A sausage is a prepared food, usually made from ground meat, animal fat, salt, and spices (sometimes with other ingredients such as herbs), typically packed in a casing. Sausage making is a traditional food preservation technique.
Traditionally, casings are made of animal intestines though are now often synthetic. Some sausages are cooked during processing, and the casing may be removed at that time. Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying in cool air, or smoking.
Sausages may be classified in any number of ways, for instance by the type of meat and other ingredients they contain, or by their consistency. The most popular classification is probably by type of preparation, but even this is subject to regional differences of opinion. In the English-speaking world, the following distinction between fresh sausages, cooked sausages and dry sausages seems to be more or less accepted:
- Cooked sausages are made with fresh meats and then fully cooked. They are either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated. Examples include hot dogs, Braunschweiger and liver sausages.
- Cooked smoked sausages are cooked and then smoked or smoke-cooked. They are eaten hot or cold, but need to be refrigerated. Examples include Gyulai kolbász, kielbasa, Botillo del Bierzo and Mortadella.
- Fresh sausages are made from meats that have not been previously cured. They must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating. Examples include Boerewors, Italian pork sausage, breakfast sausage and Yarraque.
- Fresh smoked sausages are fresh sausages that are smoked. They should be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating. Examples include Mettwurst and Romanian sausage.
- Dry sausages are fresh sausages that are dried. They are generally eaten cold and will keep for a long time. Examples include Sobrasada de Mallorca, salami, Droë wors, Sucuk, Landjäger, and summer sausage.
The distinct flavour of some sausages is due to fermentation by Lactobacillus during curing.
Other countries, however, use different systems of classification. Germany, for instance, which boasts more than 1200 types of sausage, distinguishes raw, cooked and pre-cooked sausages.
- Raw sausages are made with raw meat and are not cooked. They are preserved by lactic acid fermentation, and may be dried, brined or smoked. Most raw sausages will keep for a long time. Examples include cervelat, mettwurst, salami and the Spanish salchichón.
- Cooked sausages may include water and emulsifiers and are always cooked. They will not keep long. Examples include Jagdwurst and Weißwurst.
- Pre-cooked sausages are made with cooked meat, and may include raw organ meat. They may be heated after casing, and will keep only for a few days. Examples include Saumagen and Blutwurst.
In Italy, the basic distinction is:
- Raw sausage (salsiccia)
- Cured or cooked sausage (salume)
The US has a particular type called pickled sausages, commonly found in gas stations and small roadside delicatessens. These are usually smoked and/or boiled sausages of a highly processed frankfurter (hot dog) or kielbasa style plunged into a boiling brine of vinegar, salt, spices (red pepper, paprika...) and often a pink colouring, then canned in wide-mouth jars. They are available in single blister packs, e.g., Slim Jim meat snacks, or in jars atop the deli cooler. They are shelf stable, and are a frequently offered alternative to beef jerky, beef stick, and kippered (smoked) beef snacks.
Different types of sausages
- Black pudding
- Botillo del Bierzo
- Breakfast sausage
- Chinese sausage
- Chorizo sausage
- Cumberland Sausage
- Droë wors
- Gyulai kolbász
- Home made sausages
- Homemade chorizo sausages and burgers
- Hot dogs
- Italian sausages
- Liver sausage
- Mergez sausages
- Morcilla blanca
- Newmarket Sausage
- Sobrasada de Mallorca
- Summer sausage
- Toulouse sausages
- White pudding