Imagine, you are a child living on a farm in the early 1900s. You aren't looking forward to today because one of the animals is going to be slaughtered. You don't mind that part all that much, it's just part of life on a farm, but you hate the job you always end up doing - cleaning the intestines to use for sausages. It's not that it's hard, you have the sausage horns after all and you do like sausages but the cleaning is just horrible - smelly and dirty and just plain gross!
When I took these sausage horns to show the children they had no idea what they were or what they could possibly have been used for. They did eventually guess, after a lot of hints, but they still almost didn't believe what they were when they finally found out. To them, sausages come premade from the butcher or supermarket and they didn't think about how they used to be made or what they used to be made from. When they found out, they thought it was disgusting and declared 'if they still make them that way I'm never eating sausages again'. Luckily for them (and possibly for me!) most sausage casings are synthetic today so the kids are still happy to eat sausages.
Sausages are much older than the kids expected them to be and in fact are probably the world oldest processed meat. They are also part of almost all cultures, though the types and flavourings vary a huge amount. Although today they are a popular convenience food and even a delicacy, when they were first made there were very practical reasons behind their creation. When an animal was killed to be used for meat, there was little to no wastage, with every part being used in some way. Of course, a whole animal could not be eaten before it spoiled so ways to preserve some the meat had to be developed. Other parts of the animal, like blood and some organs, simply weren't all that appetising, but if they were made into sausages they could still be eaten and enjoyed without any wastage. Many early sausages were smoked or dried to make them keep longer, but fresh sausages were also made.
So, how were sausages made? When an animal was killed, the blood was often collected and mixed with herbs and bread or other meat to be made into blood sausages. Then the meat and organs were removed, some to be eaten fresh, other parts to be cured or smoked and lesser cuts, to be chopped up or minced and made into sausages and other similar meat products. Of course, any sausage also needs a case, to hold the shape. For centuries, the intestine of the animal was used for this purpose, but of course, it had to be cleaned first to avoid people getting sick. If the intestines weren't properly cleaned people could get very sick from them or even die. The horns I showed the children, which are actually cut from a cow horn, were used for this purpose, holding the intestine open to funnel water through it. When the intestines were clean though, the sausage horns I showed the children had another job to do, helping funnel the meat filling into the casing. Then, the sausages were tied off, eaten fresh, cured, smoked or dried. If you would like to learn more about the history of sausages click here.