The traditional South African sausage is called Boerewors. The name comes from the Afrikaans words, boere (farmers) and wors (sausage). There are many varieties of Boerewors, including specialties such as garlic wors, kameeldoring (camel thorn), karoowors (sausage from the Karoo, a semi-desert region in South Africa), and spekwors (made with extra cubed pork fat).
The Great Trek
Boerewors is another prideful inheritance from the Voortrekkers (Afrikaans Pioneers). The Boers participated in organized migrations of systematic colonization in what is referred to as the Great Trek. It took place between 1835 and early 1840s. The Voortrekkers traveled for months over great distances across difficult terrains with their families via ox-wagons. They made the sausages using minced meat and cubed “spek” (pork and/or beef fat) with spices and preservatives (vinegar) to take along on the journey.
During their journey inland, large quantities of meat were prepared during their outspan (stopovers). Their leftover sausages would be hung up to dry, which they called “droëwors” (dry sausage). The Voortrekkers also made “biltong,” which is meat cut into thin strips and dried. The meat would provide the families with the nourishment needed to continue on their mission.
Traditionally, Boerewors is cooked on an open fire grid using Camel Thorn wood. However, any wood and charcoal will suffice. Boerewors is formed into a continuous spiral when made and cooked that way.
The trick is to first lay your sausage out on the braai (barbeque grill) and then use large tongs to flip the whole thing. It is served with “pap,” a South African porridge. Pap is a staple food of the natives in many parts of Africa and is prepared in various ways. For the “braai,” it’s usually made into a stiff porridge.
The dish can also be served as a “Boerewors Roll” called a “Boerrie (hot dog),” with tomato sauce and relish. One can also cook Boerewors inside on a grill in the oven or in a pan, and serve with potato salad. South Africans usually get together around the open fireplace where the meat is cooked and call such gatherings “having a braai,” which is the equivalent of the American barbecue. Usually, the men hang around the fire, cooking in shorts, drinking beer, and talk about rugby, while the women socialize and prepare the salad along with other dishes.
Many South Africans hand-make their own Boerewors. The title of best Boerewors is hotly contested. The country also has an annual braai holiday that falls in September.
Boerewors is not just any sausage. The Environmental Health Research Network published guidelines on what must be included in the recipe to make South African Boerewors. To be classified as a real Boerewors, it has to be 90 percent real meat. At least 75 percent must be beef and the rest of the meat will be pork, goat, or lamb.
Boerewors is fatty, as the fat preserves the flavor and helps keep the meat moist when cooking at high heat, but it must not contain more than 30 percent fat. The rest consists of spices such, as coriander, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper. It contains cereal binder and vinegar (and often Worcestershire sauce). It’s packed in pork sausage casings.
No other meat or soy can be used. If any other ingredient is used, then the sausage is simply labeled as “Wors” (sausage). The secret in the making of good Boerewors lies in the quality of the ingredients used. The better the quality of the meat, the better tasting the Boerewors.
May the “wors” be with you!