The scent of hickory smoke drifts up to your nose after slicing open a packet of Conecuh Original Sausage.
The pork links, an inch thick, have flecks of bright red pepper, lending that just-right bite of spice. Cut into perfect rounds that hold their size when rendered in a cast iron skillet, Conecuh sausage requires minimal cooking — just a few minutes on the grill or stove.
Alabama’s favorite sausage then will flavor a pot of simmering beans, get scrambled with eggs, or just hog the spotlight on a dinner plate. It may be “chunked” over griddled shreds of hash-brown potatoes, used to top a pizza, wrapped within a bun, or substituted for cracklings in a pan of cornbread.
The smoked sausage from Evergreen, Alabama is a state symbol — revered by home cooks and restaurant chefs alike, iconic enough to have its own fan club on Facebook. It’s not only sold in groceries and markets throughout Alabama and neighboring states, but it’s also distributed nationally by Amazon, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco.
Conecuh Sausage is one of Alabama’s prime culinary ambassadors. When Atlanta chef and former “Top Chef” contestant Kevin Gillespie shares his recipe for Choncho snacks (pigs in a blanket) with magazines like “Garden and Gun,” he specifies “use Conecuh sausage if you can.”
For several years, a Conecuh Sausage superfan, David Webb, has tossed packages of the smoked links from a parade float during Mardi Gras in Mobile.
James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings pays tribute with a recipe for Chicken and Conecuh Sausage Gumbo in his “Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook.” The sausage remains a regular addition to Hot and Hot restaurant’s cassoulet, gumbo, and rice dishes like low-country purloo.
“It’s the only sausage we buy,” Hastings says. “I love the texture. I love the fat ratio; it’s perfect. It’s versatile. The smoky flavor is fantastic. It’s just super-delicious.”
Restaurants across Alabama have found creative uses for Conecuh Sausage. Central Mesa in Tuscaloosa pairs it with pimento cheese and encases the blend in dough for empanadas. It’s even served between two halves of a doughnut at the Sugar Rush Donut Company in Mobile and Bayou LaBatre. At the Milo’s Hamburgers chain, the sausage appears in several breakfast dishes.
The Sessions family has been making the sausage for seven decades in Evergreen, the county seat of Conecuh County. The business started in 1947 as a custom meat-processing facility and cold-storage locker, but soon became known for Henry Sessions’ hickory-smoked links. Conecuh Sausage still follows his original recipe.
In 1986 the company moved to its current location off Exit 96 on Interstate 65, and the plant was expanded in 2012 to meet the growing demand. Conecuh Sausage’s gift shop is a popular stop for Florida-bound families passing through the Yellowhammer State. The product also has been celebrated for nearly two decades at the Conecuh Sausage Festival.
In addition to the “Original” version, Conecuh produces a mild sausage labeled “Hickory Smoked,” and spicier flavors like “Cracked Black Pepper,” “Hot and Spicy,” and “Cajun.” Minimally processed “All Natural” omits the MSG, nitrates and nitrites. The company also smokes bacon, turkey, ham, and hot dogs.
Stumped for cooking ideas? Check out the recipes on the Conecuh Sausage Fan Club page on Facebook. The company itself won’t leave you wondering either. Its website shares instructions for making more than two dozen savory delights.
The possibilities are limited only by the cook’s imagination.