The tradition of domestic slaughtering and processing of pigs is a process that makes use of the whole animal. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in a time when electricity was a luxury and resources were scarce, there was no room for waste. The result is a plethora of sausages and smoke meats to feast on up and down the country, served either as a main meal or as a delicious snack. Old recipes have transcended generations, and even in the cases where the process has been industrialized, the ingredients and the refined tastes are still very present. All About Portugal takes you on a journey through the different flavours of this tradition.
Up North, there are different designations for a speciality that must be savoured in the typical Rojões à moda do Minho. Some people call it Farinhote or Beloura, and it is served in the form of crispy and crunchy dark slices. In its preparation, the pig's blood is used, along with corn flour, rye and wheat, yeast, water, garlic, pepper and salt. This dough is then shaped into a circular fashion, before leavening and baking. Farinhote should be eaten warm, after fried.
Trás-os-Montes is a region rich in sausages and smoked meat. Its Butelo is especially famous in Bragança, to the point of having its own gastronomic festival, the Festival do Butelo e das Casulas. To make this delicacy, the pig's tripe is used and filled with small spine bones and cartilage, vertebrae, and some meat. The recipe also includes wine, sweet pepper, garlic and bay leaves. The combination with the casulas (bean pods) makes this a very popular dish during Carnival, and it is tradition to eat it on the last Sunday before Lent.
Right next door is the municipality of Vinhais, a land of abundant and renowned smokehouses. One of its most popular sausages is the Chouriço, an irresistible snack presented in the shape of a horseshoe that can be eaten roasted or even raw with corn bread. Made with meat, blood and lard from Bísaro pigs, it has an unmistakable flavour as a result of the pigs’ rich diet in chestnuts from the region. The seasoning takes salt, wine, water, garlic and paprika. Across the country, there are many Chouriços of appreciated quality and respective singularities.
Alheiras de Mirandela
With the same shape, but a different colour and texture, theAlheira is one of the crown jewels of neighbouring Mirandela. As a snack, starter or main course, served with boiled potatoes and greens, as tradition dictates, or with French fries, few can resist this delicious smoked sausage. It is made from pork, wheat bread, olive oil and lard, seasoned with salt, garlic and paprika. Its interior consists of a thin and lumpy paste, where shredded meat is noticeable.Alheiras made with poultry or game meat are also tasty.
Indispensable in any Portuguese tavern is, also, a good Ham, and Lamego is highly sought after for this speciality. The pork legs are placed in salting tubs for 20 days, after which the salt is removed and the legs are placed in a cold smokehouse for two to three weeks. After this period, the ham is spread with paprika to ensure better preservation. Whether as a starter, along with melon, or as a snack, alongside good wine and bread, it is a “delicacy of the Gods” for many. Experts say that the slices must be cut very thin to ensure the correct perception of the mixture of flavours.
Still inland, but further down the map is the city of Guarda, whose Morcela is very much appreciated. This horseshoe-shaped sausage, dark in colour, is made with blood, pig fat and wheat bread, to which is added salt, chopped onion and cumin. They are great as a main dish, fried and sliced, with boiled potatoes and greens, or as part of the traditional Portuguese stew. There are also those who eat them as a starter.
Bucho Raiano is a delicacy that gives Sabugal, in the same district, its fame. It is made with pork meat from the head, ear and tail, seasoned with paprika and stored in a garlic marinade before stuffing the animal's bladder. After this process, the Bucho is smoked in the smokehouse. Tradition says that it must be eaten while hot, with boiled potatoes and greens, as it is a dish for cold weather and is somewhat heavy.
Also in the centre, there is another sausage that is the hallmark of the municipalities of Sertãand Proença-a-Nova. We are talking about the Maranhos, made with goat or lamb meat, not pork. The “wrapper” of this fresh sausage is the animal's stomach, filled with pieces of meat, ham, raw rice, wine and olive oil, and seasoned with garlic, parsley and mint, which gives it a characteristic flavour. After being boiled in water, it is spread with olive oil and then placed in the oven until slightly golden. There are those who eat them as a starter or as a main dish, sliced and accompanied by a salad or cooked vegetables.
Further south, in the Alentejo, we discover the “star” ofPortalegre, the Cacholeira Branca, a sausage made with the animal's offal, such as the liver, kidney, pancreas, heart or spleen, together with blood, fat, salt, garlic and cumin. This mixture is marinated for 12 to 24 hours, followed by stuffing, before cooking for 30 to 60 minutes. It is then dipped in cold water and is ready to serve. There are also those who prefer them roasted. The acorn-rich diet of the Alentejo pigs gives a characteristic flavour to Cacholeira de Portalegre.
Another typical Alentejo sausage is the Paio de Barrancos. Great to eat accompanied by good bread and good wine, it is made with selected meat and fat, seasoned with salt, paprika, garlic and black pepper. The recipe also includes water. It has the particularity of using the meat of castrated piglets, slaughtered between 12 and 16 months. The curing process is natural and does not involve smoke, taking advantage of the favourable microclimate conditions in that region.
Stew at Caldeira das Furnas
In the Algarve, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, we find the Farinheira de Milho de Monchique, which differs from the many existing sausages in the country for being wrapped in an old sheet or in talegos, small bags of fabric. It is made with pork meat and blood and corn flour, seasoned with salt, cumin, pepper or cinnamon, giving it a unique flavour. Traditionally, it was eaten for breakfast, the day after it was prepared. Today it is a good snack that can be cooked or fried in lard, ideally shortly after being made.
Travelling to the islands, you’ll find many and varied sausages, and good ones at that. The Chouriço Mouro dos Açores is a good example, and a key element in the much sought after Cozido das Furnas. It can also be eaten as a main meal, accompanied by yams, a typical Azorean tubercle, or potatoes. It is also an excellent snack, both roasted and fried. It has a horseshoe shape and is made with the hardest parts of the pig, pieces of fat and offal. Traditionally, it is spicy, smoked and very tasty.