Dapo’s Rusk Recipe

My adventure in Lagos, Nigeria takes me back to the foundation of the meat industry. It is fair to say that there are generally three meat products sold in the country being mince, stewing meat without bones, and stewing meat with bones. The challenge is to migrate from this to properly defined primal cuts.

As far as the production of sausages is concerned, due to the infancy of the meat industry, meat fillers that became commonplace in other developed markets are not available in Nigeria. What I love about this is that it forces me to think about the origins of the industry. As far as sausage fillers are concerned, such a filler is rusk.

The question then comes up as to the comparison between the use of rusk and meat extenders such as TVP (Texturised Vegetable Protein) or texturized soy protein to be specific. Without getting too technical about the difference, it made me ask for the most basic recipe for rusk. One can get amazingly creative with this basic recipe. One can add emulsifiers, and protein from various sources, and use them as a carrier of spices and other functional ingredients.

Oladapo Adenekan, the previous production manager of the old UTC who dominated the food trade in Nigeria for many years shared this recipe with me after our discussion about making our own rusk. In the bakery department, Samy is working with us to create our own rusk for use in our meat recipes.

I share the recipe that Dapo gave me. This simple recipe set about an amazing journey of discovery leading right into the heart of the meat industry!

Rusk Formulation for Meat Filling

Wholesale Wheat Flour100.00
Cold Water5.00

Weight loss of 16%16.84



Spread over a tray

Set oven to 115o C and roast for 50 minutes.

The History of Rusk

Bisma Tirmizi does an excellent job chronikling the history of rusk. Her delightful story begins as she explains when she stumbled upon this information when her “six-year-old son came home from school saying that he wanted to have, ‘cake rusk and chai’.”

She writes, “I looked at him quizzically, to which he said, ‘If we don’t have them, can we make them?’ So I called up a friend of mine, who is a baker of sorts, and asked her if it was possible to make cake rusks at home. She laughed and said, ‘Of course, how do you think biscotti and cake rusk came to be, do you want my Italian nana’s recipe for biscotti or my Pakistani dad’s recipe for cake rusk?’

What do you think my answer was?

My research tells me that eating stale bread was a norm in ancient Europe. Ancient Roman soldiers are said to have carried a hard bread known as biscoctus, literally meaning ‘twice cooked’.

The sub-continental cake rusk may very well be a descendant of the ancient biscoctus. Food historians mention that recipes for foods named rusk began showing up during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Oxford English Dictionary mentions that the word ‘rusk’ dates back to the year 1595 when referring to a twice-baked bread.

Alan Davidson says in The Oxford Companion to Food:

Rusk is a kind of bread dough incorporating sugar, eggs, and butter. It is shaped into a loaf or cylinder, baked, cooled, sliced, and then dried in low heat until hard. Rusks have a very low water content and keep well for extended periods. Sharing a common origin with the modern biscuit, medieval rusks were known as panis biscoctus, meaning twice-cooked bread, and were used as provision for armies and ships at sea.

In many countries there are breads that may resemble rusks, in that they are essentially oven-dried bread, whether plain like the Italian bruschetta or of a sweet kind [like the cake rusks of pre-Partition India]; but they may incorporate other ingredients such as spices [cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg] or nuts.

It is said that the earliest modern cookie cakes are from 7th century Persia, since it was one of the first few regions to cultivate sugar, second to the region we know as the sub-continent, our very own home.

Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean and Arabia, and with the Muslim invasion of Spain, and the Crusades we saw the advent of the developing spice trade. The cooking techniques and ingredients of India, Arabia and Persia spread into Northern Europe. So we can safely assume that the modern day cakes traveled to Europe from Asia, and then back to Asia, as if it was an import from Europe.

In the article titled How Sweet It Was: Cane Sugar from the Ancient World to the Elizabethan Period, Brandy and Courtney Powers say:

In 510 BC, hungry soldiers of the Emperor Darius were near the river Indus, when they discovered some ‘reeds which produce honey without bees’. Evidently, this early contact with the Asian sources of sugar cane made no great impression, so it was left to be rediscovered in 327 BC by Alexander the Great, who spread it’s culture through Persia and introduced it in the Mediterranean. This was the beginning of one of the first documented sugar and [cake] products of the Middle Ages.

However, cake rusks are a legacy of Elizabethan naval provisions. These were smallish lumps of bread twice baked so as to be indestructible enough to last out a long voyage at sea. The earliest known reference to them comes in an account of Drake’s voyages, written in 1595: ‘The provision…was seven or eight cakes of biscuits or rusks for a man.’

The modern, more refined cake rusk is sliced cake; re-baked, crisped and dried, and it dates to the mid-18th century. These hardened delightful cakes were enjoyed at tea times and were perfect for dunking in evening time tea or milk. These were re-introduced (in their modern form) to the sub-continent from England, where they were popularly served as shipboard fare; dried, tinned or stored for long periods of time.

Some historians suggest that the creation of rusks was just a basic need for home-cooks to get away from everyday kneading and to make the bread last longer. It is said that the first rusk was made by a byzantine baker.

When the time arrived to make cake rusks, I turned to my Italian Pakistani friend. Needless to say, they turned out delicious, perfect for an evening, of cake rusk and chai. Here it is, from my kitchen to yours.”

Bisma’s recipe, of course, goes well beyond the reason for Oladapo’s recipe which is for the meat curing establishment, but her story is engaging, and her recipe is worth sharing.


2 cups flour
6 eggs
225 grams butter
2 tsp. vanilla essence
3 tsp. baking powder (level)
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cup powder sugar
Orange food colouring


Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176o C). Cream butter and eggs in a cake mixer, add sugar and vanilla and mix, adding all dry ingredients and food colouring and mix. Once cake batter is ready, pour it into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan and bake for 55 minutes.

Once cake is ready let cool and slice, re-bake directly on the oven rack in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes. Let cool and harden completely and enjoy with a cup of tea, milk, or coffee. Store in an airtight cookie jar.

