What Is Summer Sausage and Can You Eat It in Winter?

At first glance, you may see the term “summer sausage” and then look at the calendar in disappointment when you discover it’s autumn. A sausage you can only eat June through August? Preposterous! Well, lucky for all of us, that situation was entirely hypothetical. Summer sausage is, in fact, not a cured deli meat that you must eat in the heat, but simply a term for a shelf-stable sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration until opened. And, contrary to its name, it can be enjoyed all year round. Today, we’ll learn a thing or two about how we can eat un-chilled meat without making us sick.  

What is summer sausage made of?

Summer sausage is usually a mixture of beef and pork (or just beef), salt, and curing agents used during the smoking process. Spices are sometimes added to the meat mix to add flavor, such as mustard seeds, garlic salt, or sugar. Sometimes venison is used in place of beef or pork.

How to make summer sausage?

Summer sausage starts out like any other sausage—the meat is mixed together with salt and spices (if desired) and put into a casing. The meat is then fermented to lower the PH level, and thus the potential of bacterial growth to give it a longer shelf life. The fermentation process typically takes around 24 hours, and then the sausage is smoked for another six hours or so. This dries out the meat, which, again, eliminates the traces of moisture that might make the meat spoil. 

How long does summer sausage last? 

Though it doesn’t necessarily need to be refrigerated in its packaging, if you’re looking to get the most shelf-life from it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge just for safety’s sake. Dry summer sausage will maintain a high quality for about six months in the refrigerator.

Can you freeze summer sausage?

Yes, you can freeze your summer sausages for as long as ten months. Again, any months, not just the summer ones (we’ve gotta watch out for our more literal-minded readers).

How do you eat summer sausage?

Summer sausage is typically cut into thin slices and snacked on as part of a charcuterie or cheese board. You can also use it in stir-fries and casseroles, or put it in a sandwich if that’s more your thing. Best of all, this kind of sausage is totally ready to eat as is, if you just want to take a big bite out of a link like a cartoon dog. There’s really no way you can go wrong, it’s kind of a miracle! 

Why is it called summer sausage?

Summer sausage is an American term that sprung from the fact that it is sausage that needs little or no refrigeration, thus the sausages could be kept for eating in the usually warmer summer months. It was quite a novelty back in the day when you had to keep things cold by storing them near a giant block of ice!  

Is summer sausage cooked?

Yes, most summer sausages are sold fully cooked, which is why they’re ready to eat sans refrigeration. However, it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to anything we consume, so be sure to read the packaging label beforehand. 

So, we’ve learned that summer sausage is a pretty great way to get some savory snacking in when your fridge is on the fritz. It’s one of the few meats you don’t have to scramble to finish whenever your electricity goes out.

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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