Cured Sausage: An American Art Form with an International Flavor

Cured Sausage: An American Art Form with an International Flavor

Summer is grilling season and it is often dominated by hot dogs and hamburgers and all of their variations. This is because it is “easy” and the resulting food is usually a crowd pleaser.

What if your tastes are a bit more adventurous? What if you like to explore? What if you want your guests to know how adept you are at delivering a flavor profile that is not only non-traditional but also unique to your perspective? Introducing the art of sausage making.

One of the best meals I ever had was at a restaurant called The Artists Quarter inside Wilderness Lodge at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The motif was American Northwest (go figure) and they had an appetizer that featured five different cured sausages made from different wild game. Trying to re-do what they did seems like a bridge too far but creating some unique flavors using meat that is more common (they had a rattlesnake sausage that was really good but forgive me if I elect not to recreate that particular item) seems like a pretty cool thing to do. I want to take it one step further and focus on the making of dry/cured sausage that be used for so many different things.

This list of six sausages will, hopefully, get your mouth watering and trigger the “I can do that” portion of your brain.

#1: Chorizo

This Spanish sausage first landed in my life while having dinner at El Meson in South Minneapolis. They made a paella dish that was to die for and they used dried Chorizo as the sausage component. The rich flavors this sausage added to the entire dish (mussels that have been cooked with chorizo are a flavor experience everyone needs to experience). From that point, we started making our own paella and found quite a number of fresh and smoked chorizo varieties – all with differing characteristics. Here is a recipe I recommend:

#2: Kielbasa

My wife comes from a Polish/Italian family so we get our #2 option from the Polish side. Whether are a breakfast sausage or as a wonderful grilled option to brats or hot dogs, Polish Sausage or Kielbasa have been a staple in our family since I was a kid. We never ventured too far from the brands available in the local grocery store’s meat department but in my travels and having lived in Chicago for a time, finding great Kielbasa is as easy as finding a good cup of coffee in Portland. Making it – perhaps a different matter as there are so many differing opinions on what is important. My favorite is to cook a larger piece and then slice it into bun-size portions. Not sure why – but this seems to enhance the overall eating experience. Suffice to say that any recipe you find may be pretty good – but this one is outstanding!

#3: Italian Sausage

The other half of the dynamic duo is Italian Sausage. This is most often made for fresh use (if you have not had an Italian Beef Combo at Portillo’s out of Chicago, you have not yet lived a full enough life. This is another great vehicle for building your own flavors and enhancing what you like best while minimizing what you may not care for (for me, too much fennel seed completely ruins any sausage). The dried variety is called many things in Italy and the one we think of most often is the Sopressa Vincentina. Enough herbal notes and enough other spices to make a wildly versatile sausage that is sure to make everyone happy.

#4: Andouille

Andouille is most often found in Cajun Country and parts of the south. This is sort of a riff on Chorizo that likely originated in France (as did the Cajun/Creole culture) and adds a great flavor to just about any dish you use it in. My favorite use is in gumbo – where the proper smoking and cooking adds a rich umami flavor to the roux with little pops of flavor throughout. In this preparation, a lower heat in the sausage has always worked out better for me as the cooking process seems to enhance the heat – and using a hot sausage to begin with can make the gumbo inedible for folks who do not appreciate the heat. My goal is always the smokiness that can be found in this great product! Photo courtesy of NOLACuisine.

#5: Pepperoni

Not just for pizza anymore, dry pepperoni adds to any charcuterie or sausage plate and pairs well with all sort of strong cheeses and matches very well with Chianti and Rioja wine. I remember when I had my wisdom teeth removed many years ago the only thing I craved when I could eat whatever I wanted again (all four teeth out at the same time kept me on a bland diet for over a week) was a pepperoni sandwich – hot with mozzarella cheese on some Italian bread. Not sure why – but the intensity of flavor combined with the juiciness (pepperoni has a high fat content – so there is a bit of oil that is cooked out when heated!!) was the perfect return to normalcy for me. Surprisingly easy to make and one of the most versatile of all the salumi’s out there.

#6: Bratwurst

This is another sausage that is traditionally available fresh but the dried/smoked versions can provide a depth of flavor that is not always available in the fresh versions. Sometimes, these are infused with things like bacon or cheese or other additives (many of these are pretty good – but sometimes I wonder if this represents the underlying sausage properly). We provide two views for you – one, how to make fresh bratwurst and two, how to properly smoke them to enhance the total flavor and experience.

Preparing dry sausage (or smoking fresh sausage) is not for everyone. The adventurous souls out there will appreciate the technique and expertise required to make something extraordinary – or at least personalize something so that your friends and family can come to expect only the best from you.

If you are interested in making your own salumi, dry sausage or charcuterie, check out our web site ( for more information on learning one of the hottest new skills for those who enjoy the outdoor or DIY life – and find your path to some of the best eating available anywhere. If making dry sausage is your jam, then check out our guide materials here:

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