English Origins

The story then took on an unexpected twist. Suddenly, posting a short article motivated by Dapo’s rusk recipe lead me right into the heart of the meat industry. I discovered that like every meat ingredient, rusk had an evangelist who changed the ingredient to a legendary institution.

Robert Goodrick, the English Master Curer sent me the following clipping about a patented Rusk brand from the UK registered in the name of TB Finney & Co.

The listing in the 1914 Who’s Who in Business reads, “FINNEY, T. B., & CO., Ltd., Pepper, Seed, Spice and Rice Millers and Butchers’ Outfitters, Cornbrook Spice Mills, Trentham Street, Cornbrook, and Cornbrook Bakery, Rusholme Road, C.-on-M., Manchester. Hours of Business: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Established in 1894 by T. B. Finney. Incorporated as a Limited Company in 1911. Directors: T. B. Finney (Chairman), R. Finney, T. Bardsley, G. E. Cooper, C. Howard, and J. Pedder. Premises: Consist of five-storey Mill and outbuildings. Staff: Fifty. Specialities: “PAB ” for Sausage and Polony Making (Inventors and Sole Makers), Pepper, Seed, Spice and Rice, Peppers and Spices, warranted absolutely pure. Patents: PAB, Bergice Reekie, &c. Connection: United Kingdom, Foreign, Colonial. Telephone: No. 6632 City, Manchester. Telegraphic Address: ” Preservaline, Manchester.” Bankers: London City and Midland Bank, Ltd. (Chester Road).” (

The very early use of rusk in the production of Polony is fascinating as its modern equivalent in TVP is used extensively in the production of Polony in South Africa. (The Origins of Polony) What is even more interesting is that the wide-scale use of rusk in England can be traced back to a single man or company. I am not suggesting that TB Finney was the only man who should receive the honours of establishing the status of rusk in the English world (and worldwide) as a filler, but certainly, he can be credited as one of them.

Robert included a photo of TB Finney and the title page of his publication, Handy Guide.

Courtesy of Robert Goodrick.

Courtesy of Robert Goodrick.

Recipes with Rusk

There are two recipes from Finney that immediately catch my eyes

Hog’s Puddings

14 lbs (6.3 kg) Lean Pork (55%)
4lbs (1.8 kg)Fat Pork (16%)
3lbs (1.3 kg) PAB (Rusk) (11.5%)
2 quarts (1.89L)water (16%)

Total: 11.29kg

8lbs Salt
4lbs White pepper
1oz Ground Cayenne
1/2oz Ground Mace
1/2oz Ground Nutmeg
1oz Ground Thyme
Use at 1/2oz per pound (14g’s per 453mL water) of pudding mixture.

Mix well and chop fine, fill into wide hog or narrow bullock casings. Boil 1/2 hour and place into cold water ’till cold.


10 lbs Lean Pork
4lbs Fat Pork
2lbs PAB (Rusk)
2 quarts water

41/2lbs Salt
2lbs White pepper
1/2oz Rubbed Parsley
1oz Rubbed Thyme
ľoz Ground Mace
ľoz Ground Nutmeg
Use at 1/2oz per pound of pudding mixture.

Mix well and chop fine, fill into wide hog or narrow bullock casings. Boil 1/2 hour and place into cold water ’till cold.

These recipes have a striking resemblance to how we make Russians, Viennas, or Lunch Loaves in South Africa. With the dominating influence of the English in the history of South Africa, I am convinced that the meat curing traditions are as much English as they are German and Dutch! The original history of these recipes may be Russian Jewish immigrants, Germans, especially from German West Africa (present-day Namibia), and even Polish/ Hungarian in terms of its distant heritage, but what we produce today are equally, if not greater in its reliance on the English tradition. Of all the nations on earth, the English remain most closely associated with the use of rusk in their sausages which has been replaced by texturized soy in places like South Africa.


The baking of rusk brought me back again to the foundations of the meat industry. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to be involved in the Nigerian project as it allows me a unique vantage point as an amateur food historian to witness the birth of our industry firsthand. Thank you to people like Oladapo Adenekan who freely share his memories and experiences and who allow people like me and Samy a glimpse into his world. Enormous gratitude to Robert Goodrick for sharing these images and background with me. It is people like Robert, Dapo, and Samy that bring history to life, even on a subject seemingly as mundane as rusk. It makes one realise that there are no accidents and legends are created through dedication, skill, and focus which means that they walk in the footsteps of people like Thomas Finney! In the meat industry, there is no such thing as a mundane ingredient or concept!

(c) eben van tonder


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Creating the Optimal African Frankfurter Style Sausage: Hungarians and Russians

Creating the Optimal Frankfurter Style Sausage in Africa: Hungarians and Russians
by Eben van Tonder 
27 November 2021

Over the years I have written about the history of the development of Russian sausages in South Africa (Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian). I’ve created poems about it! 🙂 (Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation) It is a South African frankfurter style sausages. In Australia, it is called a Kransky and in Zambia and parts of the DRC, it is called a Hungarian. A Hungarian is made without showpieces which means that the exact same product in South Africa is called a smokey or a penny polony. The basic formulations are, however, the same. It is a fine emulsion sausage.

I have looked at every aspect of Russian/ Hungarian making except cooking/ smoking and packing it. This week attention shifted to these final aspects. Daniel Erdei from the smokehouse producer Kerres visited me in South Africa. Their new hybrid smoke system, combining vertical and horizontal airflow systems make them, in my opinion, the best option in the world. They claim a reduction of 30% in cooking/ smoking loss.

Apart from smoking/ cooking, I looked at packaging with shelf life in mind. Many of the large producers in South Africa opted for High-Pressure Pastorisation over the last few years following the Listeriosis epidemy. It is an extremely expensive solution, and I was keen to see what else is on the market.

