W hen someone says, “Famous Pennsylvania foods;” what comes to mind? Most can come up with a list that includes the hoagie, Birch beer, Hershey’s Chocolate, Scrapple, Shoofly pie, cream cheese, and soft pretzels. One thing commonly left off the list, however, is a famous sausage and lunchmeat that originated in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania—Lebanon Bologna. Satisfying consumers for over 100 years, this bologna can be found in an assortment of savory flavors ranging from tangy to sweet. According to Stephanie Shapiro of The Baltimore Sun, this “cold cut remains a staple across a wide swath of the state and in areas around the country.”
Crafted and made famous by the Pennsylvania Dutch, the process of making Lebanon Bologna is unique. Although many methods of processing have been modernized by machines, some Old-World butchering, curing, and sausage-making skills from the Pennsylvania tradition are still used today. Ron Fouche, Director of Community and Government Relations and Quality Control for Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats believes that the Lebanon Bologna process began over 100 years ago when farmers had old cows that they could not use for milk anymore. Farmers would take the skeletal meat (or meat off the bone) and salt it (to break it down) to create a lean product to use for bologna. Although Old-World butchering has been modified since the first days of Lebanon Bologna, we find that companies today still produce the signature bologna in similar ways.
The beef is ground, mixed with spices and sugar, and then sent to a meat processing plant. In large bins, the meat is stored in refrigerated areas and separated by the type of bologna it will become. When ready for processing, the meat from the bins is dumped into a rotating machine that finely grinds and softens the beef and pushes it through a metal tube. The tube separates the meat as either edible or inedible and detects for metal. The edible meat is then sent through a tube and pushed into individual, perforated muslin casings. After the meat is in the casings, it is put in to yet another netted material required for smoking. The un-smoked bologna is then taken to a smokehouse. Each bologna is hung by the netting in the ceiling portion of the smokehouse. Once the smokehouse is filled, the door is shut and the hanging bolognas are ready to be smoked.