Photo by Maggie Schmitt
This weekend I was in Candelario, a village at the windblown foot of the Sierra de Béjar in Salamanca. Candelario enjoys certain renown for its beautiful location and its extraordinary degree of historic preservation: narrow cobbled streets lined with a peculiar style of 18th century construcion, handsome and impeccably maintained.
But what makes Candelario extraordinary, nay, perhaps worthy of pilgrimage, is its proud claim to be the birthplace of chorizo, that object of unstinting devotion in Spanish gastronomy. Granted, people have been making cured sausages with pig guts since time immemorial. But for chorizo to be chorizo, it had to wait for pimentón to arrive from the Americas, for it to be refined--along with other products from the New World--by early agricultural researchers at the monastery of Yuste, and for it to be planted throughout the balmy valley of La Vera.
Happy geographical accident placed Candelario right between the pimentón plantations of La Vera, the acorn-rich lowlands of Extremadura (essential for raising prime pigs), and the cool mountain air of Guijuelo (ideal for dry curing). All the pieces came together. We can imagine some anonymous resident of Candelario chopping meat and fat, and in a fit of inspiration adding garlic and pimentón and a little white wine, and so stuffing the first chorizo.