In South Africa there are several producers who manufacture between 60 and 100 tons of these sausages per day and the economic benefit of this consideration can hardly be overrated. Besides these, current projects underway in other African countries will soon see the same production levels from other African regions. This, coupled with the devastating effects of Covid on international food prices makes the work urgent.

The danger and impact of Covid were highlighted to us while we were in Simons Town, at the famous Brass Bell-Inn and Daniel, a German citizen, started getting calls from family and from the management at Kerres as they were scrambling to get him on the first available flight out of South Africa after the discovery of a new Omicron variant (Variant B.1.1.529) and as countries from around the world were announcing the immediate cancellation of flights from and into South Africa.

After the logistics were arranged and we were satisfied that the best measures were taken to ensure his speedy return to Germany, we continued with our adventure while designing the optimal Russian/ Hungarian line and processing approach.

The following discussion points were all highlighted and interrogated yesterday.

Novel Processing Techniques

– DCD Technology from Green Cell

Work done with DCD Technology (The Power of Microparticles: Disruptor (DCD) Technology) shows the feasibility to use nutritious parts of an animal carcass previously not included in raw material for such sausages. DCD has proven to be extremely important even though it was shown to be less effective in certain specific areas of application (Muscle Structure (Biology)). For large throughput factories it, however, is an ideal solution to increase the overall digestibility of certain raw materials since digestibility is closely related to comminution (Notes on Comminution and Digestibility). It also offers a way to apply pressure for micro control in a way that was previously only possible with HPP or similar systems (for example pulse technology). Two years of intensive work showed that DCD technology has a definite place in meat processing. A proper understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, along with alternative processing techniques that we developed for certain areas of application allows us to create our own MDM/ MSM. MDM or MSM is widely used in Africa as the basis for these sausages (MDM – Not all are created equal!). The MDM-replacer we created has been shown to be more nutritious compared to MDM, imported from, for example, South America and has greater functionality than using MDM alone.

– Binding of water

Water act as the plasticizer in the system. The meat’s texture in these sausages “is due to its property of heat-induced long-chain gelling or setting” and the “cooked meat is classifiable as a water-plasticized, filled-cell mixed-composite thermosetting plastic biopolymer. The word “polymer” denotes long-chain macromolecules which are crosslinked, such as proteins or starches. The word “plasticizer” indicates that water is the filling solvent that hydrates the polymer and supports its “plastic” behaviour.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)

The optimal binding of water has been shown to be a balance between the creation of various base emulsions (for example fat and skin emulsions) and the inherent requirement for water as the plasticizer. In other words, there is a certain amount of water required to form the gel which is the basis of the product – all other water is better pre-bound. Adding “fillers” with high water-holding capacity such as soy isolate or TVP serves an important function of making the sausage less “rubbery”. LaBudde (1992) states it as follows. “Fillers with high water-holding capacity will effectively de-plasticize the system, resulting in lower strains to failure and higher stresses.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint). Like in whole muscle chemistry, we are looking at the role of bound, immobilized, and free water in the sausage matrix (see the section under “water” in Muscle Structure (Biology)

– Losing Some of the Water

Managing the process of water loss is of the utmost importance. Water act as the plasticizer in the system. In a frankfurter style sausage, “the proteins are gelled not only through the heat of cooking, but also through the mechanisms of water loss (shrinkage), pH (acid rinse) and smoke application.”

That water loss must take place and is important. “The effect of moisture loss through shrinkage is twofold: a drop in the plasticizer percentage and an increase in the percentage of other materials, including protein. Consequently, the strength of a “shrunk” product will be larger than that of the “unshrunk” product by at least the percentage shrink [ 1/(1-s) ], and the strain to failure lower by approximately the shrink [ 1-s ].” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)

Water loss is important but too much water loss is uneconomical. In the right drying, smoking and cooking chamber, the method of applying heat to the sausages, the rate of temperature application, humidity and wind speed (velocity) are key factors to control. From a business perspective, the role of an excellent personal banker is key to success. In terms of meat processing, the right smokehouse partner is as important as a personal banker to the overall business. They must be entrusted with the management of water or fat loss during the final cooking step. They are also the custodians of the final look of the product before packaging. Texture and gel formation is within their scope of responsibility. I cannot over emphasis the importance of choosing the right smokehouse and the right smokehouse supplier.

In producing these sausages, a customary South African formulation will result in between 15% and 18% moisture loss during the cooking cycle to 71o C. Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in this loss to between 10 and 13%. Trails are underway in Germany, using South African recipes, to confirm these. The overall loss we are targeting by using the correct product ingredients, along with the Kerres smokehouse technology I set at between 8% and 10%. These targets are ambitious, and results will be made available in updates of this article.

Old School Smoking/ Drying -> Latest Technology

Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in smoking/ cooking loss

Blending and Filling

The grinder -> mixer -> emulsifier -> filler configuration is retained with key adjustments in the state of the ingredients added at the various stages. The entire discussion of the mix of traditional processing technology using micro cutters and grinders and incorporating DCD’ed raw materials discussed above feature prominently under this heading. For Africa, I advocate the incorporation of Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate (LAE) in the product as one of the micro hurdles.

Drying/ Smoking

There is a trend in the rest of Africa (excluding South Africa) not to dry the sausages before sale and to use liquid smoke in the product composition instead of natural smoke. This is an unacceptable compromise because it seriously compromises the product quality, and our goal is to deliver more nutritious food to Africa of a quality equal to or higher than what is found in European and North American supermarkets in Frankfurter sausages.

I have found the Kerres team to be the best to outsource the final look, feel and texture of the product to. I base this statement on the versatility of their equipment. It is a familiar frustration to all production managers that they buy equipment and lock themselves into a certain processing system which invariably comes to haunt them later when they want to change the production system. In smokehouse technology, it is clearly seen in the choice between a system with vertical or horizontal airflow.

