Debrecen is one of those very rare cities whose names are associated with a unique flavor. The famous Debrecen double sausage is so tasty that it makes perfect sense to serve two in a single portion. Although “Debreziner” features on the menus of many eateries around the world, the real deal (neither soft nor hard, not dry, not fatty, but pleasantly juicy and crunchy) can only be found in Debrecen.
Debrecen double sausage is a product based on a centuries-old tradition, made from beef and pork, with the addition of bacon and a secret combination of spices, formed in a casing made from cleaned intestine, and then smoked. Originally, the Debrecen sausage was a home-made product, and therefore, there were differences in the proportion of the ingredients and in the spices used. Due to the individual tastes in seasoning, the flavours were influenced by a number of factors. Since the second half of the 20th century, for example, good-quality seasoning paprika has also been an indispensable element of the recipe.
The original, real Debrecen double sausage was made from pork, beef (less frequently also lamb), and bacon. In addition to salt, black pepper, fennel and garlic, it is richly seasoned with ground red pepper. It is a juicy, slightly smoked, heat-treated meat product of bright red colour, produced in linking pairs (hence the word double), with a diameter of 30-32 mm and a length of 120-140 mm. In terms of its texture, it is supposed to be dense, yet flexible, firmly holding together, easy to slice, with a pleasantly spicy smell and smoky flavour.
The creator of the Debrecen double is unknown: it was probably not a single person, but rather, the sausage has achieved its currently known form and flavour over centuries, thanks to the contributions of the generations of butchers and housewives, some of whom formed companies to produce and sell this product. The Debrecen double sausage, therefore, is really a joint creation of the “Cívis” community, the civitas of Debrecen.
As a simple, practical dish, it fundamentally emerged and then spread around the world in two main varieties. It is assumed that German merchants and traders coming to the large fairs held in Debrecen brought home the reputation and the approximate recipe, thereby providing an alternative to the various Frankfurter, Viennese and Bavarian sausages. This is how the sausage originally made in Debrecen became known as “Debreziner” in German-speaking countries, and then also in other parts of the world, including the USA and Australia, where it went with German intermediation.
In addition to being the standard fare at markets and fairs, the sausage was also a favourite food of herdsmen driving the animals out to the pastures of Debrecen and back, and the fat dripping from it was considered a special delicacy. In the 19th century, Debrecen sausage was typically made and then sold at the weekly markets and bigger fairs by groups of women organizing themselves into companies for this purpose.
Between the two world wars, it was already the second generation of the Debrecen double, made of pork, that dominated the market. By that time, it existed not only as the traditional, home-prepared or butcher-made product, but a Debrecen-based meat-packing company, founded in 1894 (the predecessor of Debrecen Hús Zrt.) also produced it. This way, a second career of the Debrecen double sausage also started, as a mass-produced and mass-consumed meat product, and from typical fair food and herdsmen's favourite it transformed into a much liked dish on the dinner tables of the urban lower middle class as well.
It follows from the above history that many different kinds of Debrecen sausage exist, but experts agree that the one made locally is still the real deal. In the last few years, rebuilding the image of the Debrecen double sausage has become a movement in its own right, one of the first stations of which was when it was declared an Outstanding National Value, following which, in October 2015, it was listed as a “hungaricum”.
The city of Debrecen, the Committee of Debrecen's Repository of Values, the Foundation for the Gastronomy of Debrecen, along with the community or producers and restaurateurs interested in the revitalization of the noble traditions of the Debrecen double sausage, have forged an agreement in which they laid down the basic principles applicable in terms of appearance, gastronomic values and quality criteria. The purpose of the Debrecen Double Sausage Codex is to protect and renew the reputation of this product of local pride, already declared an Outstanding National Asset, as well as the cultural traditions and gastronomic values of the “Cívis” community of Debrecen.
You can try the Debrecen double sausage in four different varieties: made from pork only, beef only, a mix of pork and beef, or kosher lamb. The Debrecen double sausage is featured on the menus of numerous restaurants in the city.