The summer sausage is a staple of the American diet. It is one of the most favorite snack foods because it is easy to make, serve, and eat. You see summer sausage everywhere, from holiday sampler packs, to Superbowl Sunday spreads. It is a year-round treat, and not just for “summer.” These juicy sausage rounds are simple, but they can also fit well in a fancy charcuterie board, a winter cheese and sausage basket, on in your lunchbox, as a favorite snack of the current low carbohydrate, or “keto” diet fever.
Why “Summer” sausage?
As part of European tradition, the idea behind sausage making was the same as with every preserved meat back in the days of zero refrigeration: to eat it at a later time and keep it “good” for as long as possible.
The meat preservation process in the making of summer sausages was different from other preserved meats in that the casing for the sausages is thinner and the meat inside the sausage is smoked and fermented to the point that it can be eaten “even in the summer months” with no need for refrigeration. Hence, the moniker of “summer.”
What does a typical summer sausage looks like?
Just pay a quick visit to the smoked meat aisle in your regular supermarket, and witness of all kinds of traditional summer sausages available in the market. They go from simple to sublime, depending on how fancy some recipes get. Regardless, you already know what to look for: Wrapped in bright maroon paper and ready to eat, these plump, thick and meaty links are meant to be eaten sliced or cubed.
What do I get when purchasing a summer sausage?
Some summer sausage gift packs come with pairings such as hot mustard and a block of cheddar cheese, which is its best accompaniment for this savory treat. Some summer sausage gift sets get more fancy and creative, adding pepper jellies, crackers, honey-based sauces and even BBQ sauces.
If all you want is the simple delight of delicious meat prepared with spice and love, look no further than the simple satisfaction of a slice of summer sausage and enjoy it with a cold beer.
What are the typical meats used to make summer sausage?
Are you piqued about making your own summer sausage? Then check this out. You do not need expensive cuts of meat to make this great treat. You can stick to one type of meat, or create a combination of meats, depending on your taste buds.
- ground beef
- ground deer or venison
- beef hearts
Most sausage makers mix beef and pork, where the beef content is at least half as much as pork, depending on what you are looking for. Most summer sausages are adamant in naming “beef” as their key ingredient, making it seem as if it were a healthier, less greasy choice. Again, the choice is ultimately yours.
If you are a brand new sausage maker, stick to the “rule of thirds” ⅔ of the meat and flavor you like most, and ⅓ of your second favorite meat product.
Go for “game” meat, such as veal, lamb, or venison, for a highly-spicy finish with a twist that will leave you feeling like you just had a gourmet treat. Or, stick to the basics of ground beef and follow the salting, fermentation and preservation process in order to get the taste you crave for.
- Food processor, or food processing tools (if you do not own a machine)
- Natural sausage casing
- Plastic gloves
- Deep dish pan
- Choice of 1 or two ground meats
- Spices: we suggest adobo, cumin, garlic salt, salt, peppercorn, chili powder, or your own, signature blend.
- Liquid smoke
- Morton’s curing mixture (or your own curing mixture)
What is a summer sausage supposed to taste like?
Some sausage making lovers like to blend their sausages with other, more daring pairings, ranging from apple sauce to rosemary herbs, thyme, and oregano.
It is up to you how you want your summer sausage to taste. Just keep in mind that the typical flavor expected of a summer sausage ranges from:
The suggestion of adobo, which could be substituted with soul seasoning, is because it combines most of the salty and peppery flavors together in one same container.
I would stick to garlic salt, pepper, salt to taste, and your favorite blend of herbs to make the most out of your signature summer sausage.
- Mix the ground beef with all seasonings, including liquid smoke and curing solution.
- You will leave the meat to marinate overnight. Prior to this, take the meat and shape it into two or three “logs.”
- Place meat logs in the refrigerator and leave for 24 hours or more.
- Wear gloves prior to casing your sausages to avoid stickiness.
- You can now choose whether you want to cook your sausages through before or after casing the meat. It is up to you. We recommend you proceed to cook the links in the oven after casing them.
- Set your oven to 325 degrees F.
- Wrap sausages with aluminum foil. Poke holes in the foil.
- Fill the deep dish pan with water, at about ¼ of the pan.
- You will boil the sausages, wrapped up, for about 1 ½ hours.
- After they are cooked through, you can unwrap the sausages and place them in the refrigerator.
The beauty of these sausages is that they are cooked to be eaten later, whether refrigerated entirely or partially refrigerated. When and how you eat them is up to you.
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Summer Sausage Signature Recipe
Here are some delicious companions to summer sausage that are sure to cause a stir:
- Summer sausage and a variety of cheeses
- Summer sausage and cold Irish mustard paired with IPA
- Summer sausage rounds topped with sweet, pickled onions
- Mini summer sausage kebabs. Alternate pieces of delicious summer sausage with cheese, fruit, and a crunchy vegetable
- Fried, with eggs for a protein packed breakfast, snack or dinner
- In mini sandwiches, topped with cucumber and mayo
- Fried in rice for a “special house fried rice” with a kick
Would you try your own?
As you can see, the secret behind a good summer sausage is to cure and boil it in order to cook it throughout. Once it is completely cooked, the sky’s the limit. You can refrigerate it (or just place in the pantry) for later use, and mix it up with delicious pairings that will make you king or queen of the party.
A smart way to store your summer sausage is in sealed containers that prevent air from coming in. It helps to preserve the freshness and overall flavor of the sausage.
Another good advice is to be sure to select meats that are not too greasy, so that the sausage does not “sweat” out too much grease once it reaches room temperature, or beyond. You know how it goes during parties when food has been sitting out too long. Prevent wasting food by keeping your summer sausages well-stored.
As a general rule, pair your summer sausage with foods that are equally easy to eat, make, present, and serve. We know the summer sausage is a holiday and party favorite, so make it special and make it yours. Got a recipe you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments section!