A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Guatemalan Longaniza

Hey, Mom, I finally re-created the sausage you and Dad and I had at that Guatemalan restaurant (aptly named "Guatemalan Restaurant") in Tucson.

The menu, you'll remember, said:

Longaniza: Guatemalan style sausage stuffed with ground pork,
onions, jalapeno peppers, mint and spices.

The sausage was grilled over hot coals, almost blackened in some places but never burnt. It was stuffed in hog casings that the chef split open prior to grilling. The pork was quite lean and finely ground for sausage. The mint and chiles were fresh and abundant. It was like nothing I'd had before.

So I looked for a recipe. And it turns out this post is destined to become the top search result for the phrase "Guatemalan longaniza," simply because I couldn't find any such thing anywhere on the internet or in any of my cookbooks. There's Spanish longaniza, which is smoked and mint-free. There's Mexican longaniza, which appears to be like Mexican chorizo except in casings (look, a video from Arizona on Mexican sausagemaking in which the narrator has a Castilian accent. Seriously, listen to the Spanish version. Where did they find that guy?)

And there's Filipino longaniza, which is garlicky, spicy, sometimes sweet, and occasionally contains mint.

But no Guatemalan longaniza. I wonder if the chef, the older woman at that restaurant, has connections or family in the Philippines? Maybe there's a Filipino community in Guatemala? You'll have to do further investigative work for me, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I bought a Boston butt on sale at Publix and cut the meat off the bone. I used about three pounds of meat and froze the rest. I decided not to add any fat as I usually would for sausage: the butt was quite fatty already, and I wanted to keep it lean like what we had.

So I mixed the following together and sent it through my grinder fitted with the finer of the two blades:
  • 3 pounds fatty pork, cut into strips
  • a white onion, diced and sauteed in olive oil
  • a clove of garlic, minced and added to saute pan at end
  • a handful of fresh mint
  • a jalapeno from the grocery store
  • a few tabascos from last year's garden, frozen, since grocery store jalapenos are so lame
  • red pepper flakes to round up the chile flavor
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper (lots)
  • fresh thyme (not much)
  • 1/3 cup light rum
I also separately chiffonaded another handful of mint and mixed it in after the grinding, since the grind was so fine and I wanted some visible mint leaves.

But it wasn't quite right. I put the mixture in the fridge and thought about it for a whole day...and finally realized the secret ingredient had to be a good dose of sugar. That would account for the scorched look of the restaurant sausages where the filling had burbled out of the slits. And it worked: it pulled the mint and spices together in a very Vietnamese way.

So I added:
  • several tablespoonfuls of sugar
In fact, Lawson's first comment on the sausages (which he liked) was that they reminded him of the Chinese sweet sausages he used to eat in NYC and at The Orient, the Chinese restaurant in Columbia where he learned much of what he knows about Chinese cooking.

Next time I think I will add lime or orange zest or juice, just a touch. I may also play with some other spices besides thyme and pepper.

I stuffed these into medium hog casings, tied them into 5" links, and hung them in the fridge for two days. I used the gas grill to cook them the first batch, but I will grill them over wood next time. I have been enjoying my homemade sausages grilled over wood so, so, so much more than over gas. The wood seems to fill in the flavor gaps and mellow any dominant flavors -- like, my bratwurst over gas taste too strongly of nutmeg, but over wood they have the right musky, earthy-homemade nutmeg solidity but don't necessarily taste like snickerdoodles.

The longaniza was good. I'll make it again -- it's a very summery sausage.

I have sausages and pork on the brain after interviewing local food activist, politician, and fancypants pig farmer Emile DeFelice a few days ago for an upcoming Free Times story. We foraged for mushrooms (well, as much as my inappropriate footwear would allow). Fangirl and journalist struggled mightily within me. Fortunately, the best defense against asking questions like "How'd you get so awesome?" is to ask as few questions as possible and just let a guy talk. (Actually, that's pretty much my one and only interview tactic: Shut the hell up.) Look for the article on Wednesday.

No good sausage or Emile pictures, sorry. My camera woes continue.


Kris said...

It was named Maya Quetzal!

We are longing to go back there. Maybe Sam and Grace will go with us--he talks to everyone, and is interested in cooking, so maybe he will ask for the sausage recipe. Sounds like a good research project, with friends and Guatemalan beer.

Your version of the sausage sounds delicious.

Eva said...

Ooh, you're right! The name's not on the menu -- it says Guatemalan restaurant across the top along with the address and hours. I'll fix that.

Anonymous said...

Can you write the exact amount of salt and such, it doesn't help that you just wrote lots

Sonia said...

Mint and ground meat often go together in Guatemalan cooking.

I just googled the recipe for longaniza guatemala "recetas" and came up with a whole bunch of recipes in spanish. Here's the link the recipes in spanish:


Common spices in most of the longaniza recipes: Garlic, oregano, black pepper, mint and/or cilantro and/or green onions, vinegar and/or bitter orange juice. Sometimes they add chiles guajillos or cumin, too.

I don't think of longaniza as a sweet sausage. So when I make the recipe I'll probably omit the sugar. Thanks for putting your recipe out there!