When I opened the butcher shop six years ago, I really wanted to make sausages. I was making some at a restaurant I was working at, and loved combining different seasonings for new and interesting links. This mentality is how recipes like the Cheeseburger Sausage, Lamb and Wild Leek Sausage, and Maple Syrup and Chinese Five Spice Sausages were born. Some flavours weren’t quite the hot sellers (where did you go Deli and Mustard Sausage?), but they were always fun to make. As we grew though, I realized I had to make some of the more conventional flavours as well; sausages people are used to buying at other stores. And the one people asked for the most whenever they came into the shop was the Italian.
The idea of an “Italian” Sausage kind of bothered me though. Back in the old days of the shop, I was snobbier than I am now. I had worked in Italy and spent much of my culinary career working in Italian restaurants, and to just choose one style of sausage and call it “Italian” seemed to be disrespectful to the regional diversity of that nation’s charcuterie. So we made a Pork Sausage with Chili, Garlic and Toasted Fennel. I thought this was a good compromise, but soon I realized that just confused a lot of customers. Every time someone would ask for an Italian Sausage I had to explain the reasoning, and after a year or so I finally conceded. Sanagan’s Italian Sausage was born. Soon after that we decided to make a spicier version using double the chilies. We consistently sold out of both types, and now it is a butchery crime to not have one available at all times.
A couple of years later, after we moved into the larger store, I met a guy named Sohaib who owned a spice importing company. He had a family-run spice farm back in India that used to supply many of the big spice companies, and he had a vision to go to the retailer direct with his spices. The benefit of this, other than the cost savings, was that we could get our hands on the freshest spices available. We started using fennel seeds, peppercorns, and chilies the flavour of which I have never tasted! They were so potent and fragrant! I was in love with this stuff, so we immediately changed our spice-buying program to almost exclusively Sohaib’s stuff. Now I made an error during this change over. All of our sausage recipes are in an Excel spreadsheet that ratios out the ingredient list by weight depending on how much ground meat we start with. After switching to Sohaib’s spices I failed to adapt the recipe to use less chili in our Mild Italian Sausage, and because of the strength of the chilies we’ve been selling “mild” Sausages that were actually quite hot. Not a big deal if you don’t mind the heat, but not great for sensitive mouths, especially children’s. I received a lot of complaints recently about this, and we decided to do something about it.
We are going to try to modify our recipe. We’re going to start making our Mild Italian Sausage without any chili at all, so basically just garlic and toasted fennel seed. We are going to run it like this for a while, and we ask for customer feedback. We will still carry the Hot Italian for those who like the heat, but going forward I want to see if we can appeal to more mouths with a toned down version as well. Keep in mind it will still have the big flavour we are known for, just without the burning tongue. And, as always, we will be creating new flavours as well, to keep our mind and tongues fresh and exciting. Because otherwise, what's the point???