We cover the big issues here at Italian Barrel – answering questions like who invented sausage is our specialty.
Face it, you want to know the answer don’t you?
Many parts of the world are obsessed with their version of sausage. There are so many variations that, for this article, we’ll define a sausage as “a long, cylinder shaped meat product encased in a skin”. The meat could come from anything including pork, veal, beef, veal or even, dare we say it, horse.
The creation of sausage isn’t a recent turn of events. It goes a long way back which makes it difficult to get exact dates. But that shouldn’t stop us from delving into this subject – let’s do it now.
To start with, we’ll answer this question in two parts:
- Who created the first sausage, ever?
- When did the variations of sausage, that we’ve come to know and love, get invented?
1. So who made the first sausage?
The term sausage derives from salsus, meaning “salted” in Latin. Many years back there were no refrigerators so salting meat was a common method of preservation. However, “salsus” could have applied to any type of meat so we can’t draw any conclusions that the Roman Empire was where the original sausage came from. Yes, the Romans loved a good sausage but they weren’t the first ones to make one.
1st Place: The Sumerians
In fact, the first sausages date back to a region called Mesopotamia.
This area roughly equates to where modern day Iraq, Kuwait and some of Saudi Arabia are today. The dominant culture within this region was the Sumerians. It is these guys who take credit for inventing the sausage at some point around 3100BC.
Runners Up: The Turks and the Chinese
Turkey introduced the Sujuk circa 1000BC. Around 580BC was the first recorded history of sausage being made in China.
The proliferation of sausage making came about thanks to the introduction of new spices that allowed sausage to be dried and preserved. Before this, countries in warmer climates were severely restricted with what they could make and where they could travel with their meat.
The development of new flavours and sausage types was influenced massively by the seasonings available in each region of the world.
2. A Timeline of Sausage Inventions
As we mentioned, the Sumerians were the first to make sausage. It’s likely that much of the recipes back then were best avoided. To start with, food hygiene wasn’t quite what it is today. It was a life that revolved around war and survival. A wounded horse on the battlefield would certainly have been added to a sausage casing.
Other animals hunted during that period included lions, cattle, boar, deer, gazelle, and vultures. Sausage anyone?
Sujuk: Circa 1000BC
By 1000 BC, things did improve, thanks to some Turkish food innovation. Sujuk (aka Sucuk) was a dry, spicy sausage that what generally made from beef and a flavor bomb of sumac, cumin, garlic, pepper and salt.
In some parts of Central Asia, a specialty Sujuk developed which was made from horse meat. This is still eaten today.
Lap Cheong 580BC – 300AD
China started easing their way into sausage making in 580 BC. However, it was the introduction of the Lap Cheong in 300 AD that proved to be a winning meat.
Lap Cheong is now sold all over the world and other countries throughout Asia have developed their own version of the sausage.
Merguez: Circa 1300
Region: North Africa
Northern Africa introduced the world to a very spicy sausage called Merguez circa 1300. Due to the hot African temperatures, this meat was dried so that it was less likely to go rancid.
It is a spicy sausage made of mutton or beef and coloured red from chilli. Additional seasonings like sumac, garlic and harissa make it a force to be reckoned with on the flavour bomb scale.
Merguez is now found in many countries worldwide.
By the early 1300s, Germany gave the world Bratwurst. A sausage usually made with pork and fried before eating. It has remained a favourite in Germany throughout the centuries and they go hand-in-hand with a stein of beer.
A key difference between the brat and a hotdog is that the texture of a brat is coarse and heavier. However, they are both delicious served on a bun with onions and mustard!
Not too long after Germany triumphed with their Brats, Italy produced the Mortadella. A massive looking sausage made of pork and lard.
Occasionally, extras like pistachios and olives were, and still are, added to give some extra taste and texture.
The Frankfurter is a hugely popular sausage throughout the world, especially in the U.S.: think Hot Dog!
Although it is commonly accepted that the Frankfurter was first made in Frankfurt there is still an argument that Vienna first produced this sausage. Whoever it was, we salute you.
Chorizo: circa 1600
Around 1600, Spain started receiving shipments of spices which included chilli. This allowed them to make that characteristic red Chorizo that we still love today.
The Chorizo spread to other parts of the globe: neighbours Portugal and Mexico both have their own delicious versions of the Chorizo.
Kielbasa: Circa 1800
In the 1800s Poland introduced the world to Kielbasa. A fantastic, garlicky pork sausage that comes in a wide range of flavours.
The most common variety is the Polska Kielbasa Wędzona that often has sugar and marjoram added.
The English introduced the Saveloy in the 1830s – a seasoned red sausage that was smoked and precooked before being sold.
The Saveloy was, and still is, a super easy to meal to prepare. They simply require boiling briefly to heat, then serve.
The French can lay claim to the Chipolata, a small thin breakfast sausage. They are usually made from pork that is seasoned with herbs and spices.
The Chipolata is popular in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
We’ve tried to provide you with an answer to “who invented sausage?” as well as a brief history of sausage developments. There are a huge number of amazing sausages around the world: it would be impossible to list them all on this page. If we did, you’d be asleep before reaching the end. This compilation is what we think are some of the best sausages ever made. If some of these sound foreign to you, we encourage you to get down to your local specialty meat supplier and give them a try.