Tue Apr 16, 2013
It's never too early to start prepping for Cinco de Mayo. Yup, my favorite cooking holiday usually has me planning weeks in advance to put together the best Mexican/Tex-Mex fiesta possible. In a New York, where the standard for Mexican food is sub-par, this means doing just about everything from scratch. The combination of a hunt for ingredients and process heavy recipes almost requires a few weeks of prep to make it all manageable. Of course freshness is key to so much Mexican cooking, so I start by focussing in on the things that can be done well ahead of time and held until the holiday arrives. Sausage is one of those things—it can frozen and then defrosted—and no Cinco de Mayo passes by without at least some Mexican chorizo making an appearance.
Referring to "chorizo" alone can be a cause for confusion; different countries produce very distinct varieties of chorizo. The two main types you're likely to come across are Spanish and Mexican. While Spanish chorizo is a dried pork sausage seasoned heavily with either hot or sweet paprika, the Mexican version is a fresh pork sausage seasoned with ground dried chilies and often complemented with additional herbs and spices like oregano, cinnamon, and cumin.
As with any good fresh pork sausage, this recipe started off with fatty pork shoulder along with cubes of fatback—for a juicy link, a fat content of at least 30% is key.
Many Mexican chorizo recipes will include a mix of paprika and ground chilies, but I like mine on the hotter side, so I skipped the mild paprika and went all in with a ton of ancho chile powder—which I made by toasting and then grinding these medium-spicy dried poblano chilies. To that, I added salt, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, and cloves. I then added the spice mixture in with the meat and tossed to coat the pork entirely with this deep earthy red powder.
The meat then took a trip through the grinder, coming out the intensely colored and seasoned ground pork that defines Mexican chorizo. As the meat was processed, the ground pork was held in a bowl set in ice water. This kept the fat from melting, keeping the ideal texture of the final sausage intact and making the best possible link.
Following the grind, the pork got a spin the KitchenAid as a bit of cold apple cider vinegar was poured in. Once mixed into a fine and homogeneous mixture, it was time to taste.
The rest of the pork went in the fridge as I fried up a small test patty. With more delicate sausages, I often have to adjust seasonings after taste testing, but this chorizo was so heavily spiced that it was already bursting with immense flavor, so I deemed it perfect and commenced stuffing.
Honestly, I rarely use chorizo in link form—it's usually cooked loose and broken up in a pan for use in tacos or quesadillas. I stuffed these into links mainly so I can use them on the grill, but if that's not what you'll be using your chorizo for, you can skip this step and go straight to cooking in pan.
This chorizo was off the hook. That immense amount of seasoning made it wildly delicious—juicy and spicy with an earthy quality that ensured every single bite was a powerhouse of flavor. Having three pounds of it will ensure it will go way beyond use as standalone links and find its way into many delicious Cinco de Mayo dishes.
- Prep Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour 15 Minutes
- 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
- 1/2 pound pork fat back, cubed
- 6 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar, chilled
- Natural hog casings, soaked in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed
- Place pork and fat in a large bowl. Add in chile powder, salt, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, and cloves. Toss to coat meat with seasonings. Place in refrigerator until ready to grind.
- Grind mixture through the small die of a meat grinder into a bowl set in ice.
- Using paddle attachment of a stand mixer, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Pour in vinegar, increase the speed to medium, and mix until liquid is incorporated an sausage has a uniform consistancy, about 1 minute more. Chill until ready to stuff.
- Form a small patty of the sausage and saute until cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Stuff sausage into hog casings and twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate until ready to cook, or freeze for future use.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill over medium-high direct heat until sausage registers 160 degrees when an instant read thermometer is inserted in middle of link. Remove from grill, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.