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Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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FOOD HOLIDAY: National Bologna Day

Bite into a bologna sandwich. Photo by
Francesco DiBartolo | IST.


We haven’t had a bologna sandwich since grade school, when Mom would pack one up once a week or so, alternating with a BLT, ham, PB&J or tuna sandwich.

Yet to other people, a bologna sandwich is a culinary staple. Beyond the sandwich, we had a college friend who would snack on bologna and cheese stacked between Ritz crackers, and add bologna strips to her pizza.

Bologna (boe-LOE-nya), also Americanized (unfortunately*) to baloney, is a type of cooked pork sausage, a derivation of Italian mortadella.

Mortadella has been made for more than 500 years. The recipe, developed in the Italian city of Bologna, includes pure ground pork studded with cubes of white fat and seasoned with anise, coriander, pepper and pistachio nuts.

U.S. government regulations require bologna to be made without the visible pieces of lard, distinguishing it from mortadella. But it can be transformed with flavoring, such as Cajun, jalapeño, garlic or barbecue.

Nitrates, preservatives that give cooked pork products a pink color, are used in American bologna and mortadella.

U.S. standards allow bologna to be made from beef, chicken, pork, turkey, venison and others (bison, goat, etc.), or from soy protein (vegan bologna).

As is typical with sausage, scraps of meat are mixed with spices, then cooked and stuffed into casings (originally made from animal intestines, which are still used in all-natural sausage).

Bologna came to the U.S. with Italian immigrants. Because it could be made from inexpensive cuts of meat, it became a popular food for working class families on a budget. A bologna sandwich could be carried to work, school, etc. with no need for refrigeration.

*“Baloney” is slang for “nonsense.” It appears to have entered American English around 1922, and was popularized in the 1930s by New York Governor Alfred E. Smith. The original term was used in the mode of “nonsense” or “rubbish,” believed to be a nod to either Irish blarney, or the odds and ends used to make bologna sausage.


Garlic bologna has garlic and other seasonings added to the recipe. That’s easy enough to understand. But to make things confusing in the world of bologna:

Germany & Austria

  • The product referred to as German bologna in other countries is called Fleischwurst (“flesh sausage”) in Germany. The name refers to the off-white color—no nitrates. It is often flavored with garlic.
  • In Austria, the same product is called Extrawurst.
  • In Germany, what we think of as “regular” bologna is called mortadella, identical to American mortadella, although in Germany it often contains pistachio nuts, like the original Italian product.
  • In Germany the original mortadella, larger and less finely ground than bologna, is called “italienische mortadella,” Italian-style mortadella.

    Bologna can be made from proteins other than pork. Here, it’s made with beef. Photo courtesy

    France & Switzerland

  • The French variation of Fleischwurst is called “saucisse de Lyon,” Lyon sausage.
  • The Swiss call saucisse de Lyon “Lyoner” or “Lyonerwurst”—Lyon sausage.
  • Unlike the German products, the French and Swiss versions typically do not contain a noticeable amount of garlic. But like their German counterpart, they an off-white color, as they do not contain nitrates.
    There is also a sausage called polony, popular in South Africa, that made from a mixture of beef and pork. It is highly seasoned and hot smoked, then prepared by cooking in boiling water. The name is believed to be derived from Polonia, an old name for Poland; although some think it is named after Bologna.

    Bologna can be pan-fried with morning eggs, added to potato salad or combined with other loaf meats and cheese, pickles and olives for an “Italian deli” sandwich.

    Here’s a recipe for a Frenchie, a battered and fried grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar and bologna. Serve with a side of pickles and olives.


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