As a case in point, consider the change from natural or artificial casings and the emergence of alginate casing technology. The use of alginate casing technology has become widely available, in South Africa, through the spice supplier Freddy Hirsch, but when drying, the sausages can’t hang and are packed on trays which favours a horizontal airflow and not the vertical airflow systems used when smoking sausages that hang on smoke sticks and are linked together. So, ineffective smokehouses now become an obstacle when the production manager wants to change how the sausages are produced.

Even more, what do you do if you only want to change part of the processing system to alginate casings and still offer the consumers the natural or collagen casings they are used to?

The same applies to bacon processing technology. The traditional way is to hang the bacon in the smoke chamber. However, the latest method of bacon processing using grids to “shape” the bacon, favours again a horizontal airflow system as opposed to the vertical flow systems. The latter is favoured by the traditional way of hanging the bacon. (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth)

Because drying/ cooking/ smoking is so important in the final product, it is surprising that many owners/ investors or managers base their decision on “an easy deal” or the cheapest option available to them. The wrong smokehouse partners are one of the most expensive mistakes we’ve made at Woody’s!

The Kerres smoker has a hybrid system that incorporates both horizontal and vertical airflow. They offer it as an added option, but in my mind, it is an easy decision!

Drying and smoking are dependent on many factors. Airflow is amongst the most prominent features. Below is a clip showing the Kerres system. The hybrid system is a stroke of genius. This system along with an introduction to the smokehouses of Kerres is dealt with in the video clip below.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of the hybrid smoking system

Below is a clip from a client of Kerres in the USA. Whether alginate casings are used for sausage production, or the grid system in bacon processing, the hybrid system is the best solution I ever came across. The clip below which I got from their website is absolutely astounding! See how close the shelves are stacked and how full they are loaded and have a look at the consistency! It is without a doubt the single most impressive display of what can be achieved in a smokehouse than I have ever seen!

Effectiveness of the Kerres Hybrid system demonstrated.

NPD: Vegetable Sausages

Vegetable sausages are nothing new to areas in the middle east, but the West has suddenly woken up to this important product class when it realised its heavy reliance on meat-based diets presents health challenges that cannot be overcome apart from reducing the consumption of meat.

This area of application represents a feature of DCD Technology that cannot be achieved more effectively in any other way. Let me state it like this. DCD technology makes the high throughput production line of such sausages possible. It speaks to the essence of the approach I followed in re-evaluating the production of hybrid sausages two years ago (Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions).


The matter of final product packaging and shelf life is closely related as is shelf life and raw materials used in the blending and filling stage. In general, shelf life will be achieved through:

  • Level of water binding achieved;
  • Pressure from the DCD processing system of Green Cell on key ingredients;
  • The use of LAE both included into the meat mix as well as fogging the roll stock pouch after forming and fogging into the pouch after packing.

If applied correctly, this natural preservative will extend the product shelf life dramatically. The key to the effectiveness of the product is dosage and application method which we are in the process of addressing. Watch this space for updates and announcements!

Using the combined approach as outlined above yields unsurpassed shelf-life results.


Over the years I have seen the tremendous benefit in stepping periodically back from one’s work and re-evaluating everything I have learned and asking the question if there is not a better way of doing it. This is true when it comes to bacon production technology (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth). I have not yet integrated a new application of the Kerres smoker technology to the article I just cited on bacon production, but I will do this over the weeks following and publish it as new and updated articles.

In our current consideration of the best Frankfurter style sausage system available, the Kerres smokehouse technology, along with LAE and DCD Technology draws years of work together into a complete and extremely versatile and productive system.

Africa is emerging as the future economic powerhouse and the driver of world markets, and I am honoured to be a small part of this awakening when it comes to meat processing technology.

Further Reading

The Freezing and Storage of Meat

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Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation

Eben van Tonder

Easter Weekend, 2021


The history of the South African sausage called a Russian has been dealt with in great detail by myself in Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian. This is a more technical evaluation.

I interpose after every technical consideration with photos from the last 18 months of work and some comments on the progression of our story. It serves as a repository of my private recollections of the project.

Between April 2018 and August 2019, I worked for the Johannesburg meat processor, Van Wyngaardt. I adjusted their pure meat block of Russians by adding soy. So started a quest to produce a high quality, low-cost Russian which consumed me for the past 18 months. I started thinking about Russians from scratch.” (VWG subsequently returned to a pure meat Russian)

The photo on the left is of my daughter Lauren and me at our Solheim home in Johannesburg. She joined me to provide impetus to VWG’s in-store work which she did with passion and excellence. The photos below are of Minette and Brussouw during the lockdown, the Johannesburg skyline seen on the last day I spend at VWG and a trolley of VWG Russians.

Fine Meat Mixes vs Course Mixes

The Russian sausage, similar to polony, developed as a way to work away unused scraps of leftover meat in the butchery. By “leftover meats” we do not mean inferior meat. It is inevitable that bits of meat are left after the meat was trimmed neatly and these scraps are of the highest quality. It was the practice in butcheries across the country in the 1800s and early 1900s to mince any leftover offal and discarded sausage meat very finely to be cooked in casings from animal intestines and to sell it as polony (The Origins of Polony). The reason for reducing various meat scraps to the same physical state was to create something that looks uniform. Larger and small bits of high-quality meat from all the species were combined into Russians.

The difference between polony and Russians was that polony would contain only finely ground meat but Russians would contain the same finely ground meat as a base but larger bits of meat would be added called “showpieces.” Russians would be viewed as of a higher quality than polony.

Over the years technology improved to chop the meat into smaller particles. Meat grinders have been generally available for many years and different plate sizes were made available to adjust the coarseness. The smallest plate size would be used for the fine meat base. Later bowl cutters were introduced being a rotating bowl with a set of knives chopping the meat into even smaller particles. This meant that some butchers had very smooth and finely chopped meat as the base for the Russians and those who could not afford the new equipment continued doing it all by hand or through a meat grinder. Some of these butchers could afford the new high-speed equipment but preferred to continue doing the mincing of the meat by hand as some still prefer to this day. Doing it by hand or only with a meat grinder yields understandably a less smooth meat base than if it’s done with more sophisticated equipment.

