The Meatist Cases Out Sausage

The Meatist Cases Out Sausage
Photo by flickr user jgiacomoni.

Recently, I tried a small exercise in perception. Specifically,

sausage perception. As in, what people think of when they think

"sausage". So I called up a friend.

"What's in sausage, do you think?" I asked him.

"Sausage? I don't know - the crap they can't sell whole? Lips, hooves, ears - stuff like that?"
"No, that's not really so true any more." I tell him.
"Oh, like head cheese isn't actually made from heads?"
"No, that actually is true. They basically boil a pig skull, let the meat fall off, chop it up, then form and cool."
"Yeah, kinda."
There was a pause.

"So you tell me, genius: what's in a sausage?"

Good question. And, having called my friend on impulse, I didn't actually have a good answer handy. I tried buying some time.

"Well, it depends what kind of sausage you're talking about and where you buy it. Clearly," I add.
"Nice try," he said "but clearly you don't have a good answer handy. Call me back when you figure it out." And he hung up.


friend may have been an ass, but he was right: I needed an answer. I

did know this: the ancient meat wizards originally conceived of sausage

as a way to serve up the less appetizing parts of an animal and make

butchering as efficient as possible. In recent years though, sausage

making has become a culinary art, and, being a patron of culinary arts

(the meaty variety in particular), I realized some research was in


The sausage my friend was picturing when he answered my

question was the basic pre-made stuff that you might find snuggled up

under cellophane in the meat department at your local supermarket, or

getting a wicked case of freezer burn in your grandmother's

side-by-side. But that's not the sausage I was thinking of when I asked

the question. I was thinking of the fresh, handmade varieties you can

pick up at a good butcher shop. Those tightly packed tubes of mystery

meat that taste like the meat of gods. How are they made, and why are

they so good? It turns out that the answer is simpler than you might

think. It's also probably grosser than you think, so caveat lector

(check my Latin chops out, bitches - means "reader beware" - a

variation on caveat emptor, which I learned from the Brady Bunch when I

was about 10).

The Meatist Cases Out Sausage
Photo by flickr user chinadoll.

At its most basic, sausage is ground meat and

spices wrapped in a casing. Sounds fairly innocuous, doesn't it? Not so

much, not always. For example, most people reading this will know, even

if they've shoved the knowledge way down in a dark and scary place in

which only evil dwells, that the casings are traditionally made from

intestines. More specifically, hog, sheep, and cattle intestines. And

that, when you really think about it, is pretty gross. But what if I

told you part of the cleaning process was called sliming? Or that the

terminal section of pig intestines is called the bung? Bummed out yet?

I am. Because I while I was researching this I learned more than I

wanted to (did I really need to know that "submucosa" was a part of my

diet?), and certainly more than I'll publish here (I believe we call it

"editing for content").

But if we pretend that blood sausage

doesn't exist and that pig bladders are always thrown away (which is my

story and I'm sticking to it), the rest of the process is far less

likely to cause people to turn to vegetarianism (a good thing, that: I

don't think the world needs any more Subaru Forresters sporting "Be

Kind To Animals, Don't Eat Them" bumper stickers driving around).

Because to make the kind of sausage most of us eat, meat is ground up

with a blend of spices and other ingredients then put in an extruder.

The end of a length of casing is slipped over the output of the

extruder, and the the sausage maker presses the meat into the casing,

twisting off each individual sausage as it reaches the desired length.

Imagine a Play-Doh Fun Factory stuffed with ground pork filling up an

endless condom, and you'll get the idea.

The Meatist Cases Out Sausage
Photo by flickr user jgiacomoni.

But all of that is

incidental to this simple fact: sausage can be as complex and delicious

as any gourmet meal you can think of, and it's all wrapped up in a

package that's portable and easy to cook: a little tubular suitcase of

meaty delight. As for ingredients, tradition calls for pig and cow

meats but Mr. Chicken and Mr. Turkey have arrived at the party, and

they've brought their friends Assorted Fruits and Tasty Cheeses (Fresh

Vegetables tried to sneak in the back door, but my bouncer caught them

and 86'd them - you might enjoy having them around though). This

morning I spoke with the sausage maker from the Gallery Gourmet Market

in Tequesta, who makes a variety which includes a traditional South

African sausage that he grinds upon request for a group of local


Which, when you think of it, really sums of the

beauty of all that is sausage, doesn't it? It doesn't matter how simple

or complex it is, and it doesn't really matter what the ingredients end

up being (well, except for blood, bladders, and other nasty shit that

I'd personally prefer to keep at arms length - though I'll admit to

being willing to at least try a good blood sausage, even if the idea is

almost as gag-inducing as the deep fried candy bars at the South

Florida Fair) what matters is the skill of the artist making the


Look, say what you will about Picasso, Rodin, Van

Gogh, blah, blah, blah, but in my book true artists aren't necessarily

the ones who understand the interplay of light and dark, or can shape

clay, or stone, or metal into something that lasts for millennia. True

artists need only find the right combination of meats, spices, and

other ingredients, grind them up, and jam them into some pig intestines.



folks choose to make their own, something I'd love to do someday, but

there are plenty of butchers in south Florida making fresh sausages

that can help get you started on the road to sausage nirvana. Here's a

list of three that I know of that make it fresh.

Gallery Gourmet Market
387 Tequesta Drive, Tequesta

Smitty's Old Fashioned Butcher Shop of Coral Ridge
1980 NE 45th St., Fort Lauderdale

Charlie's Gourmet Meat Market
10800 N. Military Trail, Ste. 116, Abbey Road Plaza, Palm Beach Gardens

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and believes that any conflict can be resolved with the help of meat.

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