Near the end of October, the food and health sector on the Internet was sizzling louder than a cast iron pan loaded with breakfast meat. Why? The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an independent agency under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), broke everyone’s hearts by confirming what we suspected all along: eating copious amounts of processed meats is strongly correlated with the likelihood of developing cancer.
The world summed this news up in about three words. Sausage. Bacon. Bad. Then it took a deep breath and backlashed – what is there left to eat?
Making Sausage Good
There. There. It’s not so bad. Really. There is sausage salvation. How? Clean it up at the source. It starts with a healthy, thriving animal that’s been raised in pastured lands and nourished with food it was meant to eat. That pretty much eliminates anything raised in an industrial feed lot. Find your supplier. You can order online but try and see what’s available locally. Farmer’s markets are always a good bet.
What’s next? Why, your spices of course! Below are two blends for breakfast sausage and one for Italian sausage. Simply mix your spices up and use. Each recipe seasons up one pound of meat but you can triple or quadruple the recipe and keep the seasoning mix on hand. The best part? You decide the form you want. Links? Patties? Crumbled into a skillet? It’s your call. And it’s a good one!
Healthy Sausage Spice Mix
Rise & Shine! Breakfast Sausage 2 Ways
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tsp. sage leaves (crush them as you put them in the bowl)
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1/4 tsp. each of the following: crushed rosemary, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes or chipotle pepper flakes.
Breakfast Sausage Simplified
- 1 tsp. of each of the following: salt, crushed sage, thyme, paprika (try smoked paprika for a Spanish touch), black pepper.
- 1/2 tsp. each of cayenne pepper and ground nutmeg.
Mangia! Mangia Italiano!
This recipe comes directly from one of my most favorite cookbooks ever, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat. Let’s be clear, I don’t consider myself a paleo person despite the fact that much of what I eat (not all) would fit nicely in the category (more here on that). But with this cookbook, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of whatever food-consuming lifestyle to which you pledge your loyalties, Melissa Joulwan is a freaking genius and I promise this will be the first cookbook you’ll devour cover-to-cover.
Enough jibber-jabber – here’s her recipe:
- 4 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 tbsp. dried Italian herbs (Go here for a DIY Tuscan version. Fennel, oregano, basil & rosemary…all the good stuff).
- 4 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. course/granulated garlic powder
- 2 tsp. paprika (add more if you like it red hot spicy)
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (love these? Add more)
- 1.5 tsp. fennel seed (optional).
What to do: Measure and mix the spices. Using your hands, knead/mix thoroughly into the ground meat (Try pork or turkey). WAIT! For the Italian mix use 1-2 tablespoons of the mixed seasoning per pound.
If you want sausage balls (yes! Meatballs!) preheat oven to 350°F. Roll into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet with sides (so the juices don’t drip onto the bottom of the oven causing smoke and nasty smells. Yes, speaking from experience). You can also put small meatballs into a mini-muffin tin or larger ones into a regular muffin tin (one sausage meatball per tin cup). For the record, I’ve not tried this but it sounds like a great idea! Bake for 20-30 minutes–longer for bigger–until no longer pink on the inside). Note: careful not to make them too big or the outside will begin to crisp up before the center is done cooking.
If you want patties, form into equal sized patties. Pan fry in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
If you want more on the WHO / IARC findings: WHO classifies processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and red meat as probably carcinogenic. Findings are based on scientists assessing more than 800 research studies. Thus the “probably” link. The studies (I’m being general here) are not clear cut for one big reason: lifestyle. It’s one thing to find a set of carcinogens and prove that they contribute to cancer (looking at you nitrates and nitrites in processed meats). It’s quite another to take a sweeping category of food (red meat) and isolate it without looking at an individual’s overall health, genetics, and lifestyle. Nor is it fair to not consider the health of the meat. Meat from diseased cattle or swine raised in squalid conditions and kept alive with a supply of antibiotics is simply not on par with an animal whose wellness is a result of living a natural, healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, the cause of cancer is complex, neither its cause nor prevention can be hung on a single food.
Eat well. Peace out!