The Origin of Processed Meats

The Origin of Processed Meats


Sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed food and seems to have been the first processed meat product. -The art of sausage making developed gradually from the simple process of salting and drying meats in order to preserve that, which could not be consumed at once.  Virtually all races and societies have used this type of food processing method at some point in their development.

The word “sausage” is derived from the Latin “salsus”, meaning salted or, literally, preserved meat. -Some of these early sausage makers became so adapt at spicing and processing sausages of distinctive types, that the fame of their products spread throughout all of Europe.

A sausage originating in Frankfurt in the Main, Germany, became known as the frankfurter sausage.  Another product produced in Bologna, Italy, received the name bologna sausage.  Today it is known as Polony.  In similar fashion, Rome became famous for its romano, Genoa for genoa salami etc.

Fundamentally, all sausage is comminuted meat. Products differ primarily because of variations in how they are spiced and the methods of processing used.  The earliest sausage makers used herbs or other condiments native to their particular localities in their products.

Later, certain spices were procured from the Orient, which opened the way to a new realm of culinary achievement. The hamburger, technically a sausage since it is “comminuted meat” (chopped or ground), is an American invention and did not, as some believe, develop in the area of Hamburg, Germany.

It is interesting to note that the various present day type of sausage were developed in certain European localities because of local climatic conditions.  European sausage makers were forced to develop products that would keep under the climatic conditions of their particular areas.

Sausage makers of Italy and Southern France, therefore, developed dry sausage products. The peoples to the north, on the other hand, dwelt in countries that enjoyed periods of cold weather, and fresh or semi-fresh products would keep well for some time.

The Germans specialized in smoked and cooked items and also made semi-dried sausages – called summer sausage because it was made in the winter for summer consumption. Processed Meats are generally devided into the following catagories:

Raw sausage: They are made of raw meat, pork and spices.  The ingredients are chopped, salted, spiced, and filled into the skin.  Pickling and slow drying or smoking ripens them and gives them their typical taste.  This group includes all long – lasting and hard sausages.

Stewing sausages: Most “wurst” belongs to this group.  Stewing sausages are made of raw pork and beef, with the addition of egg, pickling salt, and spices.  Once stuffed in their skins, they are stewed in water at 75°C and some are briefly smoked.  They must be eaten right away.

Cooking sausage: Cooking sausages are made of cooked meat and spices, which is cooked a second time once they have been stuffed. Most are fresh sausage that must be eaten quickly. Their shelf life can be extended by a short period of smoking.

Ham: Mostly from the highly valued ham leg.  It’s firmness and good taste come from pickling, smoking or cooking.

Taken from: “culinaria European Specialties: Koneman *

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