It is early morning and Hans Schüpbach is busy making the last of his summer sausages. ‘We are closing at the end of the week,’ he says, turning from the shop counter display of cured and fresh meats and sausages into the back of his metzgerei (butcher’s shop). His sentiments remain unspoken. The icy grip of winter is apon us.
Sausages – air-dried, cooked, smoked and raw – dominate Swiss food culture more than you would image. They are everywhere. They provide a backdrop to the seasons, at barbecues, festivals and markets, where they are eaten cold with cheese or hot with bread and sometimes hot with cheese wrapped in bacon.
The training centre for the Swiss meat industry in Spiez list 76 varieties, grouping them into categories, vis:
Brühwurst/Charcuterie Échaudée (Meat Cooked, eg bratwürst and cervelas);
Kochwurst/Charcuterie Cuite (Cooked Meat), eg blutwürst and leberwürst);
Rohwurst/Charcuteries Crues à Maturation (Raw Meat Cured, eg dauerwürst and hauswürst).
Schüpbach specialises in cervelas, a smoked cooked sausage made with assorted butcher’s meat, and in dauerwürst, a cured sausage made with pork, beef, red wine, black pepper and coriander.
His cervelas contains beef, bacon and water, with the emphasis on the beef. Traditionally cervelas (also called cervelat) were made with pork, veal and bacon, and while some butchers still prefer to match pork meat with beef meat, these days the sausage is almost one-third beef.
Metzgerei are an endangered species in Switzerland. Mass production of sausages like cervelas and bratwürst allow the supermarkets to offer promotions on the price.
The differences between cervelas and bratwürst can be subtle. Both are made with an emulsion of ice water and meat, pork or veal in the bratwürst. One is long, the other is short. Aromatic seasonings are the preserve of the butcher. St Galler bratwürst stand out because milk replaces the water.
In winter, especially outside during the festive season, bratwürst is served with a bread bun at kiosks and stalls. Mustard is a necessary condiment in the alpine regions. Inside, in the cafes and restaurants, these delicious fat sausages are accompanied by rösti and served with a mushroom or onion sauce.
This is the recipe for a more rustic cervelas.
600 g lean beef, minced 460 ml ice water 440 g fatty pork belly, minced 300 g bacon, cubed small 200 g pork neck, minced 20 g salt 1 tbsp heaped marjoram, dried 10 g onions, diced 5 g black pepper 5 g garlic, crushed Cinnamon, ground, large pinch Cloves, ground, large pinch Ginger, ground, large pinch Nutmeg, large pinch Pork Casings
Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor.
Stuff into sausage casings, twist at 36 mm.
Smoke over a fire at no more than 80°C and no lower than 50°C for 20 minutes three times.
Cook in water, 75°C, for 25 minutes.
Cool in ice cold water.
This is an extract from Ice Travel and Snow Food: A Culinary Adventure in Western Switzerland.
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