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Sujuk, Armenian sausage, from scratch

There is something about making a dish completely from scratch that is wonderfully satisfying — a feeling of merited accomplishment. A mixture of happiness and relief. I’m sure this is true of most things, really, not just food. It comes with any craft you can pour your soul into. With food, you appreciate individual ingredients; you savor every ounce of effort that goes into preparing a dish. Something magical happens in the cooking process; a part of you, your essence, probably while you’re mixing ingredients and not particularly paying attention, dives into the bowl and adds that special something to the dish: warmth, brightness, love, something you can’t really put your finger on, but everyone knows it’s there. It’s what the French refer to as je ne sais quoi.

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe here. Partly because it’s not easy converting my aunt’s dashes and handfuls into teaspoons and cups, but also because my aunt does most of her cooking early in the morning, before the sun or I are even up.

In Syria, particularly Aleppo, wintertime means it’s time for sujuk, an Armenian sausage made with beef, lots of garlic and a mix of aromatic spices. Sujuk is bold; it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of sausage. And when it gets cold out, it’s what my heart and stomach crave. Yes, sujuk is pretty fantastic.

In Aleppo you can find sujuk all over the place. This is one of the culinary gems the Armenian community brought with them when they moved to Syria. One of my favorite places to eat sujuk outside of home is Shtoura. Shtoura, named after the Lebanese town, is a 24-hour fatayer place famous for their heavenly dough creations. I’ve become a regular.

shtoura (شتورة) at 11:11pm
shtoura

Nothing is better late at night than a couple Shtoura palm-sized pizzas topped with classic tomato sauce, liberal amounts of shredded mozzarella, and dotted with nuggets of spicy sujuk.

pizza sujuk
pizza suju

My aunt, luckily for me, makes her own sujuk at home. And to my surprise, it’s pretty simple, and actually borders on effortless. It’s a matter of combining a blend of spices with meat and allowing the mixture to air-dry in a cool place, away from any sunlight. Prep-time is no more than 15 minutes, tops. No sausage casings or fancy equipment necessary; my aunt stitches her own bags from scraps of cloth that are clean and have not been treated with scented detergent.

mise en place
mise en place
lots of garlic
garlic
spices: fenugreek, allspice, cumin, paprika, salt
spices

After asking a few of my Armenian friends in Aleppo, I’ve discovered that it is not common to add ground fenugreek to sujuk. If you can’t find fenugreek, you can certainly leave it out, however, I like the taste it adds to the sausage.

mix well
mix
bags of sujuk
bags

My aunt uses her balcony to air-dry her sujuk. She moves the rack of sujuk bags depending on the time of day to keep them away from any sunlight. Once the bags feel firm and dry to the touch, the sujuk is ready. This usually takes 3-5 days depending on the weather and the thickness of your sujuk bags.

Once they’re done drying, my aunt and I keep all the bags, except one, in the freezer and bring them down to the fridge as we go through them.

sujuk sandwiches
sujuk

Sujuk is an extremely versatile sausage that you can eat any number of ways. It’s great over pizza or mixed into pasta sauce. It’s delicious with eggs for breakfast — a different take on the classic sausage and eggs. In Syria and Lebanon, however, it’s popular to make sujuk sandwiches with pita bread. The grease from the sausage melts over the heat and toasts the bread to a pleasant crisp. No extra butter or fat necessary; just good, homemade sujuk.

cheese
cheese
old school sandwich press
sandwich press
sandwich
sandwich

Sujuk Sausage

yields approx 1kg

Components

  • 1kg ground beef, freshly ground
  • 2 Tbsp cumin, ground
  • 2 Tbsp allspice, ground
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fenugreek (optional), ground
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced

Putting them all together

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Stuff meat mixture into clean, porous stockings and let hang for 3-5 days in a cool, dry place away from any sunlight.
  3. Once pouches are dry and firm to the touch, remove from the hanging rod and store in the refrigerator — leftover pouches keep great in the freezer.

Notes:Make sure whatever you use to encase the meat is clean, but more importantly make sure it does not have any detergent scent. Sujok keeps great in the freezer. I bring down a pouch at a time from the freezer to the refrigerator as I go through it.

