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 per year. Grilling cervelats over an open fire, with the ends cut open so that they expand like a butterfly's wings, is a childhood memory for nearly every Swiss person.
The sausage is called cervelas in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and cervelat in the German-speaking part. Both variants ultimately derive from cerebrum, the Latin word for brain, in reference to the brain that used to be part of the recipe. 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, referred to a "large, short sausage filled with meat and pork brains". The contemporary recipe is derived from a late nineteenth-century reworking of the traditional recipe that was invented in Basel.
Now, Swiss cervelats are made of roughly of 27% beef, 10% pork, 20% bacon, 15% pork rind and 23% water.
Effective April 1, 2006, the European Union banned the import of certain animal parts from Brazil, including cow intestines, as a measure aimed at preventing the spread of mad cow disease. Even though not an EU member state, Switzerland is bound to observe European food protection laws as a result of treaty agreements with the Union. In January 2008, the Swiss meat industry announced that a national "cervelat task force" had failed in an exhaustive search for an acceptable alternative to the zebu intestines. The Swiss government has entered into negotiations with the EU to seek an exception for zebu intestines, and Swiss scientists have been dispatched to Brazil in order to establish that the intestines pose no risk of transmitting mad cow disease.
Cervelats can be prepared in numerous ways. They can be eaten cooked, boiled, grilled or fried. Barbecued is a must! They are also served cold, either as part of a salad or as whole with bread and mustard.
- Make a cut down the side of each cervelat, cutting three-quarters of the way through the sausage.
- Place a strip of each into each slice, season with paper and then wrap a slice of bacon around the center of each sausage, fastening with a toothpick if necessary.
- Cook in a skillet for 10 minutes, or in a 180° C (350° F) oven for 15 minutes. The bacon should be just grilled and the cheese melted.
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