Breakfast sausage is a meat product that usually is made from pork that has been ground or minced and combined with spices before being stuffed into a casing. Unlike some other sausages, breakfast sausage is used fresh and is not aged, dried or fermented. A large variety of commercially produced versions of breakfast sausage are available, with some being pre-cooked so they can be stored for a long time and then warmed relatively quickly when needed. Even though pork is a popular variety, the sausages also can be made from beef, tofu, chicken or intermediary mixtures of different meats. There are a variety of shapes for breakfast sausage, including links, logs that need to be cut, pre-cut patties for sandwiches, and loose, ground crumbles.
In some instances, the contents of breakfast sausage are the scraps that remain after butchering different cuts of meat; in other instances it can be made of ground meat from prime cuts. When made at home, the meat is ground and packed into casings, sometimes with water and a filling such as breadcrumbs. It can then be frozen or refrigerated until needed.
Commercial production of breakfast sausage is slightly different. The meat is ground and spiced, but then may be mixed with crushed ice before it is formed into its final shape. The ice helps to keep the meat moist and preserved as it moves through the rest of the process. For sausages that are cooked before being packaged, the links are often steamed and then exposed to a strong flame to get a brown color on the surface, although some manufacturers get the cooked color by using a caramel coating on the sausages.
Different flavors can be included in breakfast sausage. Some of these, such as maple syrup, add to the sweetness of the meat; others, such as garlic and onion, add to the savory aspects. Traditional spices used in this type of sausage are sage, thyme and marjoram or rosemary, along with salt and pepper. This simple mix of spices is one of the main differentiations between a breakfast sausages and other sausage varieties.
Most often, breakfast sausage is eaten either for breakfast or with breakfast foods. This includes eggs, pancakes and toast or biscuits. There are recipes for casseroles that involve sausage and eggs mixed together with cheese and poured over day-old bread before baking. Commercially, the sausage can be used in patty form to make a sandwich with cheese and egg layers, or in crumbled form in sausage gravy.