A sausage is a prepared food, usually made from ground meat, animal fat, salt, and spices (sometimes with other ingredients such as herbs), typically packed in a casing. Sausage making is a traditional food preservation technique.
Traditionally, casings are made of animal intestines though are now often synthetic. Some sausages are cooked during processing, and the casing may be removed at that time. Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying in cool air, or smoking
Sausage is an outcome of efficient butchery. Sausage-makers put to use meat and animal parts that are edible and nutritious, but not particularly appealing -such as scraps, organ meats, blood, and fat- in a form that allows for preservation: typically, salted and stuffed into a tubular casing made from the cleaned intestine of the animal, producing the characteristic cylindrical shape. Hence, sausages, puddings and salami are amongst the oldest of prepared foods, whether cooked and eaten immediately or dried to varying degrees. The sausage can also be shaped in a square, such as in Africa the sausage is sometimes shaped like a square hamburger patty. It is believed that sausages were invented by Sumerians in what is present day Iraq, around 3000 BC. Chinese sausage làcháng (臘腸/腊肠), which consisted of goat and lamb meat, was first mentioned in 589 BC. Homer, the poet of Ancient Greece, 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, and most likely with the non-literate tribes occupying the larger part of Europe.
Sausage in Italy has its roots in Lucania, the actual Basilicata. Philosophers such as Cicero and Martial stated a kind of sausage called "lucanica", actually widespread in Italy, was introduced by Lucanian slaves during the Roman empire. 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 in the Byzantine Empire, Leo VI the Wise outlawed the production of blood sausages following cases of food poisoning.
Traditionally, sausage casings were made of the cleaned intestines (or stomachs in the case of haggis and other traditional puddings) 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 most basic sausage consists of meat cut into pieces or ground and filled into a casing such as an animal intestine. The meat may be from any animal, but traditionally is pork, beef or veal. The meat/fat ratio is dependent upon the style and producer, but in the United States, fat content is legally limited to a maximum of 30%, 35% or 50%, by weight, depending on the style. The USDA defines the content for various sausages and generally prohibits fillers and extenders. Most traditional styles of sausage from Europe and Asia use no bread-based filler and are 100% meat and fat (excluding salt and other flavorings, such as herbs). In the UK and other countries with English cooking traditions, bread and starch-based fillers account for up to 25% of ingredients. The filler used in many sausages helps them to keep their shape as they are cooked. As the meat contracts in the heat so the filler expands.
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 is subject to regional differences of opinion. In the English-speaking world, the following distinction between fresh sausages, cooked sausages and dry sausages seems to be more or less accepted:
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.
In Italy, the basic distinction is:
The US has a particular type called pickled sausages, commonly found in gas stations and small roadside delicatessens. These are usually smoked and/or 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 canned in wide-mouth jars. They are available in single blister packs, e.g., 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:
Many nations and regions have their own characteristic sausages, using meats and other ingredients native to the region and employed in traditional dishes.
There are hundreds of salami-style sausages. A very popular is the Salame Tandilero, from the city of Tandil. Others examples are: Longaniza, Cantimpalo and Sopresatta.
Vienna sausages are eaten as an appetizer or in hot dogs (called panchos) which are usually served with different sauces and salads.
Leberwurst is usually found in every market and it is eaten as a cold cut or a Pâté.
Weisswurst is also a common dish, eaten usually with mashed potatoes or chucrut (Sauerkraut), in some regions.
Famously, they are an essential component of both a Full English Breakfast. In the UK alone there are believed to be over 470 different types of sausages; some made to traditional regional recipes such as those from Cumberland or Lincolnshire, and increasingly to modern recipes which combine fruit such as apples or apricots with the meat, or are influenced by European styles such as the Toulouse or Chorizo.
In many areas "sausage meat" for frying and stuffing into poultry and meat, is sold as slices cut from an oblong block of pressed meat without casing: in Scotland this is known as Lorne Sausage or often sliced or square while the usual form is sometimes called sausage links. Lorne Sausage is very popular in and around Glasgow. It is usually grilled, though frying is not unusual.
