The Alheira is a traditional smoked sausage; its main ingredients are pork, poultry meat, wheat bread and olive oil, seasoned with salt, garlic and paprika. Game meat, beef, pepperoni and aged ham can also be used. Horseshoe-shaped, the Alheira is made using a fine paste and minced meat which is then filled into either cow or pig tripe.
Handmade in the northern region (Trás-os-Montes) and central region (Beira Alta), the Mirandela variety of the sausage is the most well known. The Alheira from Mirandela is a qualified product and every year the Alheira, Tourism and Olive Oil fair is held in the city of Mirandela. Vinhais also has Alheira and other prestigious sausages.
The dish can be cooked on the barbecue, or fried in it's own fat, and is traditionally served with boiled or sautéed vegetables, including spring greens. Cabbage is another common garnish which is used to wrap the sausage before it is stuffed.
The origin of the sausage dates back to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and is associated with the presence of Jews in Trás-os-Montes. Since they didn’t eat pork, the Jews didn’t make a traditional sausage and avoided smoking the meat, making them easily identifiable to the Inquisition. So, they decided to use other meats which they wrapped in dough to make the alheira. The recipe turned out to be popular among Christians who eventually added pork to the dish.