Food conservation, since the most ancient times, has always been a problem, as it was (and still is) the single most important way of assuring a continuous and adequate food supply for an ever-growing population. One very old method for preserving meat is the preparation of sausages, which by 500 BC were already known in China, Rome and Greece. This history probably had its beginning when man learned that salt could be used as a meat preservative (the word sausage itself is believed to come from “salsus“, the Latin word for salt).
Presently sausages can be found either fresh or cured. Fresh sausages can be conserved for shorter periods of time, being usually kept under refrigeration. Cured sausages, which can be cooked or dried, however, can last much longer. The curing process can involve a variety of techniques and agents, such as salt, smoke, nitrates, nitrites and even sugar.
Germany is, I believe, the champion of sausage making, and thus no trip to this country would be complete without a visit to a “Wursthaus”. Guess the pictures speak for themselves.
The state of “Santa Catarina“, where I happen to have been born, still exhibits very strong signs of a 19th century European immigration, the vast majority of the population being descendants of those European settlers. Among these are the Germans, which started to arrive in 1828, and have formed large colonies. Even today, in some areas of the state, towns exist where over 90% of the population is composed of German descendents, and the German language is fluently spoken. No wonder German tradition, including the preparation of sausages, is still much alive in these areas.
During my last trip to Florianopolis, the capital of Santa Catarina state, which itself was founded by Portuguese, I had the opportunity of visiting an open-air market, where “colonos” (people from the original German and Italian colonies) come to sell sausages, cheese, bread, and other products prepared at home or at small family owned factories.
Literally hundreds of sausages varieties exist (as you can easily figure out from the above pictures), a sample of which can be found at the Cook’s Thesaurus. If you have any interest on the subject, and would like to prepare your own sausages at home (why not?), I suggest you start by taking a look at “The art and practice of sausage making“, published by the North Dakota State University and freely available on the net. I’m quite sure the end result will be much better than most of the products you’re presently getting from your supermarket.