A journalist sometimes is at risk of unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings, so today I’m going to be at the mercy of sausagemakers and meatcutters. I’m going to outline my experiences with sausage. I don’t make sausage but I’ve tasted just about every kind there is available to consumers at the local markets.

Sheboygan Sausage and Cher-Make, the latter based in Manitowoc, are my regular favorites. Cher-Make also produces the Smoky Valley brand. My mother, who grew up on a nice family farm in Manitowoc, would be proud of my loyalty to the Cher-Make brands. Come to find out, Cher-Make Sausage Co. was founded by Emil Chermak who sprouted it from a small butcher shop in 1928.

Wisconsin is one of the largest meat-producing states in the country because of the dairy industry and the heritage of German sausage makers who migrated to the state. Cher-Make and its array of special brands are sold at supermarkets across Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula and northern Illinois, according to a 2010 newspaper story. Its products are popular at sports venues.

In the 1980s, Cher-Make brands were sold at old County Stadium and MECCA in Milwaukee, and at Lambeau Field, providing a lot of exposure to sports fans.

I won’t pretend I’m schooled enough to identify all of the sausage brands on the market in this area, but I know the differences between kielbasa and andouille, belonga and mortadella and that Lapcheong is some kind of Chinese sausage. I once thought sausage came only in links but a favorite butcher of mine explained that sausages have various labels. Wieners, for example, can be classified as a sausage and have various aliases like frankfurters and hot dogs. Bologna and ring bologna, my friend explained, are a part of the same group.

My dad, who had some experience working as a cook at a lumber camp in the 1920s, knew how to cook up a meal without getting fancy. One of his favorites was blood sausage. It looked awful when he was preparing it on our old wood-burning stove at home. One day he beguiled me into tasting his recipe. Although it never made my list of favorites, it wasn’t a bad taste.

A summer sausage sandwich was always a treat in our pails when attending Epiphany Grade School, a building that once was sited on the north side of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. The two-compartment lunch pails usually included a sandwich or two and a piece of fruit. The top tray was for a piece of homemade pie or cake.

The present-day school lunch programs were not a part of our culture back then and the old reliable brown bag-cold lunch routine got us through eight years of grade school.

We ate Polish sausage at home long before I learned it also was called kielbasa. When my wife and I visited the Detroit area in later years we truly tasted the best kielbasa. We had family ties to the delightful community of Hamtramck, which borders Detroit, and one of our stops was a place called Kowalski’s. Kowalski’s produced the best kielbasa I ever consumed. Customers endured long lines at the meat counters in the family-run Kowalski markets to order their choices of Polish favorites.

When I attended my first National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame banquet at the Polish Century Club in Detroit in 1990 when Pete Banaszek, the Crivitz legend, was inducted into the HOF along with major league baseball pitcher Phil Niekro and world figure skating champion Janet Lynn, I found kielbasa and sauerkraut to be on the menu. The kielbasa and other Polish sausages were featured at other Polish HOF banquets I had the privilege to attend.

Bratwurst, the German sausage made from pork, is one of the preferred meats at picnics, sporting events and other social outings.

I remember being introduced to potato sausage at one of my high school friend’s house. My friend’s mother explained the ingredients in making the sausage to the hesitant guests and then we went to the taste test. The Swedish recipe was a keeper. I’ve been enjoying potato sausage ever since.

The list of different makes of sausage is lengthy. People have different likes and dislikes. The Germans, Polish, Italians and other ethnic groups have their own preferred recipes. We don’t see the old Mom and Pop sausagemakers like in yesteryear because competition keeps spiraling with the supermarkets and the super-sausagemakers.

A recent newspaper article detailed how sausage is being recognized as a hand-crafted, gourmet product. People are eager for spicier flavors and new products. There’s one Wisconsin sausage manufacturer that cranks out more than 90 different types of sausage, including six different brands of blood sausage.

Besides the various brands of natural-casing sausages and summer sausages, there’s natural-casing wieners, bratwurst, smoked sausage, Polish sausage, cocktail links, skinless wieners, ring bologna and shelf-table summer sausages.

Another brand tough to ignore is homemade venison sausage that’s popular during deer season. A lot of hunters tap the meatcutters at the small rural grocery stores to prepare their venison sausage. There’s nothing better than an evening snack of venison sausage and beer.

It’s easy to see why sausage — any brand — is such a big seller in meat departments across America, and having a sausage product at a ball park adds to the flavor of the game.

Some communities celebrate “sausage days” with a parade, polka music and concession stands featuring the many different brands of tasty meat. 

And how many grownups remember when they were kids and they cheered the famous Racing Sausages at home games of the Milwaukee Brewers? 

You can see why sausage has more flair to its identity than its label reveals. It also has tradition.