Breakfast of Champions: Sausage Balls?

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Photo by Bradford Schmidt
I do the heavy testing so you don't have to.
It took her a good 30 seconds of sniffing, poking, and staring before she'd just try the damned thing.

"I don't know about this," Joanna said.

"Trust me -- it's different than you think it will be."

We were in the kitchen again, this time with a platter of sausage variants that I thought I'd try out for my column this week. Normally, Joanna will wrestle a rabid badger over a plate of sausage, but the box of Tennessee Pride Sausage Balls ("Taste the Pride"), made with sausage, cheddar cheese, and biscuit mix, had her standing still with half a ball impaled on her fork, reminding me of one more reason I'd never cross her. She finally took a bite.

"You know, that's actually pretty good," she said before chasing it with a couple of Jones links, grabbing one for the road and leaving the kitchen to make soap in her formulary.

It was the Tennessee Pride jamskies that got me thinking "breakfast meat taste test!" at my local supermarket the other day, primarily as an excuse to buy them. I'm almost powerless over my desire to try oddball meat-based products, and I consider it a personal triumph that I resisted the hamburger on a glazed doughnut I saw at this year's South Florida Fair. So my cart filled with sausage products, my kitchen filled with spitting grease, and now I'm filled with pork.

Jones All Natural Little Pork Sausages

These sausages remind me of a traditional sausage-and-egg breakfast from a local diner. They're uncooked, come in a lamb casing, and according to the box they're "minimally processed," but who cares? It's sausage. Process it as much as you want, as long as it tastes good, which they do, kinda. For some reason, I always have high hopes for these fellows, and I'm always disappointed. I like a sausage that fits well with egg and toast, and while these are OK, I think these are overspiced. Maybe it's my lineage, but I prefer bangers. Or maybe I just like saying bangers.

Jones Brown & Serve Fully Cooked Sausages

Spicewise, not a good deal different from the uncooked and cased ones above, as you might expect. Greasewise, these are hard-core. If you're looking to binge by pounding a steady stream of sausages for breakfast, you'll be sorry if you go with these guys. They need a hearty side order of pancakes with real maple syrup to work for me, and even then, I can't down more than two before I'm maxed on my grease intake. I'll pass, unless in a real bind.

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Bradford Schmidt
Thanks, Taylor, for that great serving suggestion.
Taylor Pork Roll

Packaging that looks like it was designed in 1966 and a complete lack of cooking instructions except for "Heat 'n' Eat" guaranteed this was heading home with me. My only decision: thick or thin cut -- I chose the latter. I opened the box and found a simple vacuum-packed stack of pork discs that looked like they were going to hurt badly, and the frying process didn't change my opinion. Once in a pan, they started to sweat like Richard Nixon at a post-Watergate news conference, then began to curl at the edges, looking like little pork bra cups sizzling away in my pan. So I was completely surprised when I not only didn't hate them but dusted both discs I cooked. They're not overly hammy and have an interesting blend of seasonings. Plus, they aren't a solid slab of pork, which means that if you follow the "serving suggestion" on the back of the box and make an egg sandwich with them, they won't come sliding out in one bite. Honestly, I was happily surprised, and I kept the unheated discs for later use. As pork coasters.

Jimmy Dean Premium Pork Sausage, Hot

This old-school-style roll of raw sausage has the most flexibility of the bunch. You can cut pork discs and fry 'em up in a pan (Enjoli!), crumble it up for an egg/sausage mashup, use it in a hearty chili, fill a Bacon Explosion with it, or rub it on your dog's back just above his tail to make him run in circles for seven hours straight. And it tastes good too. The standard version of this sausage has a good blend of spices that aren't overpowering, but when you add the "hot" aspect of the one I bought, well, it's just a damned good thing. I always have some of this stuff, or another brand just like it, around just in case.

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Bradford Schmidt
Maybe you can taste the pride.
Tennessee Pride Sausage Balls

Compared to the Taylor Pork Roll, the packaging here is positively modern, even if it's still stuck in the '70s. Uncooked, these albino balls of mystery stuff are the scariest-looking of all, but once they're cooked to a golden brown, they look pretty inviting. It was the taste, though, that surprised me the most. I popped one into my mouth expecting a deep sausage experience but got something more like a biscuit with cheese and sausage flavoring, and I really liked it. In fact, these are the ones I kept returning to and popping into my mouth. Way better than expected.

Obviously, this whole topic needs to be revisited with a whole new stack of mystery meats because my predictions proved to be wrong almost across the board. Apparently neither I nor my wife actually knows everything. Not that I'm going to tell her that. I've seen what she can do with a fork.

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and believes that breakfast meats are the key to everlasting youth, which helps explain his behavior at family functions.
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