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Salchichon sausage is a dry-cured sausage of Spanish origin. It is classically produced on the plains of Spain, where steady breezes permit an even drying period which promotes complete curing in the sausage. Like other cured meats, it was originally developed as a technique for preserving meat after slaughter in an era before the advent of refrigeration, but it turned into a delicacy in its own right.
This sausage is made with pork from Spanish white pigs, ideally pigs which have foraged in oak forests for their food, developing lean flesh with a slightly nutty flavor. The meat is coarsely ground and the fat is not separated, leaving distinctive white chunks in the finished sausage, before being blended with pepper, nutmeg, and other spices. Salchichon sausage tends to be very spicy, with a slightly creamy texture from the fat.
After the ingredients have been mixed, they are packed into sausage casings and allowed to dry. Traditionally, salchichon is cured outdoors on large drying racks positioned to take advantage of the breeze, although many modern producers cure in a drying shed to maintain food safety. Although the initial ingredients are raw, the curing process renders salchichon sausage safe to eat as-is once it has finished curing. Curing generally takes around 45 days.
A fully-cured sausage has a white crust and a slightly dry texture. When cut open, it reveals leathery meat speckled with pieces of fat and pepper which can be eaten plain as a snack or combined with bread and cheese in the Spanish style. Salchichon sausage pairs best with hearty red wines which can cope with the spicy flavor and enhance it without becoming overwhelming.
Sealed, salchichon sausage can be stored in a cool dry place out of the light for up to one year. Once a sausage has been cut open, it should be refrigerated, as the cut exposes the interior of the sausage to the risk of bacterial contamination. Some specialty stores and importers sell whole sausage to consumers, especially if they carry Spanish foods, and this sausage can also sometimes be purchased in sliced form from Spanish delis.
Visitors to Spain often want to bring ingredients like salchichon sausage home with them, but they may want to be aware that customs rules about meat imports are often very strict. Unless the sausage is packaged in a very particular way, it may be confiscated by agricultural inspectors if it crosses an international border. People who would like to bring sausage home should use the services of a company which ships internationally to ensure that the sausage is packaged correctly.
@turkay1-- Salchichon is Spanish. It's also the Spanish word for "sausage." The Italian version of salchichon is called "salsiccia" as far as I know. I've has salsiccia sausages with fennel seeds but I don't know if all salsiccia sausages are made that way.
Both Spain and Italy are Mediterranean countries and I'm sure the two cultures were influenced by one another. Their cuisines might be similar, but I'm pretty sure that salchichon is a Spanish sausage.
@turquoise-- You're right, those sausages are very similar. I think sausages made from pig meat is quite popular in Spain. Pork sausages are popular all over Europe really, whereas beef and lamb sausages are more the norm in Eastern Mediterannean countries and the Middle East.
Salchichón sausage sounds a lot like two other Spanish sausages, chorizo and longaniza sausage. Both of these are pork sausages like salchichón, I think the only variation is the seasonings.
I don't think nutmeg is used in chorizo or longaniza. The seasonings I remember being included in these off the top of my head are garlic, cinnamon, paprika, bell peppers and vinegar. But the method of making them and the quality and kind of meat is the same as salchichón.
A friend of mine is of Italian origin and he claims salchichon sausage originated in Italy. I guess it's possible, I don't think there is any proof either way. But salchichon is as popular in Italy as it is in Spain apparently.
My friend actually makes his own salchichon sausage at home and I had the opportunity to taste it a couple of times. I have to say that it is one of the best sausages I have had, almost as good as the Swedish korv sausage I grew up eating.
I think the secret to his recipe is that it's very basic. It's just uses pork, fat, salt and pepper. He doesn't put any other ingredients or
spices in it. He says that this is the same as the original recipe which was founded all the way back in Medieval Europe.
I like the simplicity of it. Not much is really needed when the meat is fresh and of high quality anyway. I guess the only challenge is curing it because you can't get the the same humidity and breeze as Medieval Europeans did when making their salchichon. My friend cures his salchichon in a drying shed and I think it's really delicious.
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