The Mysterious Summer Sausage – Why Such a Seasonal Name?

Summer sausage and cheese

It’s been just over a month since I began working here at, and although I arrived here with food and gifts experience, I definitely cannot label myself a “foodie” just yet. As I have slowly been introduced to each of the gourmet gift baskets we sell on our website, one peculiar gift basket ingredient (as we call them around here) has remained a bit of a mystery to me. Which one do you ask? The Summer Sausage, of course!

What is Summer Sausage?

The first thing about this sausage that struck me as odd was it’s name. Why did some of our Christmas and New Year’s gift baskets include a meat sausage seasoned with spices that has a name which suggests it is consumed in the summer? Like an itch that needs to be scratched, I just had to find out!

I did a bit of sleuthing in our R&D department and cornered Jill, our amazingly creative Director of  Research and Development in her office.  She informed me we feature two kinds of summer sausages in our gift baskets. The first one is an all beef sausage and the second one a blend of beef and pork. She also pointed out that summer sausages are easier to chew than other cured meats, which is why it tends to be the preferred sausage on many caterers cheese and sausage platters (and also why she chose to feature it in a few our gift baskets).

Why is it Called Summer Sausage?

Dried or smoked, the tangy taste of summer sausage is typically a result of it being a fermented sausage with a low pH that slows the growth of bacteria. This results in a meat sausage that has a greater resistance to spoilage, especially in the hot summer sun. As summer sausage was traditionally cured during the winter, and remained consumable through summer, it’s possible this was how it’s name came to be.

How is Summer Sausage Different from Salami?

According to eHow author, Rebecca Bragg, the main difference between Summer Sausage and salami is the moisture content. Classified as semi-dry by the USDA, Summer Sausage loses about 15 percent of its original moisture content during processing while salami loses 25 percent.

What Foods Does Summer Sausage Pair Well With?

Available year round, the most obvious Summer Sausage pairings are cheese and crackers. Mild cheeses like Cheddar, Colby Jack, Monterrey, Gouda (smoked or regular), Muenster and Pepper Jack are delicious sausage accompaniments. Mild crackers such as saltines, water, stoned wheat or toasted crackers all pair well with Summer Sausage. Rolls, dried fruits and nuts also complement this type of sausage. Wine pairings might include: Menica Roble, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane or Pinot Grigio.

Do I Need to Refrigerate Summer Sausage?

It turns out Summer Sausage is an American term for any sausage that does not require refrigeration until it is opened. This is one of many reasons why Summer Sausage makes the perfect gift basket snack food! After opening, you can safely refrigerate for up to a month before needing to discard the leftovers (but we doubt they’ll be any leftovers of our own Hanover Smokehouse sausages).

Pressed for Time? Need a Summer Sausage Hostess or Host Gift?

We can make hosting or gifting simple for you! Our gourmet meat and cheese gift baskets take the guesswork out of pairing foods and wine with summer sausage.


© Featured Photo by MSPhotographic, Getty Images