From eggs to pig hocks, pickling is an ancient culinary tradition that's slowly breaking in to the mainstream once again. Pickled sausage may seem like the exclusive domain of gas stations, but it's an acquired taste that's hard to put down once you have it. Because suspending meat in brine is simply a preservation method, not a cooking method, you have to cook sausage before you pickle it. Now that you know pickled sausage is always precooked, it's up to you to decide what type of sausage to use, create your signature brine and put your own spin on the pickling experience.
1. Types of Sausage
While the sausage must be cooked, you can pickle almost any type of beef or pork link. Polish sausage, especially the garlic-heavy kielbasa, is commonly used. You can also use other varieties of smoked sausage or even hot dog style smokies. For a spicier treat, hot links do the trick. Whatever type of sausage you choose, make sure it's precooked. If it's not, cook it yourself before pickling.
2. In the Brine
Using cooked sausage is a universal necessity for pickling, but the brine spices are much more flexible. While vinegar serves as the chief medium, the seasonings in the brine are traditionally the chef's secret. Common brine seasonings include red chilies, black pepper, garlic and dried onions. You can also experiment with more exotic pickling flavors, such as fresh herbs, mustard seed, peppercorn, cumin or bay leaves.
3. Serving Suggestions
Most of the time, hungry snack food aficionados eat pickled sausage right out of the jar. You can also pair this casual snack with crackers. For an extra bold taste that adds a little extra crunch and snap to the meat, you can cook the sausage again -- typically done by frying it in a skillet -- after it has been pickled. For even more snap, leave the casings on the sausages when pickling.
4. More to Consider
Pickling food is an age-old culinary art, and it can take a while to learn. Improperly prepared pickled meat can cause serious illness. To gain the necessary experience, start by pickling easier -- and less dangerous -- foods, such as vegetables. Move on to sausage only once you've come to grips with pickling practices. Use only proven recipes and follow them precisely, including instructions for storage and expiration.