6 Southern Chefs On Why They Love Conecuh Sausage—And You Should, Too

Here's why this hickory-smoked meat has been an Alabama staple for 75 years.

<p>Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox</p>

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Ask any Alabamian about Conecuh sausage, and they’re bound to tell you their favorite ways to eat it. Grilled, pan-fried, roasted, baked, diced and added to another dish—there’s no wrong way to devour this juicy, smoky sausage, and in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a single non-vegetarian who doesn’t love it.

The distinct balanced flavor has a lot to do with it, but so does the story. The company was started in the small town of Evergreen in southern Alabama in the heart of Conecuh County in 1947. Today, it’s still family owned and operated, and its gift shop draws travelers in with scents you can detect from the car.

“Cruising down I-65, you will know you get to Evergreen, as the hickory smoke dances across the interstate,” says Executive Chef Brody Olive of Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach. “Seventy-five years in the business deserves a big round of applause, as they are doing it right and continue the legacy.”

No longer Alabama’s best-kept secret, Conecuh sausage can now be found in grocery stores around the country. It will always remain dear to those in the state and across the South, as these Southern chefs explain. You’ll soon be running to the supermarket to scoop up some links for yourself.

It Adds Major Flavor to Pastry

Georgia native Kristen Hall, owner of Bandit Pâtisserie in Birmingham, had never heard of Conecuh until she moved to Alabama. “I was at a summer backyard party, and someone had put some on the grill. I remember [eating] some and asking what I had just had,” she says.

One of Hall’s favorite uses for Conecuh is in her savory English cream scones. To make them, Hall bakes the sausage in the oven, lets it cool, then chops it up in the food processor before adding it to the scone batter along with aged Cheddar, cracked black pepper, and herbs. “Conecuh has such a robust flavor, and it really shines in savory pastries,” she says.

<p>Kristen Hall</p>

Kristen Hall

It’s a Match Made in Heaven with Barbecue

While searching for a great local sausage to serve on his barbecue menu, Jonathan “Rusty” Tucker of Rusty’s Bar-B-Q in Leeds, Alabama, came upon Conecuh in 2009.

“We’re passionate about community, and it was important for me to celebrate Alabama food,” he says. “Conecuh has a real depth of flavor you can’t get from mass produced brands… [it] just tastes like Alabama."

At Rusty’s, customers gobble it up as a side on barbecue plates and within dishes like collard greens or turkey and sausage gumbo. Tucker says he also loves using it sliced into rounds in place of andouille sausage in red beans and rice or jambalaya, or crisped and diced and tucked into a biscuit or an omelet.

<p>Rusty&amp;#39;s BBQ</p>

Rusty's BBQ

It’s a Secret Weapon for Flavorful Gumbo

When Sedesh Boodram moved from New York City to Alabama and couldn’t find the andouille sausage he was looking for at the grocery store, he substituted Conecuh.

“I fell in love,” recalls the chef at The Anvil Pub & Grill in Birmingham. He now loves using Conecuh as one of the secret ingredients in his gumbo, as well as in barbecue shrimp, hush puppies, crawfish boils, and duck cassoulets. Letting no part go to waste, he even uses the rendered oils from the sausage as a finishing oil in baked potato soup.

“The difference is in the flavor,” says Booodram of Conecuh. “It’s a perfect balance of heat and spices and lends itself to dishes without overpowering.” Want to enhance the smoky flavor and enjoy Conech on its own? Boodram recommends grilling it.

<p>Courtesy of The Anvil Pub &amp; Grill</p>

Courtesy of The Anvil Pub & Grill

It’s a Breakfast Staple Worth Waking Up Early For

From breakfast corn dogs to sausage gravy to British "toad in the hole" (similar to a popover), there’s no morning dish that isn’t made better by the addition of Conecuh, says Steven Goff, executive chef at Tastee Diner in Asheville, N.C. After being introduced to the sausage at the Hangout Music Festival in Alabama, he now uses it in every way imaginable.

“I love Conecuh because it holds its snap better than any other breakfast sausage I have used,” he says, adding that because it comes fully cooked and is really hard to overcook, it’s an easy ingredient for home cooks to play around with. For a basic but delicious breakfast, try Goff’s favorite: Conecuh seared in bacon fat in a cast-iron skillet.

<p>Courtesy of Tastee Diner</p>

Courtesy of Tastee Diner

It’s a Perfect Addition to a Cheese Board

Olive of Perdido Beach Resort says he was first introduced to "the legacy of Conecuh" by a fellow chef after moving from Charleston, S.C., to Birmingham. He’s since found the sausage to be such a crowd pleaser, he uses it in many ways across the hotel, from shrimp-and-grits action stations to kolaches at the coffee shop. Because Conecuh is so good on its own, one of the best ways he serves it is simply cooked and sliced and served alongside yellow mustard on a cheese board. It’s beautiful balance of smoke and spices holds up to many culinary creations, says Olive, adding that Thanksgiving stuffing with Conecuh is a fun variation on the holiday classic.

<p>Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox</p>

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

It’s a Darn Good Replacement for a Hot Dog

Once you try one of Executive Chef James Balster’s Conecuh dogs from the pool grill at The Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, loaded up with peppers and onions, you’ll never go back to regular hot dogs. There’s simply no comparison of Oscar Mayer to the rich, smoky, slightly spicy yet balanced flavor of Conecuh. Can’t make it to The Lodge? It’s easy to recreate at home, says Balster: Simply split it down the middle and grill until nice and crispy.

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