What Makes a Sausage a Sausage?
Have you ever wondered what defines a sausage? Or maybe you’ve contemplated the mysteries of sausage-making?
Sausage is just as fascinating as it is tasty. This delicious American staple has a long history around the world and is, in many ways, distinct from its meaty counterparts. Let’s discover what makes sausage unique and explore how it’s made.
What Is Sausage Made Of?
At the heart of each sausage is ground meat and seasonings. Most sausage is stuffed into a casing and linked. You can also shape ground sausage into patties or add it to a casserole, soup, dip or pasta.
Sausage is typically made from ground pork, poultry, beef, lamb or veal. Other common ingredients include:
- Salt: Salt enhances flavor and acts as a preservative.
- Sugar: Sugar can be used to balance the saltiness in sausage and add a slight, tasty sweetness.
- Spices: Various spices give a sausage its robust flavor. Commonly used sausage spices include black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley and paprika.
- Water: Water is typically added to replace the moisture lost during cooking or smoking.
- Fat: Like water, fat also helps keep sausage moist and adds a buttery flavor.
Sausage meat is often encased in a natural or synthetic casing. Natural casings are made from animal digestive tracts, while artificial casings are made from collagen. A natural casing gives a sausage a trademark curve and mouthwatering snap.
So what makes sausage different from other meats? Sausage links require special methods to prepare. It’s also unique because ground meat is its main ingredient.
How Are Sausages Made?
A lot has changed over the centuries, but sausages stay true to tradition. Although today’s chefs may use refined recipes and electric equipment, sausage-making has mostly stayed the same from long ago. To many, it’s regarded as a culinary art.
Sausage-making begins with high-quality meat, spices and seasonings, and a few tools, such as:
- Grinder: Chefs use a hand-cranked or electric grinder to grind the meat to the desired consistency.
- Thermometer: A meat thermometer ensures the meat is kept at a safe temperature before and after cooking.
- Scale: A scale is essential for weighing the meat and ingredients and creating a consistent product.
- Stuffer: A sausage stuffer fills the casing with the meat mixture. An electric stuffer works faster than a manual stuffer.
With the above tools ready, sausage-making is less of a mystery. Here’s a general overview of how to make sausage:
- Weigh or measure ingredients.
- Grind the meat.
- Add seasoning and other ingredients and mix.
- Stuff the mixture into the casings.
- Link the sausages.
- Smoke or cook the sausages.
Exploring a World of Sausages
Did you know sausage has roots in cultures worldwide and may have developed before written history? Sausage comes from the Latin word “salsus,” which means “salted.”
Researchers believe people likely discovered sausage accidentally thousands of years ago by adding salt to meat for flavor. They learned that salt kept the meat from spoiling, which was crucial for storing meat without refrigeration, and they never looked back.
- Italian: The Italian sausage Americans know and love is typically available in sweet, mild or hot flavors. Sweet Italian sausage might have sweet basil in its mix. Mild Italian sausage might have the same ingredients as hot but without red pepper flakes. Whether mild, hot or sweet, Italian sausage is delicious as a pizza topping, tossed with pasta or served in a crusty roll with peppers and onions.
- Chicken: Chicken sausage provides a lower-fat alternative to pork or beef and is just as tasty. You can add chicken sausage to pasta, soups, salads or other dishes for a healthy, nutrient-packed meal.
- Andouille: Andouille sausage originated in France but is known in America as a staple in Cajun and Creole dishes. With a distinct spicy, smoky flavor, Andouille adds richness to classics like gumbo or jambalaya. It also brings zing to mac and cheese or a hearty breakfast casserole.
- Chorizo: Hailing from Spain and Portugal, chorizo lends bold flavor and heat to just about any dish. Use it as a taco filling, toss it into your quiche or smash it with potatoes for an unforgettable meal.
- Bratwurst: Bratwurst is a centuries-old sausage originating in Germany. Bratwurst used to mean “finely chopped sausage meat” but translates to “frying sausage” today. This sausage variety showcases a range of warm spices like nutmeg and cardamom and is delicious with cabbage, potatoes or on a roll.
What’s to Love About Sausage?
There’s so much more to love about sausage beyond its rich history and finger-licking flavor, such as:
- Makes a quick meal: Sausage fits perfectly into a busy lifestyle. At-home chefs can use sausage to whip up quick, satisfying meals after school, work or on busy weekends.
- Delivers plenty of protein: Sausage is a fantastic protein source. It’s also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, like B vitamins and iron. Sausage can be part of a complete meal when paired with fresh veggies and healthy carbohydrates.
- Is super versatile: Last but not least, sausage is extremely versatile. Let your imagination soar with sausage, and have fun experimenting with different recipes.
To make the most of sausage, combine it with complementary flavors. For instance, if you’re cooking pork sausage, consider pairing it with something acidic, like mustard or sauerkraut. Acidic or vinegary foods help balance fat. If you’re working with spicy sausage, add it to a starchy or creamy dish. For example, chorizo goes well with a velvety pasta sauce.
Mouthwatering Sausage Recipes
As mentioned above, sausage can go with just about anything, so feel free to get creative. Toss it in eggs for breakfast or stir sausage slices in your favorite soup. Bake it with ravioli, rice or potatoes and top it with your favorite cheese.
You can even make sweet dishes with sausage, like a blueberry-sausage breakfast bake, bread pudding or even sausage cake. For inspiration and ideas, check out our scrumptious and creative sausage recipes.
Shop Premio Foods for Your Next Sausage Recipe
So, what makes a sausage a sausage? It’s more than just ground meat. At Premio Foods, we believe every great sausage is made with tradition and a lot of love.
For over 40 years, we’ve been crafting high-quality sausage made with fresh, natural ingredients and carefully blended spices. Check out our store locator to find Premio Foods products near you, or visit our blog for sausage cooking tips, recipes and ideas.