Chorizo may sound quite exotic, but it basically means pork sausage and there are a huge number of regional and local variations, although it is mainly made in the north where the climate is more suitable. It does, however, fall into two distinct categories – ready-to-eat chorizo which is fully cured, and chorizo for cooking, which is normally semi-cured and softer. The former comes in a stick, vela (candle) or horseshoe shape and is sliced thinly and eaten cold whereas the latter comes in individual sausages or links and is used in many recipes.
It is made with pork and pork fat, occasionally with the addition of bacon or beef, mixed with salt, garlic, pimentón and other spices. Ibérico chorizo is made from the black ibérico pig. The mixture is stuffed into natural or artificial casings and the curing process begins. Some chorizos are also smoked at this stage.
Most chorizos are available in either mild, dulce, or spicy, picante. Some, such as Riojana and Pamplona have protected PGI status.