Portuguese Sausage- A Family Tradition
How to make Portuguese Sausage or Chourico. Our Portuguese tradition of making homemade sausage is passed on from generation to generation.
This is every Portuguese-American’s favorite time of year. It’s matanza time! Soon we will all be enjoying Portuguese Sausage (a.k.a. Chourico, or in Spanish chorizo). If you have read our about page, you know that I am first generation Portuguese-American. To keep our culture alive my parents have continued certain traditions here in America. My favorite is making homemade chourico the old fashion way. Years ago we would have a matanza (the slaughtering of a pig) in the colder months, as my parents have gotten older they have switched to buying the pork from a butcher. I’ll spare you pictures of the slaughter from years ago, it’s pretty gruesome.
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When making chourico you start off with pork butt or shoulder, no need to trim all the fat off, the fat makes it delicious! Cut it up into small bite size pieces. Add whole garlic cloves, whole bay leaves, paprika, ground red pepper, and salt. Then pour cheap white wine all over it and let it marinate for at least 24 hours in a large shallow basin. My mom usually stirs it a few times to make sure the flavors are evenly spread throughout the sausage. Halfway through the marinating process saute some of the sausage and taste it to see if you need to add more salt or ground red pepper. I usually prefer spicier sausage. You will lose almost half the flavor during the smoking process, so make sure it is overly seasoned.
Once the meat has marinated it is time to start stuffing that sausage! You need to rinse the casings a few times each, check for holes, and tie them off in about 2 feet sections with cooking twine. Only tie off at one end leaving the other open to insert over a funnel.
Attach the open end of the casing over a 1-1.5″ funnel. Be gentle so the casings do not tear. Pull a few inches over the opening of the funnel so it doesn’t slip off while you’re stuffing the casting.
Before you start stuffing the casings remove all the bay leaves and garlic cloves. The bay leaves will tear the casing. Start with a few pieces of sausage and slowly work them into the end of the casing. Make sure you keep a good grip on the funnel and casing so it doesn’t slip off. Keep filling until the casing is filled and firm.
As you have stuffed them you will notice air pockets throughout the casing. To get rid of them just use a hand needle and pop them. **Do not misplace needles, tie something colorful to them so they don’t end up inside the sausage!!!** Keep squeezing the meat down and filling until most of the air pockets are gone. Once it is completely filled, pull the open end off the funnel and tie it with cooking twine. Gently place them in a tub basin, they tear easily.
This is a family affair, the more the merrier! It takes all day to fill the casings, so invite all your tia’s and tio’s (aunts and uncles) over.
Next it is time to smoke the sausages. Every Portuguese family I know has one of these in their backyard. If you know someone who is Portuguese and you’ve always wondered what was up with it now you know, it’s to smoke sausages. The chourico is gently hung on a wooden pole (we use an old broom stick). They can be pretty close together but they shouldn’t be touching. They are hung close to the top so they don’t burn or get smoked too fast. This is where serious fire building skills are needed. There have been stories over the years of whole sausage batches catching fire :(.
Once the poles are hung, start a fire using regular firewood, not a blazing fire. You want a smoldering fire. The fire is kept going for 3-4 days and you have to keep an eye on it throughout the day and night to make sure it smoking the whole time. Getting the heat right is is the trickiest part, too much heat will dry them out and ruin all of your hard work! Halfway through the smoking process, let the fire go out and flip the sausages. Rebuild the fire and start again for another 24-48 hours. At the halfway point, you will be able to tell if they are drying out properly or not enough. Adjust fire accordingly.
Portuguese Sausage- A Family Tradition
- 64 lbs. trimmed cubed pork butt cubed
- 2 C garlic cloves halved
- 1 1/2 C salt
- 6 liter jug Carlos Rossi rhine wine, any inexpensive white wine will do
- 14 oz McCormick paprika
- 1 1/2 oz black pepper
- 1 oz ground red hot pepper
- 10 bay leaves
- 40-50 castings depending on the size of castings
- Start by trimming most of the fat off the pork. Cut pork into cubes, about 2 inch diameter. Place all the cubed pork, seasonings and wine in a large basin. Try not to break down the bay leaves because they will have to be removed before filling casting. Mix everything together making sure all the seasoning is evenly throughout the pork. Cover (we use a garbage bag). Place meat in fridge. Mix every 12 hours for 2 days. At every mixing, cook a handful of pork to taste if any more seasoning is needed. Remember when smoking, the pork will lose a lot of flavor. I highly recommend over seasoning.
- On filling day, rinse each casting a few times. Check for hole or defects. Using baking twine, tie off one end of casting.
- Remove all the garlic cloves and bay leaves before filling. Place the open end of the casting on the funnel. while holding the casting onto the funnel, begin to fill casting with cubed pork. Slowly work the meat to the end of the casting. Use a safety pin to pop any air pockets. Tie the other end once it is filled.
- Place the filled sausages onto your stick without touching, place in smoker, start your fire.
- Be careful that the flames do not reach the sausage. Remember, low heat for a long period of time. Keep any eye on the fire for flare ups or if fire goes out.
- After 24 hours, let the fire go out, flip the sausages. Then start the firing process over again. At this point when you flip them, you will need to determine if you are halfway done or if it will take longer than an additional 24 hours. This is tricky, and where experience comes into to play. Smoking for 24 hours on each side is usually the minimum. An additional day or two may be needed.
- When your sausage is done, place them indoors and let them dry.
- **If your smoker is like ours, place some sort of gate in front of pit opening. If the fire goes out, animals will come and eat all the hard work you have just put in.
And this is what Portuguese sausage or chourico looks like when they are done! Let them dry out for another day or two indoors. Leave a few out for the week and freeze the rest. One day I will take up the torch and make them with my generation of Portuguese-Americans, until then leave it to the velhos (old people) who know best :).
You can serve chourico uncooked along with cheese on a platter or broil/grill them. My favorite is a chourico omelet!
Here are a few Portuguese chourico recipes that I enjoy.
If you ever get the chance to try homemade Portuguese chourico, don’t pass it up! It is by far the best sausage you will ever try. It has to be homemade or it doesn’t have my stamp of approval.
What family traditions do you have?