not including casing—are a popular topping for pizza in many countries.
Sausage is a natural outcome of efficient butchery. Sausage-makers put to good use meat and animal parts that are edible and usually nutritious, but not particularly appealing, such as organ meats, blood, and fat, and allow the preservation of meat that can not be consumed immediately. Hence, sausages are among the oldest of prepared foods.
It is often assumed that sausages were invented by the Sumerians in what is Iraq today, around 3000 BC. Chinese sausage làcháng, which consisted of goat and lamb meat, was first mentioned in 589 BC. The Greek poet Homer mentioned a kind of blood sausage in the Odyssey (book 20, verse 25) , and Epicharmus (ca. 550 BC - ca. 460 BC) wrote a comedy titled The Sausage . Evidence suggests that sausages were already popular both among the ancient Greeks and Romans.
During the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, sausages were associated with the Lupercalia festival. The early Catholic Church outlawed the Lupercalia Festival and made eating sausage a sin. For this reason, the Roman emperor Constantine banned the eating of sausages. Early in the 10th century, the Byzantine emperor Leo VI outlawed the production of blood sausages following cases of food poisoning.
Traditionally, sausage casings were made of the intestines of animals. Today, however, natural casings are often replaced by collagen, cellulose or even plastic casings, especially in the case of industrially manufactured sausages. Additionally, luncheon meat (such as SPAM) and sausage meat are now available without casings in tins and jars.
The basic sausage is that of pork, rusk and a herb (Sage is the most common), filled into a casing such as hog intestine. The meat content is dependent upon the maker. English Food Law states it must be at least 75% meat content, but many home recipes contest that good sausage must be 50% lean meat and 50% solid fat.
The word sausage is derived from Old French saussiche, from the Latin word salsus, meaning salted. The word botulism is derived from the Latin word for sausage, botulus.
Classification of sausages
Sausages may be classified in any number of ways, for instance by the type of meat and other ingredients they contain, or by their consistency. The most popular classification is probably by type of preparation, but even this suffers from regional differences in opinion. In the English-speaking world, the following distinction between fresh sausages, cooked sausages and dry sausages seems to be more or less accepted:
- Cooked sausages are made with fresh meats and then fully cooked. They are either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated. Examples include Braunschweiger and liver sausages.
- Cooked smoked sausages are cooked and then smoked, or smoke-cooked. They are eaten hot or cold, but need to be refrigerated. Examples include Wieners, kielbasa and Mortadella.
- Fresh sausages are made from meats that have not been previously cured. They must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating. Examples include Boerewors, Italian pork sausage and fresh beef sausage.
- Fresh smoked sausages are fresh sausages that are smoked. They should be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating. Examples include Mettwurst and Romanian sausage.
- Dry sausages are fresh sausages that are dried. They are generally eaten cold and will keep for a long time. Examples include salami, Droë wors and summer sausage.
Other countries, however, use different systems of classification. Germany, for instance, which boasts more than 1200 types of sausage, distinguishes raw, cooked and pre-cooked sausages.
- Raw sausages are made with raw meat and are not cooked. They are preserved by lactic fermentation, and may be dried, brined or smoked. Most raw sausages will keep for a long time. Examples include cervelat, mettwurst and salami.
- Cooked sausages may include water and emulsifiers and are always cooked. They will not keep long. Examples include Jagdwurst and Weißwurst.
- Pre-cooked sausages are made with cooked meat, and may include raw organ meat. They may be heated after casing, and will keep only for a few days. Examples include Saumagen and Blutwurst.
The US has a particular type called Pickled sausages, commonly found in gas stations and small roadside delicatessens. These are usually smoked and/or cooked (boiled) sausages of a highly processed frankfurter (hot dog) or kielbasa style plunged into a boiling brine of vinegar, salt, spices (red pepper, paprika...) and often a pink coloring, then jarred. They are available in single blister packs i.e. Slim Jim meat snacks, or in jars atop the deli cooler. They are shelf stable, and are a frequently offered alternative to beef jerky, beef stick, and kippered beef snacks.
