In one of my first posts on this blog I declared my love for harissa, the spicy North African red pepper spread. Since then I have strayed a bit: our jar of harissa run out, I began to flirt with other spicy red pastes — I was not immune the the trendy allure of sriracha. But when Martha made hlelem recently, I was reminded of my former love. With sausage on the brain lately, a freshly-opened jar of harissa had me thinking one thing: merguez.

A sausage popular in North Africa and Europe, merguez is usually made with lamb. This makes sense – there are a lot of pastoralists raising flocks of sheep in North Africa most of whom are Muslim – pork is neither practical nor permitted. But since I’m free of religious obligations or cultural sensitivity, pork was definitely an option and one too delicious to ignore. The argument could be made that a pork sausage is not really merguez, but I say as long as there’s harissa I’ll not worry about fine distinctions.

As I was searching the Internet for recipes, I was disappointed to see that many contain only a small amount of harissa: 3 tablespoons per 3# of meat, for example. To make up for this deficiency most recipes add other spices (cayenne, coriander, cumin, sumac, etc.). This might be traditional, but I didn’t see how adding additional spices would help; the flavor of the harissa ought to be flavor enough. My final recipe was:

  • 1# 5 oz boneless pork shoulder
  • 10 g garlic (3 cloves)
  • 50 g harissa
  • 15 g salt

If harissa is the only thing a sausage has to lean on in terms of flavor, the success of the recipe obviously depends on the quality of the harissa. Someday I will make my own harissa (and you can be sure you’ll be hearing about it here), but with a jar already open I used Mustapha’s. This is, after all, the harissa I fell in love with; I haven’t sampled other brands very widely.

I served the sausage with a cous cous-based taboulli.


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7 comments on “Merguez”

  1. U. Don 3 November, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I am afraid that with that much salt it would not make a heart healthy serving! 2500 mg day is the limit!

  2. Marcela 3 November, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    This looks so good. I wish I could have come over to eat with you! I have some Harissa sitting in my frig, waiting for me to use it. Lately I am quite into the trendy sriracha mayo, it’s so good!

  3. Brian 3 November, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Sigh. Yet another reason why I need to get into sausage making. I wish I wasn’t on such a meatball bender at the moment. Although, I suppose I could make these in meatball form and eat it with something crunchy to replace the nice snap of a sausage casing.

  4. Dale 4 November, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Dear Tom,

    I am sure that they are tasty but I personally think that the lamb flavor profile is pretty essential to Merguez sausage. I would also guess that since lamb is generally leaner than pork the the lamb based merquez would be quite a bit leaner too.

    If you run this again with ground lamb let us know the results. (OK and maybe sneak in wee bit of pork fat as long as it is for personal consumption).

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