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Sobrassada ([soβɾəˈsaðə]; Spanish: sobrasada) is a raw, cured sausage from the Balearic Islands made with ground pork, paprika and salt and other spices. Sobrassada, along with botifarró are traditional Balearic sausage meat products prepared in the laborious but festive rites that still mark the autumn and winter pig slaughter known as a matança (in Spanish, matanza) in Majorca and Ibiza. The chemical principle that makes sobrassada is the dehydration of meat under certain weather conditions (high humidity and mild cold) which are typical of the late Balearic autumn.
After centuries of Muslim rule of Spain, pork consumption returned to the region in the Middle Ages. Paprika was added after the spice was brought back from the Americas in the 15th century. Sobrassada is thought to have originated and expanded, as a culinary concept, in the Crown of Aragon-controlled Western Mediterranean (Sicily, Balearic Islands, Sardinia) after the 14th century, as similar sausages are still made in this region.
In a traditional Mediterranean diet, containing little meat, as Majorca had until the 1950s, sobrassada and related pork sausages were the main and sometimes only sources of pork for Majorcans. Larger meat cuts such as pork or lamb roasts, pork steaks or beef cuts were largely festive dishes, or restricted to the well-off. Even today dishes such as porcella rostida, a whole roasted suckling pig, are only served on special occasions.
Sobrassada is made with a choice of pork loin, pork bacon (locally called xuia), minced and mixed with paprika, salt and black pepper at the ends (to deter insects). Some makers also add cayenne pepper to the mixture and market it as coent, hot. Then the mixture is put into a pork intestine, and hung from a pole for some weeks until it is cured. The string which is tied around the intestine can be used to differentiate between the hot and dolç (literally "sweet", though in this case meaning "not spicy") varieties, the red or red and white string being the hot one.
Small, thin sobrassadas are called llonganissa, and are made from the small intestine. Bigger and thicker ones are called cular or pultrums, and the largest type are huge pork bladders called bufetes or bisbe (bishop). Thicker varieties take longer to cure, staggering its consumption through the year (thinner during winter, thicker during summer-autumn).
Four geographical areas in the Mediterranean, apart from the Balearic Islands, have close links to sobrassada for different reasons:
- In colonial Algeria, sobrassada, named soubressade, was part of the pied-noir cuisine and extremely popular until the independence and re-Islamisation of the country; pork is forbidden by Islam. Today soubressade can only be found in continental France, in butcher shops run by pied-noirs.
- In Catalonia, due to cultural links with the Balearic Islands, sobrassada and other native pork products can be found. The eastern Pyrenees are known for a mountain version of sobrassada.
- The village of Tàrbena, in the province of Alicante, was re-populated after the expulsion of the Moriscos with colonists from Majorca, who brought along several traditions from the island, including their own variant of the Catalan language and foods such as sobrasada, still made there.
- In the island of Sicily and in Calabria, a similar sausage has been made under the name soppressata since the 15th century or longer.
Botifarró is a pork intestine filled with coarsely ground pork cuts, including liver, and spiced with salt, pepper and aniseed, which gives this sausage its characteristic flavor. The sausages are boiled and eaten immediately. Botifarró is specific to Majorca, but very similar sausages can be found in the Spanish provinces of Tarragona, Castellón, Valencia and Alicante. Other pork products typical from the cuisine of Majorca are camaïot, veria negra and xuia (pancetta).