Two distinct styles of Russians developed. One with a very smooth texture for the meat base into which the large showpieces are embedded and another with an altogether courser meat base. Which one to prefer became completely a matter of taste and any perception that the Russian with a smoother base is inferior to a more course base is unfounded.

My personal quest to understand Russians better intensified during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. My good friend, Dr Francois Mellett helped me to understand the basics. An equally good friend from Canada, Robert Goodrick, arguably the best butcher on planet earth, schooled me in old-school butchers techniques and how to make Russians without bowl cutters. In between the help from Francois and Robert, the team from Deli Spices was a great inspiration opening my eyes to the power of proper mixing!”

Photo on the right is an iconic photo when Francois and I sneaked some seawater away for desperate fish. More I can not say. 😉 Bottom left is Robert Goodrick, the middle photo is me, Arno Pienaar and Tshepo Setshogoe, a legendary Russian maker! As I recall, the trials with Deli was done a week before lockdown in April. We tested the overall water-holding of fist-size trip pork trim pieces and a simple Russian recipe without a fine meat paste, using only the meat grinder. If we go out and over many beers, I will tell you the story of Francois and me when that photo was taken! 🙂

Firmness, Texture and Tradition

A Russian is not a pure fine meat past sausage and is, therefore, firmer than for example polony or a Vienna (which are pure fine meat past products). Here in Cape Town, a Russian which is made from fine meat past only is called a smoky or a penny polony (if it’s coloured pink). The finer a meat paste is made, the softer it is.

It has become convention to make Russians from mechanically deboned chicken meat in South Africa and many other parts of the continent. MDM is not inferior meat as many people think. It is simply chicken meat that has been removed and processed through mechanical means. (Poultry MDM: Notes on Composition and Functionality) Most large processors use micro-cutters in processing Russians and put the MDM through the process of micro-cutting also. A consequence of the production of MDM is unfortunately damage to the meat structure which results in a “softer” meat bind. Generally, how well the meat binds together after chopping depends very much on the character and quality of the starting material and if the structure of the meat is slightly damaged, micro-cutting does not help. If one puts MDM through a micro-cutter it leaves the resultant meat paste even softer. Due to this, various techniques are used to firm MDM up when producing Russians. The two most important ones are adding serials or legumes and adding meat trim or only fat. For a technical evaluation of this, I refer you to, Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint.

There is a misconception among many that adding serials and legumes to Russians is not traditional. In my article, Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian, I point out that it is the most traditional thing that can be added to the sausage and the origins of the practice come from Russia where emulsifiers and meat extenders evolved from meat stew technology which goes back millennia. In my article, Protein Functionality, the Bind Index and the Early History of Meat Extenders in America, I trace the introduction of this Russian technology into the Western world in some detail.

The legume of choice in the meat industry is soy and it is widely used as an ingredient of Russians to increase the firmness of the product. It is also convention to add either pork or beef trim with a good bit of fat to the mix which firms the product up substantially. Russians today are basically produced in the same way that it has been done for hundreds of years and it required a firmer texture than is not achieved from finely chopped meat pasts only.

During the lockdown, I got to know the work of Petr Pakhomov from St Petersburg who is not just a Master Butcher, but an artist and one of the best exponents of the art of fine meat pasts. He opened my eyes to what is possible with Russians. I continued to study every aspect of possible ingredients in meat pasts. A concept started forming from the need to use all the natural resources at our disposal in the creation of these products. I summarised this in Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions. This made me look long and hard at all the various bits available from the carcass.

The photo on the left is of Petr Pakhomov and below is a selection of his creations. Petr famously says that he “paints with meat.”

Best Quality at Lowest Price – Invitation to Creativity

From the earliest times in South Africa, Russians were intended to be quality nutrition at the lowest possible price. Its fame was secured when it became a favourite on the Johannesburg goldfields. Inspired by concepts I saw used by Urban Foods in Nepal (Kathmandu’s Urban Food) I set out with the support of Etlin International, to develop these and create various finely comminuted meat pasts and pasts from other protein sources to be used in conjunction with MDM, meat trim, soy and starch in Russian formulations. In reality, we are building on a long tradition of making quality food affordable. I anchored most of my work in taking the concept of finely comminuting meat particles to the next level through the application of revolutionary microparticle technology, pioneered by a Cape Town company.

If a finer and smoother meat past is created with smaller meat particles, microparticles will be the next frontier. It is simply the continuation along an age-old trajectory. At first, reducing meat to small bits was done by hand. Ancient humans started to stuff small meat scraps into intestines at the kill site along with blood in order to transport it back to the tribe. For our primitive forefathers, the cost of a kill would be too great for one morsel of meat to be wasted. Cutting the meat into smaller pieces continued at the village. The earliest humans realised that reducing the meat to small meat fractions made it easier to chew. This was also in all likelihood the reason why early people started frying, roasting and cooking their meat. Ease of consumption was a huge issue to overcome!

So, at first, we finely chopped meat by hand. When the meat grinder was invented humans used a fine mincer plate to create smaller meat particles. Smaller meat particles meant a softer bite and a more versatile batter. This was followed by the invention of the bowl chopper which could reduce the meat size even further and finally micro cutters (emulsifiers) were invented to achieve an even finer particle size. A South African company pioneered technology able to create sub 50 microparticle which results in an even smoother and softer bite than was ever before possible.

A hallmark of the production of a Russian has always been creativity and making the best of raw material available at any given time and place! Turning scraps of meat into a work of art and a culinary masterpiece!

