The Homemade Winter Treat: Baked Fresh Sausage

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” Adelle Davis

Sausage  has many different varieties that are eaten all over Europe. Most of them are cured, smoked but there are “fresh” types which are available in many cultures, cuisines. Sausage is made by chopping or grinding the pork and “marinating” it in spices. Paprika (sweet or spicy) is what gives  Hungarian sausage its characteristic flavour and distinguishes it from other sausages. The casing is usually made from pork bowels, if the sausage is made at home.

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Th sausage is made from a mixture of meats, typically pork, venison and weil, mixed with loads of different spices. The sausage, when smoked and dry can be thinly sliced and eaten in sandwiches, fried, cooked, put into soups or stews or simmered in alcohol. Given this amazing versatility, it’s no surprise that tonnes of the stuff are made in  every year.

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The origins of traditional sausages is hard to trace, largely because humans have been preserving meat for so long that the origin stories have been lost. But in the aftermath of the Black Plague, sausages started increasing in popularity throughout Europe. Because the population was growing again, people turned to agriculture to produce the majority of food. As a result, they needed something that would last longer and stretch farther than fresh meat. As Europeans began to travel the world and come across new cultures, they adapted their sausages to include the new foods and flavours they were introduced to. It was typically made in the winter, according to the tradition of pig slaughtering and based on the seasons, given that in the typically hard European winters, the temperature was below zero and the meat stayed fresh.cIt can start as soon as it gets cold, as the cold is required as a natural method of preserving the relatively large quantities of meat during the butchering. People often did the work in the open, so it was preferable that the temperatures weren’t too much below freezing during this time, hence the slaughter rarely extended into winter.

“If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.” Fernand Point

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Pig slaughter is a tradition known in numerous European countries: Croatia (see below), Serbia (see below), Hungary (disznóvágás), Poland (świniobicie), the Czech Republic (zabijačka), Slovakia (zabíjačka), Greece, Italy (maialata), Moldova, Romania (tăiatul porcului, Ignat), Slovenia (koline), Portugal (matança), Spain (matanza), Ukraine and others. The slaughter traditionally took place in early winter, and beyond the weather the timing had other practical considerations.  Slaughter activities typically need to produce results before the Christmas season, to provide for the festive cuisine. In the past, this was also the only time of the year when people could afford to eat larger amounts of meat.In modern times, almost any family in Europe can afford to buy from the abundance of pre-processed meat in the shops, so the traditional method of slaughtering is becoming more and more of a folk custom rather than a necessity.

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The slaughter requires numerous preparations, including troughs,large quantities of boiling water, large wooden barrels for storing meat, pots, sharp knives,and in modern times also artificial intestines that hoses for various sausages. Historically, butchering was a trade passed from father to son, and my grandfather, my father were great at it. Today the initial slaughter is normally performed by a professional butcher. After that, the meat is butchered by laymen, and the process is accompanied by various local rituals, many involving strong spirits. All parts of the animal were used and respected, and as a celebration of the pig a traditional dinner is hosted for the family. With using the freshly prepared goods the usual menu included a cabbage and meat soup, a meat stew, roast meat and baked sausages.

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The smoke house is essential for the preservation and long-term storage of sausages. The preserved meat and sausages are hung on racks and hooks in the smokehouse; and later smoked. Fragrant hardwood, such as hickory, beech, or cherry is allowed to smolder slowly in a pit below the hanging meat. This gives added flavor and color to the meat as well as serving to dry cure the pork.

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“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” Mark Twain

2 thoughts on “The Homemade Winter Treat: Baked Fresh Sausage

  1. Love the history of sausages…and it is great to see so many different varieties around the world. The Hungarian sausages look great ~ wonderful photos as always. Wish you a great ’14.

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