Salty, spicy and deep red, chorizo sausage is a staple in Spain, Mexico and other Latin American countries. There are some regional variations in the ingredients, such as smoked paprika in Spanish chorizo and hot chili in Mexican sausages. Chorizo is available in two main forms -- cooking chorizo and hard, cured sausage. In general, chorizo casings are edible. However, always check the package before consumption.
Chorizo sausage made the traditional way comes stuffed in natural animal casings. These are made from the cleaned and stretched walls of pig, goat or cattle small intestines. Butchers remove the contents of the intestine and rinse them with water. The chorizo meat is mixed and then pumped into the intestinal casing. This type of casing is usually okay to eat. The casing should soften when cooked in the pan or remain flexible and soft when used on the cured chorizo variety.
Cooking Chorizo Casings
"Cooking chorizo" comes in links. Like regular sausage links, these are made with either natural or synthetic casings. Usually, these casings are edible. While natural casings use intestines, synthetic sausage casing for cooking chorizo is usually made from collagen. When fried in a pan, cooking chorizo will often split or rupture. The casing is more delicate than plastic or cured sausage casings.
Cured Sausage Casings
With hard, cured chorizo, you may need to remove the casing before eating. For example, advice from the BBC GoodFood website suggests peeling off the "skin" or outer wrapper before cooking. However, this isn't always the case. If the casing is thick or made from plastic, you must remove it. However, with natural casing on cured chorizo, it's more a matter of personal taste. If you're frying up sliced chorizo, removing the casing makes for a softer, more pleasant mouthful.
With homemade chorizo, you need around 4 to 5 feet of hog casings to make 2 pounds of sausage, according to Mexican food expert Marilyn Tausend in "La Cocina Mexicana." She suggests rinsing the casings, and then soaking in water and vinegar to soften. Stuff the chorizo mix into the casing, using a funnel, and tie off each link with a piece of dried cornhusk. After several days in the refrigerator, the links are ready to cook and eat -- casings included.
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