extraordinary, this ham made from the hocks of pata negra pigs has only recently become available in the United States. (Legally, that is—for many travelers to Spain, smuggling jamon ibérico home through customs was an essential part of the trip.) The robust, funky meat—streaked with sweet, nutty fat—gets its characteristic flavor from a combination of the pigs’ all-acorn diet, and their moderately active life roaming free-range through oak forests on the Spain-Portugal border.
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Spain’s blood sausage earned its reputation as one of the most accessible black puddings thanks to the inclusion of a starchy filler, most commonly rice, which mimics the mouthfeel of a traditional meat sausage. The pork blood is flavored with garlic, onion, and pimentón; when sliced and fried in olive oil, the edges crisp up in a rich textural counterpoint to the soft interior.
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Spain’s most famous sausage is also its least consistent: “chorizo” is a catchall term that encompasses virtually any sausage made from ground pork mixed with a generous dose of either sweet or spicy pimentón. Everything else—the coarseness of the grind; sausage length, width, density and curing time; any additional ingredients—can vary tremendously from region to region and kitchen to kitchen. The most popular version is a lean, dry, austere sausage made from pork, pimentón, and salt; it’s equally tasty sliced and paired with cheese, or chopped and fried in olive oil, served with bread for sopping up the spicy, flavorful drippings.