Reviewer’s Note: Review copy of the book discussed here was provided to me at no cost in exchange for my honest opinion.
In a book brimming with notable facts about a food recognized the world over, it’s hard to point to one above all others and declare it the most insightful. One of the broader, more resonant points, however, to which I’d not devoted much thought before opening this book, is that just about every culture throughout human history has prepared some form of sausage.
That kind of universality can lead in interestingly divergent directions when it comes to cooking. Factors such as regional culinary customs, traditional food preservation methods, and ingredient availability wreak influences that produce very different outcomes despite the foodstuff originating in a common concept. Written by Tonia Reinhard, MS, RD, FAND, with Brendan Reinhard and Brent Mitchell, this collection of recipes and sausage-making best practices lays a solid foundation for how to successfully appreciate everything that sausage has been throughout history and everything that it can be today, in hands imbued with patience and know-how.
The book’s early chapters tackle some of the more familiar elephants in the room, addressing several long-held contentions surrounding the making and consumption of sausage. Chief among these are oft-maligned terms like “processed foods” (file these along with the requisite jokes about sausage being composed mostly of lips and snouts), the general consternation held by the health and nutrition community over nitrates and nitrites present, and the notion that sausage has no place in what’s generally considered a healthy diet. The book makes salient, plausible arguments bolstered by author Tonia Reinhard’s impressive list of qualifications to write with authority on the subject that includes working as a clinical dietician and having served as Manager of Clinical Nutrition at Crittenton Hospital and Director of the MSU Expanded Nutrition Education Program.
Perhaps covering every base, or perhaps seeking to attract even those who will remain unconverted by those arguments, this book also includes a number of vegetarian and vegan sausages. It furthermore devotes an entire chapter to the importance of food safety, with step-by-step guidance for how to develop a food safety plan to follow when working with sausage-making ingredients.
Making your own sausage lets you know and control exactly what goes into your food. Better still, it can be accomplished with equipment readily available to an average consumer, tools that likely exist already in the kitchens of most people reading this: items like a heavy-duty stand mixer, a meat thermometer, a food processor, among others.
The recipe sections are where the real fun of reading this book begins. Along with important information on optimal fat-to-lean ratios to strive for when selecting meats, readers will find helpful, thoroughly-explained best practices (one example being to always plan to make sausages within four days of purchasing fresh meat) intercut with relevant health facts and suggestions for incorporating spices into the mix that complement in various ways, from the smokiness of paprika, which can be sweet or hot, to the fragrant, vitamin-rich potency of fresh basil.
Bearing all that in mind, this was an engaging and informative read, made all the more eye-catching by 16 color photo pages illustrating some of its most visually-stunning recipes. This is a book certain to be attractive to home cooks in a world growing ever more conscious of where the foods we eat actually come from and how they are made.
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose