Within the last year its been really hard to find sausage that is even worthy of being called sausage, much less good. And, it all boils or smokes down to one thing, the ground pork inside. Lately I’ve seen the trend that meat inside the sausage has been pulverized to the point where you cannot even point out a single fennel seed. The inside looks just as smooth as that of a hotdog. What happened to grinding the meat to the point where its still sausage and not a hot dog? One huge difference is flavor and how dry it gets when cooked. I can’t think of any reason for grinding the meat so fine that you can’t even see the herbs. Is it to add more fillers and disguise them? Is it to maintain cooking consistency? Here is what it should look like just before it goes into the casing.
My favorite brand, Premio, might not have been the best, but they were the best for the price and fairly consistent. I loved buying and using them to make the Sunday Gravy. They usually came in a “variety pack” of 3 hot and 3 sweet links. The last time I bought them, I noticed a definite change in the grind of the meat. Again, pulverized. So yesterday I was in my favorite grocery store, like Whole Foods, they really only sell food. No detergents or other items like a super market. So when I saw a whole case of several different types of sausages, I had to sit and stare for a few minutes of which I was going to buy and try. Being a Sunday, I was going to go with tradition, so I got 2 links of “Brooklyn Style” – how can you go wrong right? I will tell you how you can go wrong, with lame marketing terms that will get idiots like me to buy it. But to my defense, I was in a traditional Italian market. So how can they sell something like this? If you look at the spiral sausages before (made of chicken) you can see the herbs and vegetables. I don’t know what it looked once cooked inside, but I might just give one of these a try. No wonder why the “Santa Lucia” is $2/lb and the chicken sausage is $5/lb. I can promise you, no one in Santa Lucia or Brooklyn is making sausage for $2/lb and/or that has pulverized meat inside.
I’ve tried their own store-made sausage before. I got the hot sausage and it was so hot I could not eat it without being in tears, and this comes from someone that really loves hot spicy food. I have a butcher in the town where I live. He makes sausage too, but its not consistent, sometimes there is too much salt, etc. However, its my best bet for now. Here is a photo and this is what real sausage looks like. You see the bits of black pepper, fennel, fat etc? You can also see the darker one is the “hot” sausage as its got more red pepper and paprika in it.
I’ve tried looking online. I found one place called exoticmeats.com – they had antelope sausage, all sort of “game meat” sausage, however, I found the same problem with these, they were all ground up to the point where you could not recognize a speck of black pepper, much less the larger spices. When I called the company and asked what they spices are, they said the chefs closely guard the recipe. I told him I was not looking for a recipe or to replicate their product, I just wanted to know what I was consuming. No direct or useful reply. And, I know if I said I have allergies he would have asked what I was allergic to, in order to avoid further questions about the disclosure of ingredients, so I left it at that and never ordered from them again. Trust me, if the meat was any good, I would have ordered from them again, but I found no difference in taste (let alone the expense). And my friend who is a hunter is correct. If you are hunting wild game, they are eating everything they can find. If you farm a “wild” animal and feed it a consistent diet, you will NOT be able to taste the difference between elk or buffalo. I don’t really care about the spices, I just noticed something I did not recognize like nutmeg and since I dropped $100 on their product I was entitled to a legitimate answer. If I had started asking specific measurements then they would have something to worry about. And, trust me, unlike steak or burgers, I like to cook my sausages, I don’t mind if they are a little dry, I even prefer them that way. Quite frankly, if a sausage has enough whole fat content (like the marbleized ones you see above), they will stay pretty moist and juicy even when overcooked.
So now, like my pizza rankings, I have to start a sausage ranking. Not to belittle or berate any company, but only for my own reference, because in a year I might forget, and who knows in a year, a company like Premio might go from #1 to #10, so I do plan to update this often. And, as I always state when I “judge” food, I pay 100% retail for it, so I am entitled to my opinion, its an unscientific survey and when I unloaded a bunch of sausage on my brother that I didn’t like, he loved it, so to each his own, this is just my personal running list:
- Vila Meats Butcher (Caldwell NJ)
- Vitamia (Lodi NJ)
- Shop-Rite Store Made
- La Tienda Chorizo
- Morcilla “Black” Sausage from LaTienda.com
- Corrado’s Store Hot Sausage
- Corrado’s “Brooklyn Style”
- Exotic Meats