Sausage is a staple food around the world. It’s delicious, comes in hundreds of variations, i's mostly nutritious and mainly affordable. But how did sausage get its name?
Sausage was originally called “salchichon” in Latin. This word means “little salt pig” because salchichon was made from pork intestines stuffed with saltpeter. In Spanish, the word became “salami” and eventually evolved into “sausage.”
The history of sausage is fascinating. But it also has a lot to do with the way we eat today. We love our meat, and we love our convenience foods. And that’s the sausage is here to stay. Today, sausages are available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, canned, smoked, cured, dried and fermented. They are also used as ingredients in other foods such as breakfast cereal, soups, sauces, stews, casseroles and pizza.
Sausages are popular worldwide and are enjoyed by millions of people every day.
Origin of Sausage
When exactly was sausage invented? Evidence suggests the history of sausage began with the earliest civilisations from a need to prevent the spoilage of fresh meat. The problem was how to make highly perishable meat go further and stop people getting ill, or dying.
Preservation of Meat
Prior to the age of refrigeration various methods of meat preservation were used - fermentation, drying, smoking and salting. The latter being most common as it was quick, easy and suitable for many different climates, regardless of the season.
Where does sausage come from?
The word, Sausage originates from the Latin for salt - Sal, also Salsus – salt. Thus, sau and sal syllables are used to describe a variety of foods where salt is the primary or key ingredient:
Saussiche, saucisse - Northern France
sausage - previously Sawsyge in 15th Century Briton
Salumi - The art of preserving whole muscle meat with salt - Salami refers to dried sausage.
Mesopotamia - 2600BC
Salted meat stuffed into cleaned animal intestines is the first documented evidence we have of sausage making.
Ancient Greece - 725BC
Most noteworthy in Homer’s Odyssey we read an early description of Black Pudding making: “When a man beside a great fire has filled a great stomach (goat) with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it roasted”
Roman Britain - 400AD
Ancient Britains were originally introduced to sausage making by the Romans who were accomplished sausage makers. the Romans made sausage with pepper & exotic spices added to Pork, Beef, Mutton, Goat, and even Fish. Likewise, Lucanian or Luganega sausages were a staple of the Roman army and are still popular today. These Italian sausages were the origin of the Great British Sausage we see today.
The Tudors - 725AD
Influences from overseas saw the emergence of regional specialties in 16th century Britain. Traditionally Cumberland sausages contain 98% finely chopped pork and seasoned with salt, black pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, thyme, and sage. These days, the current PGI allows for as little as 80% pork and the addition of allergens such as rusk, spelt, soya & wheat.
Why Are Sausages Called Bangers?
It's a sad fact, though the perception of our once Great British sausages had became one of ridicule. Thus, the rise of the Great British Banger - so named due to its explosive tendencies. Skins would rupture due to pressure from retained water turning to steam. Unfortunately, as the country began recovery from post-war food rationing. Traditional sausage makers led by the now dissolved Dewhurst’s chain spotted an opportunity. Hence, inflammatory cereal fillers were commonplace. In turn, this meant further ridicule and gave rise to the less than complimentary phrase - There are 3 types of Bread; White, Brown, and sausages. Alas, recipes that had evolved since the Roman occupation were at risk of being lost forever. Though some evidence shows that bread had been used occasionally in sausage since the middle ages, it was out of necessity, a reserve of the poor in times of lack. However, in post-war Britain, the infamous British bread, or cereal sausage was born and here to stay – at least for a while!
Luckily, since the 1980's the Britains Bangers have seen something of a renaissance, small artisan producers rediscovering traditional recipes and introducing them back into local communities. Though progress was initially slow, due to the sheer volume of cheaper commodity sausages (mass-produced) flooding the UK market (driven primarily by consumer demand for cheaper food and shareholder dividends). Furthermore, there was no legislation to protect those original sausage recipes. Bread, wheat and cereal, soya, legumes & chemical additives have become synonymous with British Sausage.
In spite of this, the prospects for great sausage in the UK is looking somewhat brighter due to increasing awareness of health eating, wellness, and increasing food allergies or intolerance.