Over the 18 months, numerous friends in meat processing with factories welcomed me to run trails. Thank you to every one of you! Many I can’t mention for a variety of reasons but you know who you are! Below are photos from some of the many trails we did, each getting us a bit closer to our goal. I finally started getting traction with a few regular testing sites and when our Food Science Team started taking shape with the appointment of Dr Jess, we achieved very positive momentum. It took many frustrating months before we started working out the best way to use this technology. We ended up learning to use new technology, creating old school mixes with new technology while we were re-discovering the basics of Russian making. Our final set of trails for this round we did at PB Juicy in Maitland. Sincere thanks to Graham, Lesley, Stanford and Shelton to mention just a few along with the amazing staff who helped me on Saturday; who packed our samples and helped us prepare and participated in the tasting.


The Easter Contest and Evaluation

Over 18 months we not only re-looked every aspect of making Russians but we also developed new ways of processing several sets of ingredients. The team was ready to put their new processes and ingredients to the test. Jess, Jan and Eben, the three parties working closest with the formulations of the new ingredients all came up with their own Russian recipes and the day before Easter 2021 we decided to put the ingredients we were working on and our own Russian formulations to the test. It was a fun way to showcase the power of our new sets of ingredients.

We each created our own Russian mix but we all included the new sets of raw materials which we developed. We used a mincer and a Kar Schnell Micro Cutter for the final cutting.

I smoked it for 40 minutes and then cooked it to an core temperature of 68 deg C.

The following day I returned for three sets of evaluation.

  • Pan-Fried
  • Braaied on an open fire
  • Deep-Fried in oil.

– Deep Fry Evaluation

For the Deep Fry Evaluation, we visited Marina’s Deli in Monte Vista where we were delighted to meet the Deli Owner who personally did the tasting for us. He immediately picked up that there was soy in the product and even though his clients will not buy a Russian if it is not pure meat, he personally gave us a thumbs up for both Jess and my formulations!

– Braai and Pan-Fried Evaluation

For the braai and pan-fried evaluation, we visited PB Juicy (Pty) Ltd. in Maitland, Cape Town where their amazing staff not only fried our Russians up but also assisted us in the evaluation.

– Loads of Fun and Valuable Insights

It was a huge success. Even though Jan’s recipe did not firm up as well as Eben and Jess’s recipes, we again learned bucket loads from the evaluation of all 3 Russians. Jan showed how well his formulation would work with luncheon meats and polony! Despite small differences, both the Jess and Eben formulation worked very well and I extend a hearty congratulations to Jess, my partner-in-crime for an excellent creation and to Jan for boldly going where we have not gone before! In the end, we proved the use of our new set of ingredients to reduce the production cost of Russians while maintaining a high-quality product!

Ode to the Russian Sausage

We finally come to the purpose of this post namely to celebrate the Russian! Having spent so much time with this sausage over so many months, it is only fitting to write a poem for it! 🙂 I believe all worthy endeavours in life should bring us to this point!

The Russian! What a universal delight!
Melting the refined with boldness; the smooth with firmness
Scraps of meat from its place of birth.;
Hunger-buster in deep-Johannesburg earth!

Chopping and grinding and micro-cutting!
Meat chunks and eastern legumes combining! 
Morsels of power from the butcher’s block
Satisfying nutrition in this hard land, it unlocks!

Filling in clean casings and to the oven, it goes!
Drying and smoking and drying and smoking! To cooking! 
Not sweating! Look, it’s firming out!
In the artisan’s hand is predetermined luck!

Invented by Russians of Jewish descent!
In its new African home, it is profitable appeasement! 
Salt and vinegar from the enemies table,
Russian and chips! Feuds and animosity it disable!

Well, maybe I should continue to focus on making the product and not trying to write poetry! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I am not the only one who gets lyrical when it comes to Russians. Kobus Botes, a South African friend, living in Australia sent me this recollection after reading this post.

“I remember in the mid-to-late ’60s in Vryburg, when I was walking past the local Greek café, I bought a russian and chips to treat myself occasionally. The russian was given slits to prevent it from bursting and was deep fried with the chips and it was also given salt and vinegar together with the chips. The texture and flavour is something that is still burned into my memory. The bite started off with the oily, vinagary and salty taste, then suddenly the skin burst under the pressure of the bite. Next is a flavour and texture sensation of garlic, meat, salt, fat with a vinegar undertone. The texture was firm, with large pieces of pork fat and other large pieces of meat with a darker colour. I suspect both beef (larger pieces) and pork (finer texture) was used. Over the years I have stopped buying processed sausages at all because they all became to have a similar texture and taste. Everything is becoming like polony with modern chemicals and emulsifiers being added. Nowadays, I mostly buy imported processed meat from Italy or I make it myself. All I need is to find the authentic recipe of the russians from my childhood.”

Another South African friend from Australia, Justin (Dave) Dwyer, writes, “this certainly brings back memories of being an apprentice in the late eighties early nineties at Zululand Baconry if I had a half-cent for every Russian made I would be a very rich man. Texture is key emulsion with showpieces was the trend, then upgrading to MDM from pork skin emulsion Wow never thought I would even use those words again living in Australia, thanks for the interesting article and memories!”

A fully functional Food Science Team was created comprising of Dr Jess Goble, Marco, Helena and me to give greater impetus to these developments. Helena, Jess and myself are featured in the photo to the left at a hotel in Johannesburg where we did a product evaluation.

The team is, in reality, much wider! It also included meat professionals around the country who continue to give us advice and direction to our efforts. The feat of finally producing a sausage with a combination of old school technology and new innovations was achieved through the collective participation of every person who worked with us from around the country and includes the staff of Van Wyngaardt, Etlin’s processing facility in Durban, PB Jucy, Roy Oliver and input we received from as far afield as Nigeria. A small number of these people are in the photos below. I even include my cousin, Marius Kok who introduced me to Hungarians from Zambia.

The Next Frontier

What we achieved over the last 18 months is only the beginning. There is still tonnes to learn! I feel like a child who has only been playing and the real discoveries and creations all lay in the future!

