With the possible exception of ice cream and popsicles, nothing says summer more than sausages roasting on the grill. And even if they are a perishable item in your portable outdoor pantry, there are interesting ways to serve them safely and easily on your next paddling trip.
Did you know that in Germany alone there are 1200 varieties of sausages? That the first sausages were made by the Chinese as early as 589 BC and that the early Greeks and Romans were so in love with their sausages that they created many different varieties with all sorts of meat preparations, including lamb, duck and veal? That there are as many types of sausages as there are countries in the world, with specialities originating from Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, France, Morocco, Finland, Poland, Germany, Holland and the United States? Even Ireland, South Africa and Argentina have their own sausage "grand favorites." Such wide popularity imposes respect, doesn't it? In North America, we are perhaps the luckiest because the great melting pot allows us to enjoy sausages from around the world: Polish kielbasa, German wieners or Bratwurst, French andouillette or blood sausage, Italian salami or salsiccia made with fennel seeds, North African merguez, Swiss gendarmes (landjäggers) and cervelats, Portuguese chorizos and linguicas are all very popular, just as are summer sausages or even tofu dogs.
A long and fruitful tradition
Traditionally, the casing was made with the intestine of the animal, but these days, except for good quality artisan sausages, it is almost never the case. In the beginning, sausages were created as a way to do economical butchery, because their preparation allowed the use of less noble parts of the animals, which are good enough and nutritious, but not vey appealing. Sausage making is also among the oldest way to preserve meat thanks to the use of salt, smoke and drying. It is also interesting to know that good quality sausages are not made with breadcrumb fillings but only with different parts of meat and spices and that no more than 30 % of fat content is allowed in the United States. But more and more butchers are creating much leaner varieties of sausages in order to respect a more healthful way of eating and a pressing demand from consumers. As a result, you can easily find sausages that contain no more than 8 to 12 % of fat.
Three types of sausages
There are basically three different types of sausages, all made either with pork, beef, lamb, veal or chicken and spices, the most common being pork. Fresh sausages must be well cooked, like Italian or breakfast sausage. They can be kept 24-48 hours in the fridge or the cooler before cooking and 48 hours after being thoroughly cooked. The best way to prepare them safely is to gently boil them 8-12 minutes and to finish the cooking on the grill over medium heat until nicely brown but not charred. Cooked and smoked sausages are made with fresh ingredients and then fully cooked either in water or through the smoking process, sometimes even using both processes. Hot dogs are part of that large family as well as liver sausage and kielbasa. They will keep 3-5 days in the fridge or in the cooler, stored between two sheets of ice. Dry sausages are made with fermented meat that is also cured and dried. They keep for a long time and are a favorite of campers for that reason. Landjägger, authentic Italian salami and real dry German summer sausage are good examples of that process. They are a nice way to replace beef jerky. If properly dried and cured, they will keep for more than one week, as long as the surrounding environment is not too humid.
Although sausages have a reputation for being high in saturated fats and salt and are also known to contain harmful preservatives such as nitrites (to preserve color), more and more artisan high quality sausages can be found on the market. Let’s enjoy them in moderation, during our family paddling gatherings or longer expeditions (for dry varieties). Here are some easy camping recipes to make a fiesta with different types of sausages. What I like to do when I camp is to prepare a double batch of sausages, which allows me to use them in smaller quantity the next day as part of a nutritious meal-in-a-bowl that is sure to please the hungry kayaker or canoeist. All recipes can be prepared the vegetarian way: simply replace meat sausage with tofu or veggies versions and add them at the last minute.
Camper's fancy dogs (4 portions)
Mix shredded cabbage with Italian dressing and let stand. In a large pan, boil sausages in water 8 minutes over medium heat. Throw water away and place pan over medium heat along with boiled sausages. Cook for 8-10 more minutes, turning frequently. You can also grill the sausages over a camp fire, but make sure you don’t burn them in the process. When sausages are cooked, put two aside in the cooler for later use. Spread mustard and relish over the bread, add coleslaw, leaving about one inch at the bottom to be able to fold the bread. Put the sausage, fold the bottom of the bread over the sausage, roll and serve.
Scrambled eggs with sausages (4 portions)
In a large skillet, cook scallions and mushrooms in butter or oil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the eggs, beaten with milk, soy beverage or water. Using a fork or a spatula, start to scramble the eggs. Put the skillet over medium-low heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly until the eggs are almost done. Add chopped sausages and heat through. Do not overcook the eggs. They must remain creamy. Serve with English muffins or bagels
Variation on the same mushroom-sausage theme with croutons (4 portions)
2 large onions, thinly sliced (or 12 scallions, chopped, with green parts)
In a large skillet, cook onions (or scallions) in butter or oil over medium heat, until soft and slightly brown. Add mushrooms and cook 5 more minutes over high heat. Add garlic and chopped sausages and heat through. Add salt and pepper. Cut each piece of baguette in 2 and grill 5 minutes over fire or in a pan. Add cheese, the onion-sausage mixture and serve immediately.
Cracked wheat and dry sausage salad (4 portions) A perfect meal for a long-term expedition
In a large pot place cracked wheat (bulghur), chopped onion, chopped carrot, dry tomatoes, dry figs, thyme and parsley. Add boiling water, salt and pepper, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 20 minutes. Remove cover, add chopped sausage and nuts, mix well. Cover again and let stand five more minutes. Fluff mixture with a fork before serving.
Easy sausage ragout for campers (4 portions)
In a Dutch oven or a large skillet, cook onions and pepper in olive oil 3 minutes. Add sausage and garlic and cook 10 more minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add tomato sauce, cover and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Serve either with bread or over pastas.
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