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Sausages: Global tradition and nutrition

Posted by Christina Boyes on

Customers line up at a sausage stand in Berlin, Germany

Sausage eaters around the United States shuddered last year at the release of reports that showed just how…unhealthy…those links could be. I’d known about the dangers of nitrates for a while, but only truly cut cold cuts and sandwiches from my diet after the news came out in 2009 about sausages and cancer. Maybe I should have switched to traditional sausages instead. The kind made without nitrates, and from grass-fed meats and poultry.

A single serving of liverwurst contains 63% of your vitamin A requirement. That’s a lot of vitamin A – and the nutritional benefits of liverwurst don’t stop there. It’s also an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and a buffet of necessary minerals and nutrients. Like all sausages, it’s known for its flavor profile and texture. A softer sausage, liverwurst and related sausages like Braunschweiger aren’t usually thought of as health foods, but they should be.

Sausage is one of the oldest dishes known to man, and traditionally, includes parts of the animal that would otherwise be discarded – not due to nutritional content, but due to flavor or texture. Liver is a great example, as are tongue, blood, and cartilage. Each of these is loaded with nutritional benefit, but often overlooked as unimportant or ‘gross.’

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that anyone should chow down on unlimited mountains of sausage. I am saying, however, that sausages have taken the fall for something that’s not their fault. If meat processing were as simple as it was one hundred years ago, sausages of all kinds – from mortadella to kielbasa and ring pudding to hot dogs, would be dietary staples. We’d all be eating a little more organ meat as a result, too.

In its simplest form, a sausage is an intestinal casing filled with mixed up parts of meat, spices, and salt. Sausages can be fermented (woohoo!), smoked, dried, boiled, cured, uncured…you get the idea. And when dinner is discussed in most cultures around the world, traditional and regional sausages will likely show up on the menu at least once. In some countries, like Germany, Poland, and Russia, they could easily comprise an independent food group.

In addition to oodles of protein, good sausages are packed with vitamin B12, iron, health fats, and in the case of liver sausages, vitamin A (like you saw about liverwurst). It might just be time to praise this humble form of meat preservation, say goodbye to nasty additives, and welcome a delicious part of traditional diets back to the table.

While liverwurst and braunschweiger are two of my favorites, they aren’t the only sausages in the world. A good hard salami or summer sausage is a delightful treat on a long hike, and hot dogs are perfect for summer barbecues. Check out these radically different sausages from around the world:

  • Chorizo – Spain and Latin America. Recipes vary by country.
  • Frikandel – Belgium
  • Soondae – Korea
  • Merguez – Algeria
  • Braunschweiger – Germany
  • Morcilla – Spain
  • Hot Dog – United States
  • Cevapi – Bosnia and Herzegovnia and Croatia
  • Cervelat – Switzerland
  • Loukaniko – Greece
  • Cumberland Sausage – England
  • Csabai – Hungary
  • Sai Krok Isan – Thailand
  • Cabanossie – Australia and New Zealand
  • Boerewors – South Africa
  • Lap Cheong – China
  • Cotechina – Italy

Image Credits: Dave Meier on

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