Some of the points on our agenda for the immediate future are:

  • Raw materials must be refined;
  • The taste profile must be further developed;
  • The latest innovations in ingredient technology such as modified starches, fibres, soy technology, preservation technology, etc. must be investigated and the best new sets of ingredients must be incorporated into our products and processes.
  • The experience we gained must be packaged and made available to the meat processing industry at large.
  • The role and importance of frozen meat ingredients and temperature control during processing must be elucidated and incorporated.

We are only beginning but on this Easter weekend, it is right to pause a bit and celebrate how far we have come with this project. Sincere thanks to Etienne Lotter who allows us to do this work, to my teammates both near and far, to customers who are always willing to try new ideas – a heartfelt “Thank You!”

Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian

Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian
Eben van Tonder
November 2020


I have long tried to reconstruct the history of the South African sausage delicacy called a Russian. Due to a complete lack of information, I never did. Earlier this month I decided to give it another go as an introduction to a groundbreaking article by Dr RA LaBudde on fine emulsion sausages. (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint) I posted a short essay on social media and immediately started receiving high-quality input.

The Russian Connection

The first clue I had to work with is the name – a Russian. Clearly referring to a Russian origin. In its composition, it is similar to the Russian Kolbasa. The Russian word kolbasa, as well as its variations in the Slavic languages (for, example kielbasa in Polish), originated in what is now Turkey. It literally means “pressed by the hand.” (Though some researchers stick to the Hebrew origin of the word – the word combination kol basar used to mean “all flesh”).” (Russiapedia)

There are several options for its introduction to South Africa and in the final analysis, it was probably a gradual introduction over many generations. There are also other very plausible contenders for the original sausage which I prefer to relate back to the Russian kolbasa. Other contenders are the Slovenian kransky or the Polish kielbasa. The same basic sausage had many names in many countries, but I prefer the straight-line connection between its name and the closest Russian contender.

Early Russian Imigrants

In terms of who the Russians were who brought it to our shores, if we take the original sausage as being kolbasa, it could have been introduced by very early Russian immigrants but since they were mostly Russian Jews, and since the product in South Africa contains pork, I was sceptical.

From the earliest history of Johannesburg, there was a large Russian community who dominated the grocery trade. Cripps (2012) quotes a 1905 complaint from the Commercial and Industrial Transvaal which read: “Perhaps in no branch has the keen edge of competition reduced the retailers’ margin of profit to such a minimum as in the grocery line. This is due in a great measure to the number of Celestials, Greeks and Russians who have got a hold of the Transvaal trade, and whose nominal expenses and cost of living enable them to curtail the ordinary profits.”

Cripps (2012) writes that “the 1896 Census showed a total of 102,078 inhabitants in Johannesburg… Of these 50,907 were Europeans or whites, 952 Malays, 11 4,807 Asiatics, 12 2,879 mixed or other races, and 42,533 ‘natives.” Of the 24,489 whites who had been born in Europe, 12,389 were from England and Wales, 3,335 “ Russia, 2,879 “ Scotland, 2,262 “ Germany, 997 “ Ireland, 819 “ Holland, 402 “ France, 311 “ Sweden & Norway, 206 “ Italy, 139 “ Switzerland and 750 Others. (Cripps, 2012) Apart from a direct reference to their involvement in dominating the grocery trade, it also means that Russians were the seconds largest group of white foreigners in Johannesburg. These immigrants were, however, also mostly Jewish which again diminish their role in establishing the Russian sausage if we relate the sausage back to the Russian kolbasa and if we assume that it contained pork as is almost always the case today.

Cripps (2012) shows how each nationality was eager to develop and sell their traditional food and even though she does not mention Russians (the sausage), one can be certain that Russian immigrants sold their sausages, kolbasa or another variety, to the general public.

I was still looking for a non-Jewish Russian connection to make the reference to Kolbasa stick (and I assumed the old recipes would have contained pork, as is the case today). My next option was Russians who participated in the Anglo-Boer War.

There was a sizable Russian contingent who fought on the side of the Boers. Leaving the exact definition of who these Russians would have been aside for a moment, one wonders where they got the equipment to produce it but at that time, people were capable of producing complex meat formulations in their kitchen before breakfast (as is still the case in rural households across Russia, East and Central Europe). Several prominent ethnic Russians joined the Russian effort and it is very likely that the sausage could have been produced for them during the campaign by fellow Russians.

Davidson and Filatova, in their book, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, mentions several such high ranking Russian aristocrats and leaders who participated in the war. One such person was the Georgian Prince Nikolai Bagration, a descendant of the Marshal Bagration who had fought against Napoleon, who was a well-connected aristocrat who once represented Georgia at the Tsar’s coronation. He was nicknamed, Niko the Boer.  Others were people like Prince Mikhail Yengalychev, Ivan Zabolotny and Alexander Essen. “Zabolotny became a leader of the Trudoviks and a member of the First Duma. Essen was already a member of the Social Democrats when he arrived in Pretoria and was to play an active role in the 1905 Revolution – his underground alias was ‘the Boer’. He went on to become a leading Bolshevik and in the Twenties was appointed deputy chairman of the Russian State Planning Committee.” (quoted from an online review of Davidson and Filatova)

A few hundred Russian volunteers participated and it is likely that they prepared Kolbasa for the Russian men of note and possibly for their own consumption and even for Boer commandos whom they fought alongside. In further support of the possibility that they produced in during the campaign, there is photographic evidence of meat grinders being available and used in the field by the British and therefore possibly the Russians also (see under “Meat of War” in The Boers (Our Lives and Wars)). If the Russians shared their kolbasa with the Boers, it would have cemented the reputation of the Russian sausage and would have endured it to the Boers.

Hans de Kramer, however, correctly pointed out that “very few of the 200 or so Russians who fought with the Boers in the ABW came directly from Russia. They were Jewish rather than ethnic Russians who had come to the ZAR by the thousands since the middle of the 1890s. In the Boer War the neutral Russians (they were mainly neutral but about 3000 joined the British army) suffered with the Boers during the British scorched earth phase because many of their shops were on farmland owned by Boers and their shops were burned down because they were suspected of supplying the Boers during the guerilla phase. After the war the Russian Jewish shopkeepers claimed compensation from the British for burning down their shops, saying that they did not supply the Boers but that the Boers just arrived at their shops and commandeered food and other goods which they supplied out of fear. They described themselves as general dealers and storekeepers who were dairymen, BUTCHERS, tailors, hawkers, booksellers, a blacksmith, a printer, a hairdresser and a handful of farmers.”

