Sure, they taste like meat. But are they made of meat? Read on to find the answer as we investigate.
Not all sausages are created or, more properly stated, made equally. Some manufacturers stint on good quality meat and even add filler such as rice and water.
The unwary shopper could pick up a cheap sausage, thinking he or she is getting a bargain—only to find out that it tastes terrible. As with anything, when selecting sausages for the grill or to slice up as pizza toppings, caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies.
A Brief History of Cheap Sausages
According to a page maintained by Sausage House, the sausage is first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. The original sausage probably dates back to the beginning of civilization but is best known in ancient times in both Greek and Roman cuisine.
The original sausages consisted of blood, offal, and scraps of meat stuffed into the stomachs or intestines of animals. Offal (pronounced similar to “awful”) consists of the non-muscular meat of an animal. Such includes the stomach, heart, kidneys, brains, and liver, among other body parts.
Modern Great Britain has a reputation of producing cheap and unappetizing sausages. According to The Guardian, the filling can consist of something called “mechanically recovered meat” which is blasted from a pig carcass into a red sludge. Sugar, water, and various preservatives and flavor additives combine to make the finished product.
The common hot dog could be considered an example of a cheap sausage.
According to Hot-Dog.org, some suggest that what we now know as the hot dog was invented in Frankfurt in 1487. However, the hot dog we know, and love was introduced in the late 19th century in Chicago by German immigrants.
The hot dog served in a bun with condiments soon became a staple for people attending baseball games. The cheap form of sausage is currently a favorite for backyard barbecues. Hot dogs can consists of pork, beef, turkey, and even a vegetable-based pseudo-meat.
One exception to the cheap sausage that is yet appetizing and has a great cultural background is the haggis, the national dish of Scotland.
Haggis can be considered a sausage because it uses a sheep’s stomach as a casing. It is packed with minced sheep organ meat, sheep suet (fat), oatmeal, onion, and various spices. The haggis is boiled.
It was once considered a rustic dish, but that changed when Robert Burns celebrated it in verse. At some gatherings, it is served with great ceremony, with bagpipes and a reciting of Burns’ poem “To a Haggis.” Sadly, authentic haggis is banned in the United States thanks to a 1971 USDA ban on a key ingredient, sheep’s lung.
How to Avoid Cheap Sausage at the Supermarket
Clearly, avoiding cheap sausages that can be more filling than meat requires a careful perusal of the packaging labels. The more meat and less filling that a sausage has the better it will likely taste.
Mind, some sausage additives are pretty good. Herbs and spices can enhance their flavor.
According to Spices, Inc., common spices used in sausages—whether store-bought or homemade—include whole spices such as black peppercorns, dill seed, celery seed, yellow mustard seed, allspice berries, and fennel seed. Some ground spices that are often used in sausages include allspice, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, pepper, paprika, thyme, sage, mace, ginger, chiles, cayenne, and fennel.
Some sausages include cheese as a filler. Unlike most fillers, cheese serves as a flavor enhancer. Minced garlic or onion also add a flavor and pungency.
As for hot dogs, the best tasting version are made entirely of beef. Of course, the flavor of a hot dog is often defined by what you put on it, mustard, chili, cheese, and so on.
Types of Good Quality Sausage
For those of us who are looking for good-quality sausages, Premio Foods has a comprehensive list. Some of the best sausages include:
Bratwurst: This product of Germany, which many people think of when they think of sausages, consists of finely chopped meat combined with a number of spices in a natural casing. The meat is generally pork, but beef or even veal will do just as well.
Andouille: This kind of sausage originated in France. However, the version that most Americans are familiar with was brought to the New World by French settlers of Louisiana.
The Louisiana Cajun version of the andouille sausage consists of chopped shoulder pork, wine, garlic, pepper, and onions. Cajun andouille is quite spicy and is a prime ingredient of jambalaya.
Italian Sausage: Italian sausage consists of pork, anise, caraway seeds, and fennel. Sweet Italian sausage adds basil to get the sweet taste. Hot Italian sausage adds red pepper to kick the flavor up a notch.
Chorizo: Chorizo comes in two versions, the Spanish and the Mexican, both of which originated when the Spanish arrived in the New World. The Spanish settlers discovered paprika and brought it home to Europe.
Spanish chorizo consists of pork, some added fat, white wine and herbs and spices such as the paprika and garlic. This version is cured and smoked before eating.
Mexican chorizo is different from the Spanish variety in that it is air dried but not cured or smoked. Therefore, it needs to be cooked before eating. Mexican chorizo is usually stripped of its casings and pan fried. Most people combine cooked Mexican chorizo with other dishes, such as scrambled eggs or refried beans.
Sai Ua: Most people in America are not aware that some Asian countries have their own sausages. One of the prime examples is a Thai sausage called the sai ua. Sai ua consists of minced pork, red curry paste, and a number of spices.
It’s not available in any typical supermarket this side of the Pacific, though it may be available at specialty Asian food stores. Do-it-yourself sausage makers could have a go at making sai ua from scratch. It is usually served with sticky rice.