PIG OF THE BUNCH
I think most people like a sizzling sausage and nearly every country has their own versions of what is one of the world’s oldest manufactured foods. There will be many making sausage stuffing this time of year though I am not a fan of it myself for turkey. I do like pigs in blankets though as a garnish for Christmas dinner.
Now chopping up meat and stuffing it into a natural casing from the same animal is as almost as old as man himself. Having to preserve the fresh blood and organs from a kill to keep for a few more days before it would go off especially in warmer days, would have been figured out quite early on.
Sausages can be fish and vegetable based too as well as various shapes like say haggis and they have evolved enormously over the ages. As a young child I would bring cold sausage and ketchup sandwiches to school in my packed lunch. I am not sure I would fancy this now looking back. Each to their own.
Classification wise sausages really fall into three types, fresh raw meat ones as you would cook for your breakfast, cured raw meat ones like salami and cooked meat ones to be eaten cold or reheated like in hot dogs.
The Romans and Greeks really fine tuned the art of sausage making even giving us the word sausage from their one salsicia and the world has never looked back. The new world took to them with gusto and indigenous tribes probably had some version of them anyway before the Europeans arrived.
I am always amused when each nationality proudly boasts they make the best sausages and dismisses any others out of hand. Europe is roughly split historically between the cold north for hot sausages and the warm south for the cured cold varieties. They get spicier too the hotter the weather. They also get very well made in Eastern Europe.
I got my fill of tasting Irish sausages as part of the judging panel for the national butcher competitions for a few years back in the noughties but I still like a good one every now and again for breakfast and there are some quality local butchers in my area who have won big awards for their recipes. We make our own Irish salamis now too which are excellent. I will however always have some good Italian salami or French saucisson sec in my fridge. I like the North African merguez sausages too, say on a barbeque and am partial to a good quality hot dog from a street stall.
Pork is still the most common meat for sausages and pepper still the main spice. But you can have any filling at this stage and just about everything has been stuffed into a sausage by now. I got to see mortadella being made in a factory one time in Italy and they take all sausage making very seriously there. Of course at the other end of the quality scale you can have pure rubbish in a sausage and if you buy cheap ones then do not expect good taste or good health for that matter.
The best sausages I ever tasted then have to be on a cheffy visit to an estate near Parma where a third generation Italian called Massimo Spigaroli rears rare organic black pigs who roam the meadows and eat freely and naturally. Then we watched as he skilfully butchered the meat and made the sausages from scratch using this prized pork for us to see how it was done the traditional way. The memorable taste of his aged cured varieties is like nothing I ever tasted before then and now. As much as I am bias to French food and Ireland does very well with them too, I have to give it to the Italians as the true sausage masters and it going all the way back to antiquity.
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