Meats and Sausages
Embotits: Prepared Meats and Sausages
There is a saying that professes that in Spain, no part of the pig is wasted. And in the case of meats and sausages, we are happy that this is true. From the pig comes cured hams that in Catalunya come from the Pyrenees, and dry sausages, most of which come from the town of Vic.
In getting started in learning about embotits — the catch all name for meat products such as ham and sausages, called embutidos in Spanish — we should first start with the fact that there are two types: fresh and cured.
The king of the Catalan “fresh” embotits is by far the famed Botifarra, a sausage made from minced pork and seasoned with black pepper and other spices. The two classic forms of botifarra are the black and the white varieties. They are both made from minced pork, but the difference between the two is that black botifarra (botifarra negre) has pork blood added to the filling.
Botifarra blanca has an added ingredient of gelatinous fat, while botifarra negre contains cloves and allspice. Botifarra negre is the variety that is most often served with habas a la catalana and escudella. A third, less common variety of butifarra is the botifarra d’ou (egg sausage) in which egg adds a singular flavor and bright yellow color. Many of the most traditional dishes in Catalan cuisine are made with botifarra: escudella, arroz a la ampurdanesa and habas a la catalana, just to name a few.
The second type of embotits, the “cured” variety, offers more of an assortment. Catalana is a prepared meat that is unique (as its name suggests) to Catalunya, and is made with the highest quality pork, white wine and black pepper. It’s cooked in a stockpot which creates a white color on the outside, while maintaining a pink center.
Fuet is one of Catalunya’s most traditional embotits and the most sought-after is Fuet de Vic, from the inland city of Vic. Fuet (meaning “whip” in Catalan) is a long, thin hard sausage covered with a natural layer of white mold. Fuet is made with pork, white wine, pepper and other spices, and is often sliced up and served as an appetizer in Catalan homes.
Salchichón de Vic or llonganissa is another treasure. Made in the comarca of Plana de Vic in the Osana region of Catalunya (where 28 towns can produce the official D.O. of this sausage), it has its equivalents in other cuisines, such as Italian cooking, where its sister product would be salami. Llonganissa is much less condimented than Italian salami, as only salt and pepper as used to season it. Given its high quality, it can be quite pricey — perhaps that’s why it’s served in such thin slices.
Bull is another of the more uniquely Catalan embotits. Bull means “boiled” in Catalan, which refers to the way this meat is produced. Pork feet, head and ears are minced, spices are added, then the filling is put in a pork casing and boiled. The finished product is cut into thin slices and eaten on torrades (toasted bread).
Pernil (a.k.a. jamón serrano): Any Spanish food enthusiast knows about jamón serrano. In Catalunya, this cured ham is called pernil. A certain Catalan variety– which comes from Olot in Northern Catalunya and is thought to be some of the best ham on the peninsula — is often overlooked, perhaps because the strong competition from serranos from other parts of Spain.
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