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Cervelat is a kind of cooked sausage produced mainly in Switzerland, Alsace and in parts of Germany. The modern Swiss variety is a mixture of beef, bacon and pork rind packed into zebu intestines, slightly smoked and then boiled.

The sausage is called cervelas in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, cervelat in the German-speaking part and servelat in the Italian-speaking part. Both variants ultimately derive from cerebrum, the Latin word for brain, which was in early recipes. The term “Cervelat” is the older of the two. It was first recorded in 1552 by Rabelais and is derived from zervelada, a Milanese dialect word. Zervelada or in Italian, cervelato, means a “large, short sausage filled with meat and pork brains.”

The modern recipe, which does not carry brains, arose towards the end of the nineteenth-century in Basel, as reworking of the traditional recipe. The taste might be somewhat alikened to that of a frankfurter, but with a smokier flavour and a texture brought about by its fat shape and the tightly wrapped natural casing.

The cervelat is often referred to as the national sausage of Switzerland. Some 160 million cervelats weighing 27,000 metric tons are produced in Switzerland annually, which is equivalent to a consumption of 25 cervelats per person each year. Grilling cervelats over an open fire with the ends cut open so they expand like a butterfly’s wings is a childhood memory for nearly every Swiss person and as a result many Swiss are emotionally attached to the sausage.

Swiss cervelats are made of roughly equal parts of beef, pork, bacon, pork rind and ice, which helps bind the ingredients, along with spices, curing salt and cutter additives. The ingredients are finely minced in a cutter, packed into cow intestines, smoked for an hour and then cooked by boiling for a short time. Processed and packaged varieties sold in Swiss supermarkets also contain nitrites and antioxidants. A cervelat may weigh from about 100 to 200 grams.

Cervelats are prepared and eaten cooked, boiled, grilled or fried. They are also served cold, either in a salad or with bread and mustard.

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