There was a LOT of Spanish-style chorizo at the Summer Fancy Food Show, but I especially wanted to taste the Imperial brand from Gloversville, NY. They’re introducing a “white” chorizo which was what Spaniards ate before the introduction of paprika from the New World. I tried this alongside their mild and hot chorizo, and also compared with other chorizos at the show.
The white chorizo, which is still made in small villages in the Extremadura region of Spain, has the dense texture and unctuous mouth feel of dry-cured pork sausage but a very mild favor, with a faint undercurrent which turns out to be nutmeg. I liked it but a taste comparison showed me why the Spanish sausage-makers so quickly adopted smoked paprika. The pimentón not only aids in preservation but adds a rich earthiness, reminding me of the red peppers a vendor used to roast at the old farmer’s market in San Francisco, in a revolving perforated steel drum over a roaring gas fire.
Imperial is a division of Pata Negra, a large Spanish food company. They were attracted by Gloversville, formerly a manufacturing center for gloves tanned with Adirondack hemlock bark, because there was an existing infrastructure, very low real estate costs, and considerable business development support from New York State. (Fage yoghurt and a large feta cheese maker have settled nearby for the same reasons.)
Antonio Libran, a veterinarian by training, has been experimenting with blends for seven years to achieve the current formula. It’s aged five weeks (considerably longer than some competitors) and is a product designed for discriminating eaters. The sausage comes from free range pigs and is ground by hand and dried at low temperatures, with minimal spices and no nitrates (other than a bit of celery juice in the hot chorizo). Ignacio Saez de Ibarra, general manager, tells me they believe in focusing on the paprika as opposed to some who take shortcuts which produce a more acid flavor which then must be masked with additional spices.
Indeed, there were two schools of chorizo makers at the show—purists like Imperial that spotlight the pimentón, and others who I think were not short cutting but preferred to treat chorizo as another version of high end charcuterie with the smoked paprika as a predominate flavor but not the only flavor. A good example of the latter is the chorizo from Charlito’s Cocina, a mail order product from Long Island.
Imperial hot and mild chorizo can be purchased from La Tienda, a well known Spanish food mail order source, as well as specialty markets in New York. The white version should be available soon.