By Paul Stannard, 3rd generation sausage maker -Fortuna's Sausage Co.
has been around for a long time. It was
eaten by the ancient Babylonians in 1500 B.C.
From then on, sausage evolved from being a product made out of the
ground-up leftover scraps of pork to being the
versatile and well-produced lean
meat product it is today
long time, sausage had to be consumed reasonably quickly after being made, as
there was no way of refrigerating it or otherwise keeping it fresh. By approximately 500 B.C., however, the
dry-cured sausage had been created.
Records show that there was a city off the coast of Cyprus called
Salamis which had large salt lagoons.
These lagoons would have been a necessity in the manufacture of
dry-cured sausage, as salt was the only preservative for the meats known to man
at the time.
shows that it was the Romans who in fact perfected sausage-making. The
sausage-makers of ancient Rome had guilds set up to protect their secrets and
to pass them down to their apprentice sausage-makers. Even back in those ancient times, the
sausage-makers were controlled by the government for sanitation and operating
procedures. Experts in making the
dry-cured sausage, the Romans knew how to cut, grind, mix, and season the meat perfectly. They also built special rooms
for dry-curing. In these rooms, they could carefully control the special
balance between temperature, humidity and air flow, all without the aid of the
fans and refrigerators we use today.
Dry-cured meats became a staple of the Roman army’s diet, so that they
could keep up their protein levels on long marches to conquer other nations
without their meat spoiling.
the middle ages, dry-cured meats really took off, with each large city having
its own special type of dry sausage. In
northern Europe, they made a semi-dry sausage to be eaten during the summer
month, called summer sausage. Southern
Europeans made a completely dry-cured sausage that was able to be stored no
mater what the temperature was. Certain
cities became known for the type of sausage they made, such as frankfurters from Frankfurt, Germany and Genoa salami from Genoa, Italy.
Italian immigrants came to
Rhode Island around the turn of the century, they
brought with them the old-world recipes and knowledge to make their own
special types of dried sausages. The
Italians who settled in
Westerly were mostly from Calabria, and brought with
them the recipes to make “Soupy,” which is short for Sopressata. This is a peppery sausage, spicy and hot, and
while there are many other styles of dry-cured sausage, nothing comes close to
the taste of Soupy®. To this day, it is
still made the same way it was hundreds of years ago, the recipes having been
passed down through the generations. Of course, there are many Westerly families who boast that they make the best Soupy’s, and this makes for some
friendly debate and competition. It is
most interesting to think that something that the Romans created over a
thousand years ago still goes on today in the homes of Italians in Rhode
It’s a delicious, proud
tradition that will hopefully stay with us at Fortuna's Sausage Co. for many years to come.