A great sausage is a miracle of culinary alchemy. Think about it: Cheap raw ingredients – fatty meats suitable only for grinding – are transformed, with a dash of salt and assorted spices, into a party-friendly package irresistible to few. "It's this timeless and perfect little food item," says Dane Brown, co-owner of Bestie, a Vancouver sausage-and-beer joint where the star is German currywurst. "Every bite has the perfect amount of flavour. It's equally satisfying from tip to tip."
These days, a stunning range of classic, unconventional and even vegan-friendly sausages are being ground out across the country. "Because you're making small tubes, it allows you to play with products that might otherwise be too expensive," says Aldo Lanzillotta, the owner of Toronto's Wvrst, a sausage-focused eatery. "We use kangaroo, pheasant, guinea fowl, elk. It allows us to experiment." As for how to serve them, they're perfect for light pasta dishes, in savoury summer stews or simply slipped into a soft bun either on their own or dressed. (Instead of mustard and relish, though, try more imaginative toppings, such as kimchi ketchup or quick-pickled cukes.)
We've rounded up a range of the sausage options out there below, and give you recipes to put them to use.
Fowl play Ranging from commonly available chicken and turkey to harder-to-track-down duck and pheasant, poultry sausages are often seasoned with delicate aromatics, such as tarragon and citrus. Halifax's Charcuterie Ratinaud is renowned for its duck sausage with orange and ginger, while Toronto's Sausage King by Olliffe makes chicken with green onion as well as the Red Rooster, a chicken-turkey combo laced with cayenne.
The classics It's hard to go wrong with a bratwurst, particularly when it's made from whey-fed heritage-breed pigs such as Berkshires or Tamworths – specialties at the Toronto restaurant Wvrst – or with locally farmed beef and lamb. All good butchers will know where their meat comes from, so don't be afraid to ask.
Game day Game meats are more approachable (and affordable) in sausage form. Vancouver's Oyama Sausage Co. makes a mouthwatering venison-blueberry variety, while Toronto-based Cumbrae's offers water buffalo with portobello mushrooms, shallots and Dijon mustard, rabbit with sage, pinot grigio and roasted garlic and wild boar with walnut and orange. Keep an eye out, too, for alligator, kangaroo or elk at specialty shops nationwide.
Regional flavour Take home global favourites, including weisswurst (the veal-based German variety that cries out for sharp mustard) and boerewors (South Africa's trademark spiral), from Calgary's SA Meat Shops. At Kostas Meat Market in east-end Toronto (416-444-3036), Macedonian sausage with orange peel is likely to be on offer. And for coiled Barese, head for Di Liso's Fine Meats in the city's downtown.
Meat-free Toronto's Wvrst offers four veg-friendly sausages, including The Original, made with tofu, chickpeas, corn and cilantro. If you'd rather cook at home, Field Roast sausages, carried at supermarkets across the country, come in four varieties: smoked-apple and sage, Italian, Mexican chipotle and frankfurters. Just stay vigilant at the grill; without animal fat, there's a fine line between tasty and overcooked.