Sausage is typically made from pork, though it’s loosely defined as any meat that’s been ground and seasoned. It's traditionally stuffed into a casing, but can also be sold in bulk for forming into patties or crumbling into sauces. Historically, sausage casings were made from the intestines of pigs or cows, but today you can also find collagen and cellulose casings. After this step, the sausage links may be cured, both cured and smoked, or sold fresh.
If your sausage has been cured first, there’s no need to get out your frying pan—it’s ready to eat, as is. The curing process has the double advantage of enhancing the flavors in the sausage as well as prolonging shelf life. To start the cure, makers mix-in both salt and either nitrates or nitrites and from there, will either gently cook the sausages using smoke or hot water. If the latter method is used, the sausages will likely then be cold-smoked to develop their flavor. Dry-cured sausages can also be found, though they are less commonly available due to the precise technique required to make them. This is because they are not cooked but fermented, so makers must be careful to expose their sausages to the right sorts of yeasts and cultures to prevent contamination. That said, all varieties of sausage have something delicious to offer so it’s worth getting acquainted with them to expand your knowledge.
Originally from France, andouille is a smoked sausage made from pig chitterlings, tripe, onions, wine, and seasonings. The chitterlings and tripe are cleaned, folded, and stuffed into casings before being cured in a brine for several days. Then, the andouille will be smoked for anywhere between three weeks to two months before it’s finally cooked for an additional few hours. The end result is a sausage that’s quite unique in texture and flavor, but one that’s delicious nonetheless. Thanks to French influence, both Creole and Cajun cuisines have put their own spin on andouille, often trading the chitterlings and tripe for pork shoulder, spicing the mixture more heavily, and twice-smoking it before it’s served. Enjoy the Creole version in a classic jambalaya or add French andouille to your charcuterie board.
Germany is renowned for its sausages and bratwurst is one of its most popular. There are many regional variations, but the basic recipe includes a blend of pork and veal, as well as seasonings like nutmeg and coriander. Some recipes even call for cream and eggs, but you’ll never see bratwurst aged or smoked. Instead, it’s a fresh and succulent sausage, great for pairing with traditional accouterments like sauerkraut and potato salad, or unique ones like curried ketchup.
Also referred to as black or blood pudding, blood sausage is not an exaggeration. Indeed, they are made by stuffing casings with cooked or dried blood and mixing them with other ingredients like meat, fat, bread, barley, and seasonings. Blood sausages are enjoyed in many countries worldwide, and as a result, there are plenty of variations. The Polish enjoy kiszka, made with pork and barley, while the Spanish make morcilla, a pig’s blood sausage blended with rice and seasonings like pimentón, depending on the region.
It’s thought that Italian sausages have been around since ancient Rome, so they must be good, right? They come in sweet, mild, and spicy flavors and the distinguishing ingredient present in all varieties is fennel or anise seed. Italian sausage, or salsiccia as it’s called in Italy, is a fresh pork sausage that can be crumbled into endless varieties of pasta sauces or grilled, topped with broccoli rabe, and served on crusty bread.
Kielbasa is a staple sausage in the Polish kitchen. It’s typically made from pork, but you’ll also find it made from beef, lamb, or poultry. The most common kielbasa in the west is kielbasa polka, which is seasoned with marjoram, stuffed into natural casings, and hardwood smoked. Enjoy it alongside sauerkraut and apple in this traditional dish or stir it into this creamy stew.
Chorizo was originally developed in the Iberian Peninsula, or modern-day Spain and Portugal. Due to Spanish and Portuguese influence on Latin America, Mexico has its own variety, but the two styles are quite different. Spanish chorizo is normally made with ground pork, though it’s not uncommon to find it made with beef. From here, herbs, garlic, white wine, and pimentón, or smoked paprika, will be added. Pimentón provides chorizo its characteristic red hue and is a staple in Spanish cuisine. Next, the chorizo will be cured, fermented, and likely smoked for at least a few weeks (although, there are varieties that are not smoked).
Mexican chorizo is typically made from ground pork, seasonings, and chile peppers, since importing pimentón is often expensive. The sausage will then be stuffed into its casing and sold without being smoked. Try it in an unconventional dish like shakshuka or one that’s more classically Latin, like empanadas. Apart from the red Mexican chorizo, the Toluca Valley region has also developed another, unique chorizo that’s green in color due to the addition of tomatillo, cilantro, and chile peppers. If you can find some of this less common variety, enjoy it in this avocado breakfast sandwich.
The Greeks have staked-out their own scrumptious sausage category with Loukaniko, a pork sausage that has an unexpected twist: citrus peel. That said, you can also find versions with fennel, cinnamon, leeks, and red or white wine. Seeing how this is a sausage born in the Mediterranean, many Loukanikos are also made with a blend of pork and lamb. You can grill it and serve it as part of mezze, or enjoy it in a gyro, slathered in tzatziki and feta cheese.