Could the Original Sausage have been Kishka?

It is clear that there was not enough ethnic Russians in South Africa for the original sausage to have been Kalbasa (assuming that Kalbasa always contained pork). If the original sausage was Kishka and not Kilbasa, everything would fit because we know that kishka is a well known Jewish sausage, containing offal.

As I thought about this, I realise that such a strict definition is not necessary. For starters, there is a strong tie between a Kalbasa and a Jewish origin as we saw from the origins of the word. “Some researchers stick to the Hebrew origin of the word – the word combination kol basar used to mean “all flesh”) (Russiapedia) There are historic records of Kosher butchers making Kalbasa.

The Russian is not just like the Kolbasa, but also other Central and East European sausages. The Australian, Vic Nicholas, with his strong South African ties, pointed out that the South African Russian is very similar to the Slovenian Kransky (Krainer in German). East European and Russian peoples all made a similar, very basic sausage referred to by various names. A similar sausage is found in Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia’s neighbour, Croatia who probably took their version of the same basic sausage to Australia where it is called a Kransky. Different peoples, therefore, made a similar sausage and called it by different names and it would be natural for the Jewish butchers to have done the same and simply omitted the non Kosher components such as the blood and pork.

Kishka or kishke connection is still intriguing to me. For starters, I know that Russians are very similar to polony in terms of its ingredients and polony definitely included offal in its initial recipe (The Origins of Polony). The second fascinating fact is that Kishke is a sausage stuffed with intestines and made from a combination of meat and grain. The fact that it contained grain, often soy, makes Kishka very similar to a South African Russian than most people may realise, as it very often (mostly) contains a combination of meat and soy. If this was the case when Russian Jews introduced it to South Africa, I do not know, but that it certainly contains both meat and grain or legumes today is certain. Even if it did contain legumes early on in South Africa, the fact that it does so today has more to do with the economic imperative to make expensive meat affordable than any historical reasons.

Jewish-Russian Immigrants and Kishke/ Kalbasa

Even though I could not find any reference of the Russian sausage and its consumption during the Anglo Boer war or on the mines in the Transvaal, Hans de Kramer says that he “seen a source stating that the Boers developed a taste for Russian sausages through obtaining them from the Jewish Russians during the ABWII.” Most interestingly, he also states that “Russian sausages were popular in Johannesburg amongst the very cosmopolitan mining community since a decade before ABWII.” I have learned to trust statements like these on cultural matters where there would be no reason one way or the other to embellish and I take Hans completely at his word. This is, after all, the nature of recording tradition.

The suggestion that I made earlier that ordinary Russian soldiers fighting on the side of the Boers probably made Kolbasa, albeit that being kosher, for the ethnic Russians of note who participated in the war is very likely, as is the possibility for them to have consumed it themselves and to have shared it with the burgers who fought with them. Still, with the Russian corps never being very large during the war, how big an impact could have been possible?

Reaching Far and Wide

Not just the Russians, but the people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe (such as Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenians) specialised in it and it was the Russians and East Europeans who brought this technology to America following World War One. There are records in Russia of even kolbasa being produced with fillers and extenders due to meat shortages in Russia (Russiaperia).

People from the Russian steppe and surrounding regions pioneered the use of meat extenders and supplements as emulsifiers and fillers which probably developed from their millennia-old soup technology. Fine emulsion sausages became important in America, after the war during severe meat shortages. In central Africa, the same sausage sold in South Africa as a Russian is called a Hungarian after the people who brought them the technology. They produce it minus the showpieces, but omitting these may be a later adaptation.

In Sausage Making – It is best not to be too Dogmatic

It is the Russian Mater Butcher and acclaimed chef, Petr Pakhomov, who taught me not to be too dogmatic when it comes to sausage recipes. These terms we would like to give very specific definitions to like Kolbasa, were often used as generic terms referring to a certain class of sausage. Different regions and countries used their own creativity to give their own interpretation of the sausage and used as ingredients, whatever was available and allowed in their community to be used. Petr is a great example of a man who continues to re-interpret tradition by coming up with new and creative ideas all the time. (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)


It is probable that the popularizing of the South African sausage called a Russian was a gradual process that started when the first Jewish-Russian immigrants arrived at the Cape of Good Hope; made an appearance during the ABW and probably gained its greatest following on the South African goldfields.

The original sausage in South Africa, introduced by Russian immigrants, almost exclusively Jewish, could even back then have been made with soy and other gains included as was the tradition at some point in history. It certainly is the case today. The most widely used recipe in South Africa today contains almost exclusively chicken, beef or pork trim, some soy and a bit of starch, filled into either a hog casing or into a sheep or beef casing if religious rules preclude the use of pork. Some butchers may add some cooked pork rind to give flavour and body. It is always cooked by the butcher to at least 69 deg C and most butchers smoke it. In recent years, some butchers have opted for beef collagen casings but this remains challenging when you deep fry the Russian as is often done.

Further Reading

Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint


Cripps, E. A. 2012. Provisioning Johannesburg, 1886 – 1906. Unisa,originally%20made%20of%20animal%20intestines.&text=The%20Russian%20word%20kolbasa%20as,in%20what%20is%20now%20Turkey

Davidson and Filatova, in their book, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. Also, see the online review of Davidson and Filatova.

Mavor, J. 1914. An Economic History of Russia.

Mendelsohn, R. 2019. Uprooted and uncompensated: the mistreatment of ‘Russian’ Jews by Perfidious Albion during and after the Anglo-Boer war

Russia’s Footprint on Africa