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Posted in appetizers, entrees, Fulbright, Middle Eastern, recipe, savory by Antonio Tahhan on December 21st, 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


24 Responses to “Sujuk, Armenian sausage, from scratch”

Helene Says:

20 yrs ago I discovered a very good Syrian restaurant in Montréal and they had a delicious sausage on their menu. I wonder if the spices they are using are the same as in your sausage. Sounds really good on pizza.

Alta Says:

Tony, this sounds and looks lovely. Thanks for sharing with us!

A. Says:

We call them Toshka at home. I never knew they were Armenian!

And that looks so tasty, I’m so hungry right now.

You’re posts are not good for the hungry!

Delicious post! :D

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Helene, the spices are pretty standard except for the ground fenugreek, which some people choose not to add. Otherwise, it should come pretty close.

Thanks, Alta! Glad you liked it :)

Hi, A. Some places here in Aleppo also call it Toshka, too. Sujuk has become popular all over the Middle East now. It’s hard to say where exactly the dish came from, but from what I read, it was introduced to Syria (and the Levant in general) by the Armenian community.

Dinners & Dreams Says:

Kudos for making your sausage from scratch. I have yet to do that. It looks delicious!

Nisrine

Zach Says:

This is great. Reminds me of نقانق حلبي that my dad makes, except he hates garlic (and by association I do too).

Can you post more YouTube videos involving Arabic conversation? I really enjoyed them (food and languages are my weakness). Thanks and good luck with your research.

Gassan Says:

Thanks Tony: my wife loves نقانق حلبي ; it is her all time favorite food, I am concerned with letting the raw meat to dry outside (Health wise and we live next to a park (lots of animal), I am wondering if we dry it in the fridge (not the freezer) will work.
Thanks

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Zach: will try to post more videos soon :) I have lots of videos but since I don’t have high-speed internet, it’s not always easy to get them online. I will go to an internet café soon to try and load new videos.

Gassan, that’s a legitimate concern. I worry, however, that if you hang your meat in the fridge, your fridge will develop strong aromas from all the garlic and spices. I found this article that talks about hacking your freezer to dry cure sausage — personally, I think it sounds like a lot of work.
Once I get back to the States, I plan on building a simple cage with a wooden frame and stapling insect screen on all sides. This should address any insect or animal concerns since I also have lots of greenery around where I live. With regards to the temperature, this should only be done in the fall/winter when the weather is relatively cool (40-50 degrees F). If you use the freshest meat possible, keep it away from any direct sunlight, and use enough salt, you should be fine. I hope this helps…

Dana Says:

Hi Tony,

Thank you for this yummy post. I have just moved to NoVA from Texas and was wondering if you know of turkish/armenian restaurants/grocery stores that would sell authentic basterma and sujuk in or around DC. I have had outstanding basterma a couple of years ago at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya’s. It tasted exactly like what I used to eat as a child at our neighborhood’s armenian restaurant in beirut.

Thanks!

sheila @ Elements Says:

That looks wonderful! I’d like to try making my own sausage, but it’ll have to wait until the weather gets above freezing. Great job! It looks wonderful! :)

Al Najjar Says:

Tony, you are a live saver. As a middle-eastern immigrant to the States, I often suffered the lack of availability, or the very high price of Sujuk. I have tried your recipe, and to my surprise, it tasted just like the Sujuk I used to buy in Lebanon, Borj Hammoud, an Armenian town. Now I make for me and share with friends for the price of ground beef and a little effort. You are a live and money saver, and I thank you for that.

Ghassan mouallem Says:

thanks tony for posting this recepie it looks good. im just wondering does the weather have to dry? and what kind of bag can i use

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Thank you Ghassan; sujuk is usually prepared in late fall and throughout winter in Aleppo. Most importantly, the weather should be cool outside to avoid the meat from spoiling. Choose a location that is cool and receives a lot of ventilation (the air/ventilation will help dry the sujuk). Any porous cloth should work as a bag — a lot of families sew their own “bags” made out of leftover cotton fabric. Make sure that whatever cloth you use is clean and does not have any detergent scent. I hope this helps.

