Residents of the Balearic Islands are unabashed partisans for their distinctive red sobrasada sausage. It is made from the meat of the local porc negre, or 'black pig', which is related to the ibérico pig of the mainland, but is slightly larger with a longer neck and meatier cheeks, and it is seasoned with a local paprika ground from the local red peppers.

The meat and the seasonings are stuffed into casings, and the sausages are then hung to cure in the open air, usually for between one month and eight months, with the timing determined by the size and shape of the casing. All of the casings are from the pig as well, and they can range from long and thin to short and stout to very large, depending on whether the smallest intestine, the colon, or even the stomach is used.

Although from the outside sobrasada looks like a sausage, the texture inside is more like a soft pâté. When eaten on its own, it is usually spread on toast, rather than cut into slices as you would a chorizo. It is also used to flavor other dishes, and is a popular topping for cocas, the typical flatbreads of the islands.

The late Spanish gastronomist Néstor Luján considered sobrasada the best pâté in the world. I agree with him. Its unique texture is due to the humid and salty Mediterranean air on the islands, conditions that are terrible for curing the hams so covered on the mainland but are ideal for curing this sublime delicacy.

A homemade sobrasada recipe

Because of the increasing demand for sobrasada all over Spain, some farmers are using the meat of light-coated European pigs to make the sausage, creating a less expensive but still tasty product.

For the adventurous reader with the desire to try something special, here are the proportions for the primary ingredients for homemade sobrasada:

  • 2/3 of pork tenderloin
  • 1/3  fatback and lard in equal proportions.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot paprika

Finely mince the meat, fatback, and lard and season with salt, pepper and hot paprika. Fill natural or artificial casings with the mixture and cure your sausages in a cool place of about 50ºF. For thinner sausages (about two inches in diameter) allow a minimum of two months for curing; for thicker ones (between three and five inches in diameter), allow four to five months.

Since you will not be using meat from the porc negre, this sobrasada can only roughly approximate the real thing. But the next time you travel to Majorca make sure you taste this unique and delicious sausage, checking first for the label that depicts the black pig, a guarantee of autheticity.

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Sobrassada is a typical sausage from Majorca

Balearic IslandsThe gastronomy from Majorca, Menorca, Eivissa·Ibiza and Formentera is comprised of many delectable and pleasurable dishes. The cuisine takes full advantage of the islands' resources and the many cultures which have passed through the archipelago over the years have left their mark: many different civilisations (Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, French, English...).