Polony, also called Devon sausage, is a sausage generally made from a combination of pork and beef, though other varieties are available. Islamic halal and Jewish kosher polony are made from veal, lamb, or chicken and come in a variety of flavors. The meat is precooked and ready to use on sandwiches, as a side dish or in casseroles.
The origin of polony is uncertain, though it probably came from either Poland or Italy in the 1600’s; two countries that were famous for their sausages. The old name for Poland was Polonia, and it may be that the sausage was given its name to honor the country where it was first manufactured. It is also possible that the word is a derivative of bologna, a sausage first made in Bologna, Italy. Polony was extremely popular in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s, and appears in numerous Regency cookbooks. It is currently available in Europe, North America, Australia and Africa.
Sausages predate refrigeration and were developed as a way to use and preserve small scraps of meat that might otherwise be wasted. These scraps were ground together, heavily salted and spiced, and stuffed into casings made from animal intestines. The meats were cured by smoking and could last for long periods of time at room temperatures. Animal casings made from hogs, cattle and sheep are still available, but now most commercial sausage casings are made from synthetic materials, an option that sounds much more appetizing to many modern consumers.
Sausages made today contain meat, fat, additives such as sodium nitrate that kill bacteria, and substances that serve as binders to help hold the meat together. Some of the binders used in sausage are whey protein, wheat, soy products, and food starch. Shoppers with gluten allergies should read the labels to make certain that no wheat product binders have been used. Gluten-free varieties of polony and other sausages are available.
There are also a number of vegetarian options on the market for people who choose not to eat meat for dietary or religious reasons. In India, Hindu shudda polony is made with soya and wheat. Vegan varieties can be found online and in certain health food markets.
Chikanda, also known as African polony, is a vegetarian dish made from orchid tubers, the bulb-like roots of orchid plants. Chikanda originated in Northern Zambia where orchid tubers are harvested. These bulbs are ground into a powder, mixed with ground peanuts, water, baking soda, salt and chili powder.