Friday, July 15, 2011

“Pickled Delights”



c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(7-11)

Recently, I wrote in this space about being a retail manager in and around Geauga County. As one half of a dual career path, my ‘other’ profession has often produced interesting stories for the newspaper. I was again reminded of that fact while pondering the unavailability Penrose pickled sausages at the supermarket where I am a manager.

In bygone years, this politically-incorrect snack was a staple item. They were also found at tavern establishments like the old ‘Chardon Beverage & Bar.’

But in modern times, this treat has become elusive. After many customer requests, I decided that a bit of journalistic investigation was in order.

An Internet search revealed that food giant ConAgra owned the brand. Production was discontinued after a fire at the plant where they were created. Then, a decision was made let the jarred products disappear altogether.

Dave Sacerdote addressed the subject on his ‘Dave’s Cupboard’ weblog:

“Back in October 2009, I wrote a short review of Penrose Hot Sausage, a pickled sausage product made by ConAgra. I didn't like them very much, but several readers disagreed with me and left comments about how much they enjoyed them. One of the comments mentioned that the sausages had been discontinued, and I decided to do some Googling. The first thing that I noticed was that every online source that I found listed all sizes of Penrose Hot Sausage as ‘sold out.’ When I looked up the product at ConAgra's website, I found that it was no longer listed in the drop-down menu of Penrose items offered by the company. Finally, I called ConAgra's Penrose consumer help line…and spoke to a pleasant young lady who identified herself as ‘Bree.’ She confirmed to me that Penrose has discontinued all product in jars, and that the only Penrose items currently being packaged are in snack-sized shrinkwrap. She said the decision was made by ConAgra about 6 months ago, which is why it has become increasingly difficult for fans of the sausage to get their fix.”

Comments that followed offered contact information for ConAgra, to send protests and inquiries:

ConAgra Customer Service - 1.800.382.4994
Doug Knudsen, V. P. of Sales for ConAgra - doug.knudsen@conagrafoods.com


Pondering the unavailability of this pickled delight, I began to do further research. On ‘e.how.com’ I discovered a historical tidbit about these pickled delights, and hope of recreating the snack at home:

“The earliest recorded pickled sausage recipe dates back to about 1888 and comes to us from a pub owner in London who decided to sell the tasty morsels as an attraction to get more custom. Penrose sausages are a brand of pickled sausages made by the Penrose Company which discontinued selling jarred meats in 2009 due to the high costs. You can make a sausage very similar to Penrose pickled sausage in your own kitchen.”

The recipe that followed seemed easy to prepare:

Ingredients

2 lb. Kielbasa
1 cup water
¾ cup brown sugar
3 cups vinegar
1 tsp. Crushed red pepper

Directions

Cook 2 lbs. of kielbasa and slice it into thick pieces 2 inches wide. Place the cut sausages in sterile jars. Place 1 cup of water, 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, 3 cups of vinegar and 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the ingredients for five minutes. Pour the mixture over the sliced sausages, loosely seal the jars and refrigerate for at least two days.

Other versions of the recipe suggested adding ten drops of red food coloring with the brine mixture, to produce the distinctive hue of original Penrose sausages. Or, a tablespoon of pickling spices for more flavor.

Other meats were listed as well, including smoked sausage, hot sausage, and cocktail wieners.

Once my investigation was finished, a single thought remained. How long could I wait before trying this recipe, myself?

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