A stepbystep process of making different sausages and salami, including the comparison from meat selection to the final cured product.

What is a Cured Sausage? Explaining Different Varieties

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

Not all sausages are cured, I want to go over what is a cured sausage.

Believe it or not, after 20 years of making, eating, and looking up cured sausages around the world. I still am amazed with the variations of cured sausages.

Often, it’s due to the misunderstanding of what curing is. Yet, the meaning of ‘uncured’ differs in America or anywhere else in the world – there is a government labelling rule – I’ll go into that later.

Sausages come in thousands of variations everywhere: fresh raw sausage, cured, dried or cooked/smoked.

Although another type exists, I will go over, is spreadable cured sausage!

What Makes a Sausage “Cured”?

Curing involves adding salt to a fresh sausage meat, also sometimes nitrates/nitrites. Cured sausages have a certain amount of salt to inhibit the meat and reduce unwanted bacteria through the process of binding and diffusion. Often the goal is to dry and preserve the sausage, in some instances, the sausage is fermented which decreases pH and increases acidity.

Understanding the Curing Process

Curing is the first step: we have dry curing and wet curing (or brining). The meat is cured in a salt-based dry or wet environment. To cured sausages, salt is added to the ground or minced meat.

Depending on the amount of salt, it’s either more for drying/preserving or less for curing/fermenting/raw or hot smoked, as in table below:

For at-home cured sausages, I use 2% – 2.5% for dry-cured salami sausage curing.

Or 1.25-1.5% for uncured fresh sausage which will be at looked up later.

Different Types of Cured Sausage

Fresh sausages have a lower content of salt and spices. They are like a meat pattie in a sausage shape. Then for cured sausages, which has a few variations, see the table below to demystify it.

TypeExampleTime to Make
Cured, Fermented, DriedDry Cured Salami4 weeks to 6 months
Cured, Cold Smoked, DriedHungarian KOLBÁSZ Salami4-8 weeks
Cured, Fermented, RawSpreadable streichfähige Mettwurst1 day
Cured, Cooked/Hot SmokedKabanosy, Cabanossi, or Kabana1 day

Examples of Cured Sausages Explained

Let’s go over the above examples and elaborate on the process to get a deeper understanding of the varied interpretations and styles of cured sausage!

Dry-Cured Fermented Salami: A Classic Example

Dry cured salami large

What most Western folk will be familiar with is mass-produced commercial styles, maybe not so much the traditional artisanal. A mass-produced salami, for example, is often forced with chemicals in the sausage to become acidic very quickly and can be produced in a few days.

Above are the traditional artisanal salami types from a place like Italy. Sometimes also produced in

large-scale volume.

Curing involves salt, nitrates/nitrites (often)

Some will say that also spices & starter culture are part of curing. My definition is that curing is salt to inhibit the meat and prevent unwanted bacteria, and nitrates/nitrites also perform this role against botulism.

Spices & Herbs can have antibacterial, viral and fungal effects in preserving and of course flavoring, too.

Starter Culture can be introduced (or can naturally occur) to create lactic acid, lowering the pH, and therefore increasing acidity.

For artisanal salami, with TIME the flavors are combining, factors and some reactions are happening to create complex and desirable flavors (probably also with traditional recipes having lasted hundreds if not thousands of years.)

Cold Smoked and Dried: Hungarian KOLBÁSZ Salami

Dru curing meat in curing chamber
Dru Curing Hungarian Salami (Right) And Spicy Wild Venison Salami (With A Spanish Rioja)

Above are the Hungarian style Salamis I make.

Curing with salt and cold smoked for 15 hours, reducing the weight by at least 30% – my preference is 40%. These are the Hungarian style salamis I make.

Some more traditional cured salami sausages from Eastern Europe are not fermented, this may also be due to the colder climate in winter, when salamis are traditionally made.

Uncured has had some confusion with a Labelling Law stating uncured meat has a naturally derived form of nitrate/nitrite. The rest of the world sees uncured as not having a salt/nitrite process as well, like a fresh raw sausage you fry on the grill/BBQ.

We get into cured spreadable cold smoked raw sausages from Italy, specifically Southern Italy, Calabria came up with a Dry Salt Cured, Cold Smoked, and DRIED sausage – a spreadable salami, Nduja!

Fermented and Raw Sausage: Spreadable Cold Smoked Mettwurst

Mettwurst large
Image by Vinzenz Lorenz M from Pixabay

German Mettwurst is a cured, spreadable cold-smoked, raw sausage.

Hackepeter is raw fresh pork mince seasoned on bread This seems at odds with many sausage processes.

Salt is added to cure the minced meat, with spices. It’s then cold smoked (under 86°F/30°C) for flavor and some small amount of protection on the surface. It’s then kept cold/refrigerated and smeared onto bread and consumed!

A very small amount of drying would occur during the cold smoking process.

Since it has salt, it does extend the refrigerated shelf life, but really only a week or so – longer – I would not recommend it.

An emulsified version of this cured sausage would be Teewurst. Another name I found for a similar style is Metka which could also be related to liverwurst! Some of these types of sausages can be kept in a jar, though, 1-2 weeks would be the longest they last.

Dutch Metworst (or droge worst – translates to dry sausage in Dutch) is a dry-cured salami. Sounds similar, but very different!

Cooked/Hot Smoked Sausage: Kabanosy, Cabanossi, and Kabana

Hot smoked and cold smoker salami large
Hot Smoked Examples on the left, dry cured salami on the right

Hot Smoked Examples on the left, and Dry-Cured Salami on the right.

There is another cooked product with a difference. This sausage is cooked at a low temperature that is ideally perfect, because it does not render down as much as cooking a pork chop or other fresh meat.

The curing of the sausage is more toward taste as opposed to inhibiting the bacteria.

After this it is cured, cooked and hot smoked.

When kept at a cold or refrigerated temperature, they may last a week or two at the most.

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