Certain countries classify sausage types according to the region in which the sausage was traditionally produced:
- France: Montbéliard, Morteau, Strasbourg, Toulouse, …
- Germany: Frankfurt, Thuringia, Nuremberg, Pomerania, …
- Austria: Vienna, …
- Slovenia: Kranjska (klobasa), after the Slovenian name for the province of Carniola
- Spain: botifarra catalana, chorizo riojano, chorizo gallego, chorizo de Teror, longaniza de Aragón, morcilla de Burgos, morcilla de Ronda, morcilla extremeña, morcilla dulce canaria, salchichón de Vic, fuet d'Olot, sobrasada mallorquina, botillo de León, …
Types of sausage
Many nations and regions have their own characteristic sausages, using meats and other ingredients native to the region and employed in traditional dishes. English and Scottish sausages, or bangers (so named for their tendency to explode during cooking if poorly made), for example, normally have a significant amount of rusk, or bread crumbs, and are less meaty than sausages from other countries, although sausages with high meat content can be found. Bangers are also used to make toad in the hole. They are an essential part of a full English breakfast, and are usually offered with an Irish breakfast. According to Sausagefans.com, in Britain alone there are over 470 different types of sausages. The British sausage was once the butt of a joke on Yes Minister, where it was to be renamed by European Union directive on all labels as the "Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube".
Sausages can also be modified to use indigenous ingredients. The Mexicans added oregano and the "guajillo" red pepper to the Spanish chorizo to give it an even hotter spicy touch.
Sausages may be served as hors d'oeuvre, in a sandwich, in a bread roll as a hot dog, wrapped in a tortilla, or as an ingredient in dishes such as stews and casseroles. Sausage without casing is called sausage meat and can be fried or used as stuffing for poultry, or for wrapping foods like Scotch eggs. Similarly, sausage meat encased in puff pastry is called a sausage roll.
In Turkey sausage is known as sosis which is made of beef.
It is worth mentioning that there are currently organisations in a number of UK counties such as Lincolnshire who are seeking European protected status on their sausages so that, rather like Champagne, they can only be made in the appropriate county. So in the future it may be illegal to call a Lincolnshire sausage a Lincolnshire sausage if it is not made in Lincolnshire.
In England, Saveloy is the snack referring to the sausage while in Hong Kong the Cervelat Sausage is a snack on its own, too (evenly machine-roasted). Both are bigger than general hot-dog sausages.
Sucuk (pronounced tsudjuck with accent on the last syllable) is a type of sausage made in Turkey and neighboring Balkan countries suggesting that sucuk may actually be a close relative of the original sausages of the ancient Rome and Greece. Modern Turkey is "on" Asia Minor, the heartland of ancient Greek and Byzantine cultures. There are numerous types of food which are known to have been made in the Roman Empire that survive in modern Turkish cuisine only. Considering what the original word for sausage means, rather salty Turkish sausage, sucuk, could very well be one the sausages of the ancient times. There are many types of sucuk but the best veriety is made from beef, water buffalo meat and sheep fat. It is fermented, spiced (with garlic and pepper) and filled in sheep intestines. Slightly smoked sucuk is considered superior. The taste is spicy, salty and a little raw, similar to pepperoni. Some verieties are extremely hot and/or greasy. Some are "adulterated" with turkey or chicken. There are many dishes made with sucuk but grilled sucuk remains the most popular. Smoke dried varieties are consumed "raw" in sandwiches. An intestinal loop is one sucuk. Smoked sucuk is usually straight.
Vegetarian and vegan sausages are also available in some countries, or can be made from scratch. These may be made from tofu, seitan, nuts, pulses, soya protein, vegetables or any combination of similar ingredients that will hold together during cooking. These sausages, like most meat-replacement products, generally fall into two camps: some are shaped, colored, flavored, etc to replicate the taste and texture of meat as accurately as possible; others rely on spices and vegetables to lend their natural flavour to the product and no attempt is made to imitate meat.