The History of Summer Sausage and How It Got Its Name

Summer sausage is a type of cured sausage that has been enjoyed for centuries, particularly in European and American cuisines. Its name and enduring popularity are deeply rooted in its unique preparation methods and practicality for preservation. So, why do we call it summer sausage?

summer sausage

Origins of Summer Sausage

The origins of summer sausage can be traced back to ancient European cultures, where the need to preserve meat for long periods, especially through the summer months, led to the development of various curing techniques. The practice of curing and fermenting meat was prevalent among ancient Greeks and Romans, who used a combination of salt, smoke, and drying to extend the shelf life of their meat.

However, it was in Central Europe, particularly in regions that are now part of Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, where summer sausage as we know it today began to take shape. In these areas, farmers and butchers perfected the art of sausage-making, developing recipes that would preserve meat through the warmer months when refrigeration was unavailable. The key to these recipes was the use of fermentation and drying processes that reduced moisture content and created an environment inhospitable to bacteria.

How Did Summer Sausage Get Its Name?

The term "summer sausage" is believed to derive from its ability to remain stable and safe to eat even during the summer months, a time when other meats would typically spoil without refrigeration. The name highlights its unique quality among sausages and other meats: it could be made in winter, stored through spring, and still be enjoyed during the heat of summer!

The fermentation process, which involves the use of beneficial bacteria to lower the pH of the meat, combined with drying or smoking, significantly extends the sausage's shelf life. This process not only preserves the meat but also develops its distinct tangy flavor, a prime characteristic of summer sausage.

How Summer Sausage is Made

Summer sausage is traditionally made from a mixture of beef and pork, though variations can include other meats as well, such as venison. The process begins with grinding the meat and mixing it with salt, sugar, and spices such as mustard seeds, black pepper, garlic, coriander, or more.

After seasoning, the meat mixture is stuffed into casings and subjected to a fermentation process, where beneficial bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid. This fermentation is critical as it lowers the pH, making the environment less hospitable to spoilage organisms. Finally, the sausage is either dried, smoked, or both, further enhancing its flavor and preservation qualities.

summer sausage on a charcuterie board

Ideas for Enjoying Summer Sausage

Summer sausage is a versatile meat, and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways! Here are some ideas for incorporating summer sausage into your meals.

1. Charcuterie Boards

One of the most popular ways to enjoy summer sausage is on a charcuterie board. Slice it thin and serve alongside an assortment of cheeses, crackers, nuts, and fruits. The tangy flavor of summer sausage pairs well with aged cheddar and brie, as well as with accompaniments like grapes, apples, and olives.

2. Sandwiches and Wraps

Add summer sausage to your favorite sandwiches and wraps for an extra burst of flavor. It works well in both cold and hot sandwiches! For a classic combination, layer slices of Organic Prairie© Summer Sausage with Organic Valley© Swiss Cheese, pickles, and mustard on rye bread. For a modern twist, try it in a wrap with hummus, fresh veggies, and feta cheese.

3. Salads

Summer sausage can be a great addition to salads, providing a hearty protein source and robust flavor. Chop it into small cubes and toss it with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a tangy vinaigrette. It pairs especially well with salads that include ingredients like roasted red peppers, olives, and hard-boiled eggs.

4. Pizza Topping

Use summer sausage as a pizza topping for a unique and flavorful twist. It is similar in taste to pepperoni but adds more depth of flavor and makes a more sophisticated pizza! Combine it with traditional toppings like mozzarella and marinara, or experiment with gourmet combinations such as summer sausage, arugula, and feta cheese. Its robust flavor holds up well under the heat, making it a delightful addition to both homemade and store-bought pizzas.

5. Omelets and Scrambles

Incorporate summer sausage into your breakfast routine by adding it to omelets and scrambled eggs. Dice the sausage and sauté it with onions and bell peppers before adding beaten eggs. Finish with a sprinkle of your favorite cheese and fresh herbs for a delicious and protein-packed start to your day.

6. Pasta Dishes

Enhance your pasta dishes with the rich flavor of summer sausage. Slice it thin and add it to pasta salads or hot pasta dishes. It pairs wonderfully with creamy sauces like alfredo or carbonara, as well as with tomato-based sauces. For a quick and easy meal, toss cooked pasta with summer sausage, sautéed vegetables, and a light olive oil dressing.

7. Stuffed Peppers

Create a flavorful stuffing for bell peppers using summer sausage. Combine diced sausage with cooked rice, black beans, corn, and your favorite spices. Stuff the mixture into halved bell peppers, top with cheese, and bake until the peppers are tender and the cheese is melted.

8. Soup Enhancer

Add depth and flavor to soups by incorporating summer sausage. It works particularly well in bean soups, lentil soups, and hearty vegetable soups where you want to add more protein. Simply dice the sausage and add it to the pot during the final stages of cooking to infuse the soup with its savory goodness.

9. Mix Into Mashed Potatoes

Use summer sausage in mashed potatoes. The saltiness will compliment creamy mashed potatoes and the hearty sausage will add protein to this beloved side dish. Simply chop summer sausage into cubes and add into your favorite mashed potatoes.

10. Snack on Its Own

Finally, summer sausage makes an excellent snack all on its own. Slice it thin and enjoy it with mustard, cheese, and crackers, or simply eat it straight from the package for a quick and satisfying protein boost!

summer sausage cut on a board


Summer sausage's rich history and distinctive preservation methods have made it a beloved food in many cultures. Its ability to remain fresh and flavorful without refrigeration made it a staple in times when preserving meat was a challenge. Today, its versatile and tangy flavor continues to make it a favorite in kitchens around the world. Whether enjoyed on a charcuterie board, added to a sandwich, or incorporated into a hearty soup, summer sausage is a delicious and practical protein option that can enhance a wide variety of dishes!