There are certain foods that are special to specific cultures. Bread, stews, moonshine, McDonald’s, just to name a few. But one rises above the rest: The Sausage. This universally loved hunk-o-meat appeals to almost every demographic and can be dressed up or down, adding to its overarching appeal. Here’s a look at some of the greatest encased meats around the globe.
Once the epitome of “mystery meat,” hot dogs have become somewhat of a culinary darling in the states. While yuppies swear by their nitrite-free, bacon-wrapped, organic grass-fed, free-range, beef hot dog, good ole fashioned Americans are willing to fight tooth and nail to prove that the hot dog from their neck of the woods reigns supreme as the defining dog for the USA.
The classic Chicago hot dog is a Vienna beef dog in a steamed poppy-seed bun with the venerable garden patch loaded on top: mustard, onions, tomato wedges, green relish, sport peppers, a pickle spear, and a healthy sprinkling of celery salt. The combo of juicy and crunchy lends to its ridiculous popularity.
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The Coney Island hot dog is a New York institution, and Nathan’s Famous has been serving them up since 1916. Started by polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, Nathan’s Famous has set the standard for New York hot dogs for almost a century. At Nathan’s they have pretty strict rules on hot dog attire: spicy brown mustard, grilled onions, and sauerkraut. NO KETCHUP ALLOWED. Although other condiments are available, if you use them be prepared to be judged by the purists.
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The Cincinnati Cheese Coney is not for the faint of heart. According to local folklore, chili was first made in 1922 by Macedonian immigrant brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff who were having a hard time selling their Greek lamb stew. Instead of lamb, they switched to beef and served it over hot dogs because they were so popular in the twenties. Today, chili dogs are made with beef and pork hot dogs, dressed first with mustard, then smothered in beef chili and onions, and finally covered with a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of cheddar cheese.
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As per usual, Canada’s answer to America’s hot dog obsession is a perfect marriage of two foody cultures. Canadian’s cult-status dog is called Japadog, and for years, the only way to get it was to stand in line at their Japadog stand in Vancouver (although they are opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in April).
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They serve Japanese-style dogs dressed in all manner of condiments, from bonito flakes to plum sauce to edamame. Their most popular dog is the Spicy Cheese Terimayo, which has teriyaki sauce, Japanese mustard, seaweed, jalapenos, and smoked cheese. Other menu options include the Ume, which has special plum sauce, raw onion, and a bratwurst. And the Oroshi (the most popular with Japanese patrons), is made with grated radish, soy sauce, and green onions.
The French are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to wine, fashion, art, etc. So of course they have their own amazing array of high-end sausages. In fact, each region even has its own patron sausage. Boudin, or blood sausage, rules Eastern France and andouillettes, sausages filled with only the most sophisticated of unmentionable animal by-products, are popular in the Loire region.
In Savoie, try the pork sausage diots or the Poumonier filled with pork lung, other leftover bits, and spinach. To get the full effect, make sure you’re drinking the local wine with all these oblong, mystery-filled treasures.
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The United Kingdom
The delightful version of blood sausage often served in the UK is affectionately called blood pudding. This sausage takes center stage at breakfasts throughout the UK, along with eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, and fried bread.
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Blood pudding is made with the blood of a cow, pig, or goat, is cooked with a filler like meat, fat, or bread, and is boiled until the blood is thick enough to congeal. Then the sausage is cut into slices, and fried up for breakfast. Bloody pudding is also sold battered and fried at chip shops all over England.
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Kielbasa is traditional Polish sausage that is an absolute staple in Polish cuisine. Although usually made out of pork, kielbasa is also made from beef, horse, lamb, or bison meat, and is served in a multitude of ways, including grilled, baked, boiled in soups and stews or in traditional polish casseroles.
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Just as in other countries, kielbasa in Poland comes in all shapes and sizes and each region has its own affinity. Kabanosy is a skinny, air-dried sausage that is flavored heavily with caraway seeds. Weseina, also known as “wedding sausage,” is a U-shaped, medium-thick, smoked sausage that is traditionally served at weddings. Krakowska is a thick, straight sausage made with pepper and garlic and hot-smoked on the streets of Krakow. Wiejska, whose name means rural, is a large U-shaped sausage made from pork and veal and is flavored with marjoram and garlic.
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The local form of pork sausage in Greece is loukaniko. Usually dried before selling, this sausage is often chopped and fried when ready to be eaten. Loukaniko comes in a variety of exotic spices. Traditionally it’s infused with orange rind and fennel, or it’s flavored with leeks and served as part of a mezze plate alongside other classic Mediterranean foods like olives and salads.
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Spain and Mexico
Chorizo is the word for any pork-based sausage in a Spanish-speaking country. While styles may vary, all have two things in common: a bright red color and a pretty serious spice content. Spanish chorizo is made from pork and pork fat that’s finely chopped and mixed with paprika, salt, and wine. Depending on the type of paprika used, Spanish chorizo is usually classified as picante (spicy) or dulce (sweet).
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Mexican chorizo is made with fattier pork that’s ground instead of chopped, giving it a drier flavor perfect for breaking up to use in cooking. Although the European version is often eaten like a traditional sausage, Mexican chorizo is commonly cut open before eating and separated from the casing. The ground mixture is then mashed up, fried, and eaten plain or mixed in with a variety of dishes.
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The German’s really take their bratwurst, or sausage, seriously, and the German Bratwurst Museum in Thuringian, Germany proves it. They even erected a giant wurst-and-bun monument outside the museum, which happens to hold the oldest document in the world that mentions the bratwurst. It was written in 1404! There are reportedly over 1,500 variations of bratwurst in Germany, some enjoyed with mustard, some in a bun, and all with their own unique preparation and cult-like following.
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We tried pretty hard but couldn’t name them all! Tell us about your favorite sausage in the comments section.