The sausage of Bra is produced in the city of Roero using beef instead of the usual pork but, unlike other rare similar sausages present in Italy, it is mainly eaten raw.
Its history is unique. It seems that the use of beef is linked to the presence in the past centuries of a large Jewish community, especially in the nearby town of Cherasco. Jews could not consume pork for religious reasons and local butchers began to prepare a beef sausage with great success. In 1847, a Royal Concession issued by King Carlo Alberto, established that the butchers of the city of Bra were exempted from the prohibition, valid in the rest of the kingdom, to use alternative meat to pork in sausage making.
The mix generally used today is made of 70-80% lean veal finely minced meat and 20-30% pig’s fat. In ancient times the fat was from beef as well, but, due to its high perishability, it was later replaced by pig’s. The base seasoning includes sea salt, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace. Many producers also enrich it with garlic, fennel, leeks, cheese (parmesan, aged robiola or toma delle Langhe), white wine and even sparkling wine or prosecco for Christmas. The mix, which needs to be kept moist and soft, is stuffed in a small sheep’s gut.It is eaten fresh.
Since 2003 a consortium has brought together the butchers of Bra who produce it. Usually preservatives are added to the mixture, in different quantities according to individual choices, to avoid the natural oxidation of the meat (a normal fact, since this sausage is eaten mostly raw). The law allows the use of sulphites, a preservative which, apart from being dangerous for those who are allergic, considerably reduces the bioavailability of thiamine, i.e. vitamin B1.
It is therefore better to look for manufacturers who use very few preservatives. In this regard, attention should be paid to the colour of the sausage: it is best to avoid sausages with a very bright pink or red colour, which, despite exposure to air, do not turn grey in a short time. Browning is not very pleasing to the eye but it means that few or no preservatives have been used in the mixture.
It can be served grilled, but raw is one of the most traditional appetizers in the area of Cuneo.