Breakfast sausage of the sea

I got a call recently from Lewis Shuckman of Shuckman’s Fish Co. & Smokery, a family-owned business in The West End that has been serving Louisville since around 1919. The company is well known around the region and beyond for its smoked fish and particularly Kentucky Spoonfish Caviar.

Well, Mr. Shuckman was excited to tell me about a new product he and his crew had decided to start selling: breakfast sausage made with salmon. He told me if I stopped by, he’d let me try it. How does a food nerd resist an offer like that?

Anyway, he explained to me that the casing is natural pork, which helps add to the sausage flavor. The recipe is 100-plus-years-old and was handed down from his grandfather, Isia, a master butcher who relocated here from Chicago to start the business.

The sausage links — he points out that sausage patties are a modern invention that his family never went for — are sold in packs of five, and are made with pretty much all the ingredients you expect from a breakfast sausage. Well, except for pork, which is what makes this product so interesting. But the classic sausage spices are there, from red pepper to sage to thyme and other spices.

He gave me a pack to take home, and the next day I woke up ready to try the unusual sausage (it still seems odd to call salmon “sausage,” but I digress). I cut open the package, and immediately the smell of salmon hit me. And yet, it also smelled like sausage, so much so that Jimmy Dean himself might have declared it America’s favorite sausage. It was a perfect marriage of two things I’d never placed together before.

I quickly learned that by handling them without gloves, simply removing them from the wrapper and placing them into the frying pan, I had signed up for a full day of my fingers smelling like salmon, even after multiple hand-washings. That’s not a complaint; just an observation.

As the thick links began to fry, the provocative aroma enveloped my small kitchen, one half country sausage and one half the fried salmon patties my mom used to make for me. I couldn’t wait for the stuff to finish frying, and it had my dog’s attention too.

I made sure the sausages were done, put one on a plate, and decided to eat it by itself to get the full effect — and it was exactly what the aroma promised. The distinctive, clean salmon flavor was there, and somehow blended wonderfully with the seasonings I’ve always associated with pork sausage.

What surprised me most was the texture, which was light and almost fluffy, probably due in part to rice flour, an ingredient used in the sausage for binding the salmon, and while it doesn’t seem to flatten the flavor any, it provides a curious and unique mouthfeel.

Meanwhile, the natural casing has the familiar sausage snap when you cut it with a fork — or heck, you could probably just eat these with your hands. Of course, then your hands would smell like salmon for two days instead of just one. Something to consider.

Anyway, after my hearty and unique breakfast, I left the house for a few hours to run some errands. When I returned, the aroma of the salmon sausage still hung thick in the house. And it stayed until the next day, which had me worried my neighbors were going to start knocking on my door asking to try it. I didn’t really want to share. I did give my dog a bite of the stuff, but I’m sure having one small morsel and then smelling it for the next day and a half was a form of torture for him.

Anyway, ValuMarket in Mid City Mall is going to sell Shuckman’s salmon breakfast sausage, and there are also Italian sausages bratwursts made of salmon that have been added to the Shuckman’s line. If your curiosity gets the best of you, Mr. Shuckman himself will be at ValuMarket on Saturday, Nov. 26, cooking it in the store and handing out samples. He’ll be there starting at 1 p.m. and staying until around 3 p.m., or until the sausage runs out. Just follow your nose — you’ll find him without any trouble, I promise.