Man’s earliest preserved and convenience foods were sausages. All the small bits and pieces of a pig’s carcass as well as blood, unsuitable to make ham, were salted and appropriately flavoured with spices, then stuffed in clean intestines for immediate cooking and/or smoking.
The word sausage originates from teh Latin salsicia, something salted, like the huge dried sausage often goes under the Italian name salami, regardless of country of production. Salami requires chopped lean pork or beef or horsemeat, mixed with pork fat, salt, whole peppercorns and spices. The thoroughly mixed ingredients are then stuffed into either natural or synthetic casings. (Flavouring agents such as paprika, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper and wine may be added according to each recipe).
Sometimes salami are dipped in brine and then dried, or directly exposed to dry air in a well-ventilated storeroom.
Italy, France, Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany are major producers and consumers of salami as well as other types of sausages.
The U S A and Canada also produce significant amounts of sausages.
Mortadella, the huge, smooth, intricately flavoured, pale-pink Italian sausage is studded with bits of pork fat, whole peppercorns and pictachios. Mortadella from Bologna’s master sausage makers hands in can be delightful. Imitations produced elsewhere remain uninspiring.
Andouille from France and New Orleans is a fine wine-cooked sausage subjected to cold or hot smoke.
Blutzungenwurst, a German invention, may be produced in Hungary, Austria, Poland or Germany. It consists of blood, fats, bits of tongue and spices. While some people wax poetically about blood-tongue sausages, others find the very idea of combining these ingredients revolting.
The simplest of all sausages are the moist fresh links and huge coils sold for boiling, pan-frying, or grilling. Considering the limited ingredients – fresh pork and seasonings – it is surprising how varied in both taste and texture they can be.
Sausages from Toulouse (France) are very different to those made in Cornwall, Cumberland, or Cambridge, Ontario; bratwurst from Germany surpasses all both in taste and texture, if it comes from respectable butcher with a traditional recipe.
German and Austrian butchers produce consistently fine sausages throughout the year.
Frankfurter sausages, invented in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, require only a few minutes of cooking. On the other hand zampone and cotechino require hours of simmering. (Zampone consists of a special sausage mixture stuffed in a boned pig’s foot).
The oldest of all “pudding” sausages is haggis, still popular today in Scottish university cafeterias for its bone-sticking qualities and frugality. Although most people think haggis to have been invented in Scotland, the origins of this nourishing food can be traced back all the way to the earliest days of cooking in France, where every bit of pork or beef was used as food. In many poor and even rich countries this is still the case today.
Pates are still considered to be the crowning jewels of the fine French culinary art and may consist of pork sausage meat or minced liver, or both, flavoured with herbs, spices, mushrooms, wine and brandy. Sometimes game meat and truffles are included and on occasion foie gras d’oie (fattened goose liver). Pates are baked in a terrine or a pastry lining in specially designed metal forms.
Generally, pates are fine textured; terrines are coarser and usually covered with fat to preserve them.
Both German and French chefs excel in pate production and presentation. Skilfully prepared pates are gastronomic delights and much more expensive than coarse, poorly made pates by manufacturers inexpensively. They give refined pates a bad reputation.
Raised pies are the specialty of Midlands and Yorkshire (England) made with a special hot-water dough crust. The dough is raised by hand up the sides of floured wooden pie moulds and the meat filling placed inside (chopped fat, lean pork, herbs, game, poultry or a variety of other combinations). A pastry lid and some decorations are added before baking. Raised pies are still quite popular in England but are rarely made by housewives. Butchers are happy to cater to demand.
Sausages you should try
Polish: Krakowska, Kabanosy, Debowiecka, Wiankowa.
Italian: zampone, mortadella, salami, cotechino.
German: leberwurst, cervelat, bratwurst, mettwurst, blutzungenwurst, salmi, kalbswurst, frankfuter.
France: rosette, andouille, boudin blanc, boudin noir, saucisson de Lyon.
United Kingdom: Cumberland, haggis
Hungary: Debreziner, salami
Austria: produces and consumes identical sausages to Germany.
The pig world’s most common food animal, was domesticated in Asia Minor several millennia ago (approximately 7000 B C). Its fat was used as a food preservative, as well as for food.
Chinese are the biggest consumers of pork and in fact equate it with meat. Beef, veal, lamb, and game have practically no place in the Chinese gastronomy.
In Germany and France the various cuts of pork are used in countless ways. Pigs have a short life-cycle (three to four months) and are omnivorous, thus their popularity in a number of cuisines, except with orthodox Jews and Muslims who would never touch pork due to religious beliefs.
Sausage cuts of pork are processed to sausages, pickled, salted, bacon, canned and ham.
The noblest cuts of pork, the hind legs and the loin, yield the best-cured pork and ham. First they are cured in dry salt or brine, then may be smoked or dry cured. For superb ham the quality of fodder must be carefully controlled. Parma–raised pigs are fattened with parsnip and those of Smithfield in Georgia on peanuts.
Spanish ham pata negra breed pigs receive acorn before slaughter. High-quality ham is always cured on teh bone. Boneless ham should be avoided. They taste bland. Greater Toronto offers many opportunities to shop for high quality ham also sausages.
The following stores are highly recommended. Vienna Meat market, Brandt’s (owns and operates several stores), Pasquale Brothers, Michael Desborough, Simon de Groot, Old Country Farm, Bruno’s. Pusateri’s. Longo’s and Whole Foods.
Italy: Prosciutto crudo, prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto di San Daniele
United Kingdom: York ham, Cumberland ham, Wiltshire ham, Suffolk ham
Germany: Lachsschinken, Westphalian ham, smoked ham, Black Forest ham.
Czech Republic: Prague ham
France: jambon de Bayonne, jambon de Paris, jambon de Bourgogne, jambon Normande
Switzerland: Grison ham
U S A; Smithfield, Bradenham, Virginia
Pork is processed in various ways. Some cuts are salted or pickled, others are used for bacon and sausages. A few hams are canned for export.