There are seeds used in certain sausages, sometimes they are what sets them worlds apart. But these special flavoring agents are not always realized or even appreciated.
I dug a little deeper to find out all I could about these seeds and how they’re used in sausage making.
Does sausage have seeds in it? The most common seed used in sausages is fennel. In the United States, “Italian” sausages are strongly flavored by the use of fennel seed. There are seven different seeds used in sausage making. Most are ground before using.
Ah, the infamous fennel seed, you either love them or hate them. Hopefully you don’t mind their flavor. Because it’s hard to find Italian sausage in the U.S. that doesn’t have fennel in it.
Sausage making tip: Best Binders for Making Homemade Sausage
Spices For Sausages
Each one is prepared differently for using in sausages. Whole spices are not crushed or ground, they are used as a whole and mixed in with the meat. Ground spices are crushed first and then sprinkled in with the seasoning and then added to the meats.
If you love breakfast sausage! Learn what spices are used to make them so good. What Makes Breakfast Sausage Different?
- Mustard seed
- Celery Seed
What Is Fennel Seed?
Fennel seeds are harvested from fennel plants. Fennel is in the same plant family as carrot, celery, dill, anise, caraway, cumin and parsley. Along with thousands of other species that make up the Apiaceae plant family.
All parts of the fennel plant are edible, including the seeds. Also known as fennel fruit. The seeds are a spice while the rest of the plant is classified as a herb.
Fennel fruit is commonly used as a seasoning for many foods. After harvesting the seeds they can be used in a few different ways.
The seeds can be used whole, crushed or toasted, the seeds must be dried first.
Toasting fennel fruit releases the oils withing the seed and brings out the strong aroma and flavor.
Fennel used in sausage is usually whole seeds. Fennel is used in Italian sausages to give them a sweet flavor. Since this is the most distinct flavor characteristic of fennel seed.
The taste of fennel is also considered by some to be similar to licorice. That could be the reason why some people strongly dislike fennel.
Deriving from the same family of plants as the fennel. Caraway seed (fruit) looks very similar to fennel seed. It is slightly darker in color and a little longer.
Caraway also has notes of licorice flavor, along with a more nutty like flavor as opposed to sweet. Caraway seeds can also be toasted or eaten whole.
Out of the seven seeds caraway most closely resembles cumin seed. Caraway is used directly in some sausages, like smoked Hungarian sausages.
The seed is also used to flavor German, Polish (Kabanos) and Italian sausages. Traditional sauerkraut uses caraway seed. There are also popular recipes with caraway cabbage and sausage.
Anise is again in the same family as fennel, caraway and cumin. The flavor is very close to these as well. Anise has more of a licorice taste then fennel, that is why it used to flavor licorice candies.
The anise seed (fruit) is used as a spice for cooking breads or meats. This seed is commonly used in Italian sausage pizza’s.
The difference sometimes between Italian sausage and pork sausage in pizzas is the use of anise or fennel seed. In case you were ever wondering, the taste is going to be sweeter.
Anise seed and fennel seed can be used together when making homemade sausages. The flavors of fennel and anise are so similar one can be substituted for each other.
One way to tell fennel and anise seed apart is there size and shape. Fennel seed is much larger and lighter in color.
The spicier of the seeds, cumin comes from the same family of plant as fennel, caraway and anise. When used in sausages, cumin is usually ground first. Instead of a whole seed like fennel.
Because of its nutty and earthy flavors cumin seed resembles caraway, but the distinction is not very close. Cumin is spicier than caraway, the color is a lighter brown but darker overall then fennel.
Harvested from the herb coriander (also known as cilantro) the seeds are grounded when used in sausages. The two countries who use coriander seeds primarily for sausages are South Africa and Germany.
Boerewors is a type of sausage from South Africa. The name translates from the words farmer and sausage. Mettwurst is also another sausage in South Africa that uses Coriander. The coriander seeds are toasted before being used.
In Germany landjaeger sausage and bockwurst both use coriander seed as a common spice. Coriander can be found in many varieties of homemade bratwurst.
The flavor of coriander can be described as lemon or orange citrus flavor with a slight spice.
Commonly used for summer sausages mustard seed can be used whole or grounded. The seeds do not have a lot of flavor as a whole. The aroma and taste lies on the inside of the seed.
When they are grounded it helps to release the mustard seeds flavor, but it doesn’t stick around for long.
Mustard seeds are round and lightweight, they are easily chew able and will pop when biting down on them. If the seed is darker in color it is typically more spicy.
Mustard seed is common in batches of Keilbasa from smaller butcher shops. The seeds also add texture and mouth feel to the meat. It also can give the sausage slices a unique appearance and presentation.
Many venison summer sausage recipes use mustard seed. Mustard seed is also a popular spice to use for pepperoni, either crushed or used whole.
Used ground or whole, celery seed is not mutually exclusive to one type of sausage. Instead it is sold commonly as a sausage spice, it can be used for most any type of homemade sausage.
Sometimes it used with polish sausages and sauerkraut. It can be added to beer or apple cider, which the sausage is cooked in. Breakfast sausages commonly use celery seed for flavoring.
Why Caraway, Fennel Seeds Taste Bad
Caraway, fennel and anise seeds are similar in taste. If you dislike black licorice you may hate these just the same. Usually its different for everyone, but you can substitute other spices for caraway.
Cumin is a good replacement for caraway and visa versa. Since there is no scientific reason why some people dislike it so much. Just be aware that not everyone finds fennel or these other spices to be as tasty as you might.
If you have never tried it, don’t assume you will dislike fennel because it might taste like black licorice. You may not notice or think so, everyone has their own individual taste for foods.
Cooking fennel does seem to tame down the flavor a little bit. The best approach is to not overuse fennel when using it. They have a strong aroma and flavor, a little goes a long ways.
Buying Seeds Online vs In-store
Now you know a lot more about each seed variety used in making sausages. If you plan to make your own sausages at home, I find buying seeds online from even Amazon to be much cheaper than in-store.
Fennel seed for example can be found on Amazon in bulk (1 lb) for under $10. You will pay a lot more at the grocery store for a smaller amount.
View all the sausage seeds mentioned in this post on Amazon here.