Breakfast sausage
A common inclusion in breakfast sausage is maple.

Taste rules

Consistency, taste and appearance are paramount in all foods, sausages included. Some suppliers offer carefully crafted inclusions that can be manipulated to meet varied sensory targets.

“The key to deliver a good and tasty sausage with inclusion mix is to have an inclusion that has a consistent taste, piece after piece, and with a taste that is bold enough to stand out against the rest of the ingredients found in the sausage,” said Wayne Lutomski, vice-president, international and global ingredients, Welch’s Foods Inc., Concord, Mass. “Taste reigns. Additionally, the inclusion’s uniformity of size and an inclusion that will not clump during processing of the sausage will make sausage production much more efficient and less costly. This will ensure a quality product sausage after sausage.”

Welch’s and Taura Natural Ingredients, Winchester, Va., offer a 100% fruit inclusion line based on Welch’s concord grape juice and purée. The inclusions come in varied shapes and sizes, with or without other fruit or vegetable juices. Additional ingredients, such as chia seeds, can be included on the inclusions for extra nutrition and texture.

The inclusions are made using Taura’s ultra-rapid concentration process to preserve the taste and natural goodness of the concord grape, which has the highest polyphenol content of all grapes, according to Mr. Lutomski.

SensoryEffects, a division of Bridgeton, Mo.-based Balchem, produces lipid-based inclusions that are readily incorporated into all types of sausages, according to Megan Maenius, food applications scientist.

“These inclusions work best when added to the meat matrix after the majority of grinding and chopping,” she said. “They can be added along with standard spices and seasonings in order to obtain adequate distribution.”

Such inclusions come in a range of sizes. Size influences flavor distribution and visual effect in the finished product.

“A small nugget will have slight visual impact but provide uniform flavor distribution; whereas a large flake will have stronger visual impact and pockets of flavor in the finished product,” Ms. Maenius said.

Meat products with lipid-based inclusions have been found to withstand panfrying, baking and microwaving, according to Ms. Maenius. Higher-sugar content inclusions can undergo caramelization during dry-heat cooking, which may add an extra flavor dimension, as in a maple inclusion for a breakfast sausage. But at the same time, they can also burn and harden.

“We are particularly fond of a combination of ketchup and mustard inclusions added straight to the meat batter, or a chili-cheese combination,” Ms. Maenius said.

Inclusions can deliver smoke flavors, which add a touch of grill flavor without needing to grill. They can be designed to carry ethnic flavors, providing familiar sausages with an adventurous twist.

“Introducing alcohol flavors, such as beer, into sausages is another great avenue for flavor differentiation,” Ms. Maenius said.

When it comes to sausage innovation, the sky’s the limit. Doug Sohn, founder of the now-closed Hot Doug’s, Chicago, said it well.

“If it can go through a blender, it can go into casing and be made into a sausage,” he said. “My approach to formulating sausages is to take all of the ingredients that go into a classic dish or entree and turn it into a sausage.”