Battered sausage, consisting of a sausage dipped in batter, and fried, is sold throughout Britain from Fish and Chip shops. In England, Saveloy is a type of pre-cooked sausage, larger than a typical hot-dog which is served hot. A saveloy skin was traditionally colored with bismarck-brown dye giving saveloy a distinctive bright red color.
A short variety of sausage, known as the chipolata or 'cocktail sausage' is often wrapped in bacon and served alongside roast turkey at Christmas time, or served cold at children's parties throughout the year.
Due to health concerns over the quality of the meat contained in many commercially produced sausages (heightened by the BSE crisis in the 1990s) there has been a marked improvement in the quality of meat content in commonly available British sausages with a marked return to the artisanal production of high quality traditional recipes, which had previously been in decline. There are currently organisations in a number of UK counties such as Lincolnshire who are seeking European Protected designation of origin (PDO) for their sausages so that they can be made only in the appropriate region and to an attested recipe and quality.
Embutidos or Enchidos generally contain hashed meat, particularly pork, seasoned with aromatic herbs or spices (pepper, red pepper, paprika, garlic, rosemary, thyme, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, etc.)
In Spain a special kind of embutido called salchicha is the most similar one to English or German sausages. Spanish sausages can be red or white. Red sausages contain paprika (pimentón in Spanish) and are usually fried. White sausages don´t have paprika and can be fried or cooked in wine.
Virtually all sausages will be industrially precooked and either fried or warmed in hot water by the consumer or at the hot dog stand. Since hot dog stands are ubiquitous in Denmark some people regard pølser one of the national dishes. The most noticeable aspect of Danish cooked sausages (never the fried ones) is that the cover often contains a traditional bright-red dye. They are also called wienerpølser and legend has it they originate from Vienna where it was once ordered that day-old sausages be dyed as a means of warning. The Swedish falukorv is a similarly red-dyed sausage, but about 5 cm thick, usually baked in the oven coated in mustard or cut in slices and fried. Unlike ordinary sausages it is a typical home dish, not sold at hot dog stands. In Sweden sausages are often accompanied by potato mash rather than bread. In Iceland, lamb may be added to sausages, giving them a distinct taste. Horse sausage and mutton sausage are also traditional foods in Iceland, although their popularity is waning.
Makkara is typically similar in appearance to Polish sausages or bratwursts, but have a very different taste and texture. Most makkara is very light on spices and is therefore frequently eaten with mustard, ketchup, or other table condiments without a bun. Makkara is usually grilled, roasted over coals, or cooked on sauna heating stones until the outer skin begins to darken and crack.
When a steak made out of makkara is eaten inside a sliced, fried bun with cucumber salad and other fillings, it becomes a porilainen after the town of Pori. Pickled makkara intended to consumed as slices is called kestomakkara. This class includes various mettwurst, salami and Balkanesque styles. The most popular kestomakkara in Finland is meetvursti (etymologically this word comes from mettwurst), which contains finely ground full meat, ground fat and various spices. It is not unlike salami, but usually thicker and less salty. Meetvursti used to contain horse meat, but only a few brands contain it anymore, mostly due to the high cost of production.
The cervelat, a cooked sausage, is often referred to as Switzerland's national sausage. A great number of regional sausage specialties exist as well.
The frankfurter or hot dog is the most common sausage in the US and Canada. If proper terminology is observed in manufacture and marketing (it often is not), "frankfurters" are more mildly seasoned, "hot dogs" more robustly so.
There are many types of sucuk, but it is mostly made from beef. It is fermented, spiced (with garlic and pepper) and filled in an inedible casing that needs to be peeled off before consuming. Slightly smoked sucuk is considered superior. The taste is spicy, salty and a little raw, similar to pepperoni. Some varieties are extremely hot and/or greasy. Some are "adulterated" with turkey, water buffalo meat, sheep fat 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.
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. It can be served on a stick (like the corn dog) or on a bone as well. 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.
Sausages can also be modified to use indigenous ingredients. Mexican styles add oregano and the "guajillo" red pepper to the Spanish chorizo to give it an even hotter spicy touch.
Certain sausages also contain ingredients such as cheese and apple; or types of vegetable.
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, mycoprotein, 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 such as the Glamorgan sausage rely on spices and vegetables to lend their natural flavor to the product and no attempt is made to imitate meat.