Edible souvenirs from Louisiana’s sausage trail
Sausage is serious business in Louisiana.
Whenever I travel around Louisiana I always bring an ice chest along in the car and, without fail, by the time I return home it is fuller than when I started the trip. That’s because driving around Louisiana means traveling through prime sausage country, a place where great handmade sausage with distinctive local flavor awaits in nearly any town.
Sausage is serious business in Louisiana. So many traditional recipes call for smoked pork flavor, and countless butcher shops and smokehouses of all descriptions fill this need with delicious diversity.
Perhaps the most famous variety is andouille. This is a thick, dense pork sausage that suffuses its intensely smoky flavor into jambalayas, gumbos and pots of red beans. Andouille is made all over Louisiana, though many consider the River Parishes area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge to be its spiritual homeland. Shops like Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse and Bailey’s World Famous Andouille, both in the town of LaPlace, are two benchmarks of the style. Of course, a good Louisiana butcher shop will make a whole range of sausage and the hotbed for many of them is Acadiana, or Cajun country.
At some of my own favorite shops, like Bourgeois Meat Market in Thibodeaux or Dave’s Quality Meats in New Iberia, at Poche’s in Breaux Bridge, at Johnson’s Boucaniere in Lafayette or Hackett’s Cajun Kitchen in Lake Charles – and plenty in between – you’ll find a line-up of traditional meats redolent with Louisiana heritage. The inventory at any of these shops could include links or patties of fiery hot sausage flavored with cayenne and a denser, peppery relative called chaurice. There’s green onion sausage and sausage flavored with whole garlic cloves or veins of cheddar cheese.
Sausage makers mix things up with chicken, deer or turkey, and Louisiana hybrids like alligator sausage and crawfish sausage also turn up. Many shops also prepare meaty snacks that are perfect to enjoy right then and there. The most popular ready-to-eat example is boudin, a uniquely regional sausage made with a mixture of pork, rice and seasonings cooked in a natural casing. Headed home with a cooler full of andouille, alligator sausage and chaurice, a link of boudin also makes a great sample taste of the meaty feasts to come.