I finally decided to seriously check out all the little Mexican markets in my area. They turned out to be a revelation.
Each carnaceria makes their own chorizo, usually two types, fresh and dried.
I’ll never find the reference, but somewhere in Google-land I read an article that said the local markets also make their own queso fresco.
That turns out to be true. Not only that, but often they produce their own salsas, quacamole, mole, tortillas, tamales and aqua frescas. The quality is delicious ... the prices are low. A pint of absolutely stellar salsa rarely tops $2. Hand-made chorizo is about $3 a pound.
I thought I would start with the best. About a year ago, Carneceria en Valle opened in the back of Valley Produce. They have a sausage maker who ties the chorizo with corn husks.
Of the Mexican sausage makers, this is the Fatted Calf of that category. It is gratifying to see how he has grown in the past year, the sausages more elegant and complex.
The day I stopped in, the man making the chorizo was there. A pile of herbs and spices to the side of the table, he was squeezing a huge blood –red bladder and mixing up the meat. The day I stopped by there were 5 types of chorizo available.
The grind on the chorio was medium. Unlike most fresh chorizo, these are not fatty, with only a speck of redi chile oil from some of the links.
- Central American
These were round little sausgages, the size of small meatballs, tied off with corn husks. The color of an American sausage, inside there was a red tint from a little spice. They were chewy and mild. The casing did not pull away from the sausage. I would be interested in learning how these are used in Central America
- Jalepeno (chorizo verde)
These are more elegant that the first time I tried them a year ago. A lovely basil green, they had a fresh pepper taste with only a mild spiciness.
- All beef
This was the only sausage not tied with corn husks, but in the more traditional long continuous coil. There was lots of cinnamin flavor here with a hint of clove.
I really liked this. I can’t say why. There was very little spice. It oozed a little red chile oil, but it was just a satisfying sausage.
This was hot and complex, a lovely sausage. The corn husk was dyed red. The spice didn’t just have heat but also flavor. The heat was tingly, not under done and not searing. Bravo.
There are other sausage that are made depending on what is available. Once there were some hard-to-find peppers that were part of the sausage. All the chorizo is fresh. I haven’t seen any dried. Whle they have a nice selection of Mexican cheese, they don’t make their own. No salsas either. It is all about the meat and sausage.
I really should take my own advice. On my MyChow page, for most under-rated, I said it was the place you pass by a million times and never step in the door.
I've passed all these markets so many times in the almost two years I've lived in this area. If I did stop in, I didn't look closely. These markets have hidden artisans, each one embracing those qualties of making excellent house-made products ... but without the PR, hype ... or price.
Here was my first report just after they opened.
Chorizo Crawl Recap – What’s your favorite chorizo?
*** Note: Edited Aug 11, 2006 at 10:50 to add link for recap