On How to Keep Chorizo

17 Nov
by JONATHAN on 15/04/2010
 
Here at The Tapas Lunch Company we sell a lot of great value bulk packs of chorizo.  As a result, customers often ask how they should conserve the product once the pack has been opened.  Typical questions are:
  • Should I leave it in its original packaging?
  • Can chorizo be frozen?
  • I see something that looks like mould growing on the surface? Does this mean the product is bad?

  • Should I keep it in a sealed container?

First, a bit of background.  Chorizo is a cured meat product, in contrast to the majority of packaged meats available in the UK which are cooked.  In the curing process, the processed meat (sometimes salted, sometimes smoked) is dried in a temperature and humidity controlled environment (that’s dry and cold).  The lack of moisture and low temperature produces chemical changes in the meat (curing) that effectively alter its properties and allow it to be conserved and eaten without cooking.  The environment is key – too low a temperature and the meat will be conserved in its raw state, too much humidity and it will rot.

Chorizos are available in a variety of ‘curations’ – reflecting the amount of time they have been allowed to cure.  ’Fresh’ chorizo, used for cooking, may have just a few days curation.  ’Semi-cured’, also used for cooked, will have a week or two.  ’Cured’ chorizo will have up to a month’s curation.  How you choose to store your chorizo will depend on the type.

Fresh chorizo is probably the trickiest.  Once the bag is open, the meat will begin to dry out, becoming firmer in texture (closer to fully cured chorizo).  This is a slow process and the chorizo will be suitable for cooking for many weeks after opening.  So, if you don’t mind a slightly firmer texture then you may just want to allow the chorizo to dry.  The problem with a refrigerator is that the environment tends to be quite humid so mould may begin to develop on the skin of the chorizo.  This is normal and nothing to worry about – we recommend that it be wiped off with a dry cloth and a dab of olive oil.

If you want to keep the chorizo as fresh (soft) as possible, you can seal the original bag or place it in a sealed tupperware container.  This restricts the availability of air to the product and effectively stalls the drying (curing) process.  However, the sealed container along with the trapped humidity creates a perfect environment for mould to develop and grow so it will be more of a problem in this case.  You can keep wiping it off – the meat won’t rot – but it’s not ideal.  I would only recommend keeping the chorizo in a sealed container if it is to be for a short time.

Another option if you want to completely stop the drying process and maintain the chorizo as fresh as possible is freezing.  I don’t think anyone in Spain would consider freezing chorizo but it is a question we get asked a lot in the UK.  The quality control departments of our suppliers have confirmed that fresh chorizo can be frozen without significant loss of quality.  The advantage is that no drying will take place and once defrosted, the chorizo will be as soft as the day you froze it!

Turning to cured chorizo, the options are less numerous and I think there is a clear winner.  Cured chorizo is already pretty dry and in fact, tends to get better the dryer it gets.  This means you shouldn’t worry about trying to keep it ‘fresh’ – in fact, just the opposite.  As the meat is fully cured, the product will keep just about forever in the right environment, it will simply very slowly continue to dry out, giving a gradually firmer texture.  I have tasted chorizo that is over a year old and is absolutely exquisite!  Again, the humid environment in the fridge is a problem.  Don’t keep it in a sealed container – allow it to ‘air’ as much as possible.  Wrapping in a light tea-towel or similar may help to protect from humidity but inevitably a little white mould will start to accumulate.  Again, this is no problem whatsoever – just wipe it off with a cloth and some olive oil.  If you have a very cool, dry larder then this might be even better for storing the chorizo, but watch the temperature – it should ideally be below 8 degrees.  Definitely don’t freeze cured chorizo – the low moisture content means it’s not suitable.

In conclusion – my advice: freeze fresh chorizo to keep it soft, otherwise let it dry in the fridge.  Wrap cured chorizo in a tea-towel and keep it in the fridge – it should last 6 months in good condition.  Wipe off any mould like any Spaniard would…and Enjoy!

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