Michael Says:

Tony, I go to a Lebanese restaurant in Saint Louis MO, where Sujuk and Maqaneq sandwiches are made from fresh ground beef without drying or encasing. The restaurant uses a recipe with lots of crushed hot paper. The taste and aroma are so satisfying and superior to any Sujuk sandwich in Bourj Hamoud. Do you know what kind of spice brings the distinct aroma in the Sujuk? Have you tried ground garlic in lieu of fresh garlic? Thanks

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Hi Michael, thanks for the comment. Can you please tell me the name of the restaurant in Saint Louis? I have a friend who lives in MO who I’m sure would love to go there.

I have had non-dried sujuk a couple of times. The only problem is that it doesn’t last for long in the refrigerator — a few days top. Non-dried sujuk works in a restaurant setting where they can go through a lot before any of it goes bad. The recipe I posted should also work for non-dried sujuk: I would recommend refrigerating the sujuk for a few hours (preferably overnight), covered, so that the flavor and oils of the spices mix well with the meat. I have not tried dried garlic instead of fresh, but that should work just fine. Be sure to use a less dried garlic than you would fresh since the flavor will be concentrated (this is true of all dried spices). Sahten!

Basilios Kilzi Says:

Hello Tony. I just did a search for sujuk flavoring and looking at the photographs in your blog, took me back home 30 years ago, when my mother did exactly what you show. She even made Basturma and wrapped it, and hung it the same way.
As a chef now I have in immense curiosity to understand food and culture as one. So, I have a question. The sujuk I have always had, home-made or store bought, has a little acidity to it. Does it acquire the acidity from the fermentation during drying? Or does it have a minimal amount of some type of acid such as citric acid added. Mind you, I actually like the subtle acidity; I am just curious. I am going to try your recipe and taste it fresh and dry to compare the acidity.
Thanks for the recipe and the memories and I am looking forward to your reply.

Nicole Says:

Thank you for the nice detailed post of sujuk pictures they are nice . I hope you dont mind. i saved some of the picures they are really nice thanks again

Ola Alsokar Says:

Hi Tony,
Great recipe ,thank you.Just one thing , people should wear plastic gloves when handling fenugreek.I was not aware it is what you call Chaman in Arabic ,and had to cope with the aroma on my hands for a couple of days -))
I did not know that feugreek is used in Sujuk ! though I know it is the vital ingredient when you make Basturma.
Keep the good work.

Kharabuha welad el-kalb Says:

Fenegreek is basic in Egyptian “Sujuk”, especially “Pastrami”, mixed with garlic and paprica and touch of salt. In Pastrami, you add drops of water to form a “paste”, then cover all surface of the raw eye of round beef with about one or two millimeter thick.. as for fear of contamination, in “ALL” cases of eating sujuk or pastrami they shouldn’t be eaten raw in ANY CASE, they have to be well cooked or fried now that lots of bacterial contaminants are to be a concern nowadays, not only that, utensils, hands, cutting boards and anything that comes in toutch with raw meat have to be sterilized, too bad for the fellow who hates the smell of bleach because it’s the best sterilizer along with detergent.

Moe Says:

I was born in Borj Hammoud, I spoke Armenian for a long time. The best Sujuk ever made by Armenian, but it is of a reddish color. May be the Paprika does it?, but your doesn’t have the same color. Medo I Borj hammoud now is the best. Thanks for posting, i’ll try it.

Jmk Says:

The acidity and red color are from the spice Sumac I think.

Pete Says:

Thank you, making soujouk from scratch is the only way it tastes right. Store-bought never lives up to it. I am really pleased at how easy and successful it was.

One question: has anyone had success with a less-fuzzy cloth? I had to pick a lot of cotton of my soujouk. I know muslin is preferred for bastegh. Perhaps for soujouk as well?

Antonio Tahhan Says:

@Pete, I agree, homemade is the way to go! I’ve never tried using a muslin bag to cure meats, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t work. The key is to ensure there’s proper ventilation so that the meat can at air dry. If there is no ventilation, you also run the risk of creating an anaerobic environment perfect for botulism.
You might also try using a cheesecloth. I haven’t tried this myself, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
I hope this helps!

Henry Says:

Tony,

Thanks for a great recipe! I for one love Sumac, how much would you (or anyone) add to your recipe if you elect to use it?


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