sausage

Pronunciation: [SAW-sihj]

What started out simply as a means of using and preserving all of the animal trimmings has turned into the art of sausage-making. Simply put, sausage is ground meat mixed with fat, salt and other seasonings, preservatives and sometimes fillers. Such a mixture is usually packed into a casing. Sausages can differ dramatically depending on their ingredients, additives, shape, curing technique, level of dryness and whether fresh or cooked. Most sausages are made with pork or pork combined with other meat, but there are also those made almost entirely from beef, veal, lamb, chicken or game animals. All contain varying amounts of fat. Seasonings can run the gamut from garlic to nutmeg. Some sausages are hot and spicy and others so mild they border on bland. Many sausages today contain additives to help preserve, thicken or color the mixture. Some sausages use fillers (such as various cereals, soybean flour and dried-milk solids) to stretch the meat. The most common shape for sausage is link, which varies in size and shape depending on the type of sausage. Other sausage (fresh) is sold in bulk, which can then be used to mix with other meats or made into patties or balls. Sausage can be fresh or cured with salt or smoke (or both). Curing extends storage life. Some sausages are also dried; the drying times can vary from a few days to as much as 6 months. The sausage becomes firmer the longer it's dried. Sausage can be fully cooked (ready to eat), partially cooked (enough to kill any trichinae) and uncooked, which may or may not require cooking depending on how or whether it's been cured. All these factors produce an almost endless number of sausages that can be used in a variety of ways and which appeal to a multitude of tastes.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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