Stellar Sausage

Load sausage with your favorite herbs for some low-fat versions of this tasty staple.


| October/November 2004


To most Americans, “sausage” means patties or links of ground pork, but sausage making always has been a variable culinary art form, adapting to whatever meats and seasonings were available at sausage-making time, traditionally in autumn. Today, we enjoy not only pork and beef sausages, but also poultry, seafood and even vegetarian versions. And with recent concerns about contaminated ground meats from commercial packing plants, you can relieve some of that concern by selecting prime cuts from organically raised, hormone-free, range-fed animals. And today, there’s no need to bother with time-consuming curing methods such as drying, smoking and salting, which helped preserve meat before the advent of refrigerators and freezers. We can eat sausages freshly made or freeze them for later.

How does sausage fit into a modern diet? We take a balanced approach to meals and eat almost anything in moderation — including our favorite sausages. If you’re watching your calorie and fat intake, a sensible idea is to use a bit of robust-flavored sausage to season otherwise bland dishes; it adds a lot of flavor but only a few grams of fat.

If your love of sausage gives you a guilty conscience, you’ll find that our Turkey and Pear Sausage (recipe on Page 48) is relatively low in fat; coriander seed, basil and tarragon contribute flavor, and the fruit keeps it moist. Creative tinkering with classic recipes makes it possible to devise delicious yet healthful sausages.

Try making sausage on a quiet weekend, or invite some friends over and make a party of it. The recipes may look complicated, but they’re fun and doable. Making your own ensures you can pronounce the name of every ingredient.

SASSY SEASONINGS

A good sausage balances the sweet pungency of tropical spices — allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, grains of paradise, mace, nutmeg and pepper — with the flavors of leafy herbs. Those used most often in sausage making are workhorses in the kitchen and probably are already growing in your garden. Typically, they are the herbs we associate with the Mediterranean region — sage, bay, thyme, lemon thyme, sweet marjoram, Italian oregano, winter savory, chives and parsley. Herbal seeds, especially caraway, coriander, cumin, mustard and fennel, contribute much to traditional sausage flavor, and vegetables such as garlic, onion, shallot, mushrooms and chiles add an incomparable depth.

Basil, cilantro and Mexican mint marigold may be used in quickly cooked fresh poultry or seafood mixtures, but they rapidly lose their flavor in sausages that require more cooking. We love to experiment with sausage seasonings, and we believe any herbs are good with any foods if a light touch is used and none is allowed to overpower.





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