Sunday, November 8, 2009

Salsiccia all'uva

Once upon a time, I had a hankerin' for some sausages. I sure do love them sausages!

photo by spigoo

...I remember during my short (and, to date, only) visit to Deutschland eating Wurst mit Kraut. Oh my goodness! There I sat, in the Kneitinger Biergarten, located on an island in the middle of the Donau (Danube) river, my Maßkrug (1 liter beer stein) in hand, würstel, kraut und sharfen senf before me. It was a magical moment, magic that brought forth many liters of beer, with nary a stumble nor slur. That's my kind of magic!

At any rate, even though the Germans are well-known for their sausages, meat stuffed in a casing is done all over the world, and has been for quite some time. A quicky wiki tells us that the first sausages were likely made by early humans, stuffing roasted intestines into animal stomachs. As early as 589 BC a chinese goat and lamb sausage làcháng (臘腸/腊肠) was mentioned. The Greek poet Homer mentioned a kind of blood sausage in the Odyssey ( Evidence suggests that sausages were already popular both among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and most likely with the non-literate tribes occupying the larger part of Europe. Check out the Cook's Thesaurus for a look at some of the many worldwide wursts.

This night's recipe originates in Italy, specifically Umbria. I love Umbria. 'Rolling hills and river valleys darkened by chestnut groves and elm forests, "t
his landlocked region's overwhelmingly medieval character harkens one back to the mysticism and mysteries of the Dark Ages" ( The cuisine of Umbria is rustic yet refined. Mushrooms, truffles, lentils, chickling peas, farro, prepared and cured meats, boar, olive oil, and wine are some of the region's specialties.
photo by pizzodisevo

Years back I bought Julia della Croce's wonderful cookbook of Umbrian recipes. Here is a link to a preview on Googlebooks. There are so many amazing dishes in this book, but the one featured here couldn't be more simple or delicious: sausages with grapes. According to Signora della Croce:
Some place the origin of this recipe in Foligno, which lies south of Perugia, although it is found throughout the region. In southern Umbria, particularly in the vicinity of Orvieto and Terni, green grapes are used. In Foligno, the sausages are paired with the "black" wine grape. Locals conjecture that the dish originated during the vendemmia, the "grape harvest," when the fruit was plentiful and quick hearty dishes had to be prepared to fuel those laboring in the vineyards.
This recipe serves 4 people, and you'll only need:
  • 8 sweet Italian pork sausages
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3/4 pound seedless black or red grapes, stripped from their stems
Now, I have made this recipe (true to form) many times, so this time around I decided to twist it up a bit. Instead of sweet Italian pork sausages and black grapes, I used pork sausages with lemon and thyme, and green grapes. If I had some, I might have deglazed the pan with a little Orvieto Classico! I pretty much stuck to the recipe, though...

Use a sharp knife to poke a few holes in the sausages before cooking them. Select a seasoned cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan. Put the sausages and the water in the pan over medium heat. When the water has evaporated and the sausages have begun to color lightly (after about 12 minutes) add the grapes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, pricking the sausages occasionally to release excess fat, until they are browned all over and cooked through, and the grapes begin to release some of their juices and soften (about 20 minutes longer). Do not prick the sausages too much, or they will dry out. Transfer the sausages and grapes to a warm platter or serving plates leaving behind any fat, and serve immediately.

I choose to serve them with some garlicky red chard with a squeeze of lemon, and some crauti. Buon appetito!

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