Why is Summer Sausage Called Summer Sausage?

Summer sausage and cheese

When I first started working here at GourmetGiftBaskets.com, I had food and gifts experience, but I definitely couldn’t label myself a “foodie.” I recall being slowly introduced to each of the gourmet gift baskets we sell on our website, when one peculiar gift basket ingredient (as we call them around here) seemed a bit mysterious. So I had to ask, why is summer sausage called summer sausage?

What is Summer Sausage?

The first thing about this sausage that strikes me as odd is its name. Why do some of our Christmas and New Year’s gift baskets include a seasoned meat sausage that has a name that 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 cured meat on many of our meat and cheese platters. It’s also why she chose to feature it in a few of our gift baskets. But…

How Did Summer Sausage Get its Name?

Dried or smoked, the tangy taste is typically a result of it being a fermented sausage with a low pH that slows the growth of bacteria, so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. This results in a meat roll that has a greater resistance to spoilage, especially in the hot summer sun. Since this meat was traditionally cured during the winter and remained consumable through summer, it’s possible this was how its name came to be.

How is it 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, this cured meat loses about 15 percent of its original moisture content during processing while salami loses 25 percent. It’s also different than salami because it shouldn’t be cooked because it already is!

What Foods Does it Pair Well With?

Available year-round, the most obvious 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 almost any cured meat. 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 it?

It turns out any cured meat deemed “Summer Sausage” does not require refrigeration until it is opened. This is one of many reasons why this cured meat 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 Meat & Cheese 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