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Sheftalia is a type of Cypriot sausage, meaning a sausage originating in Cyprus. It is considered a crepinette, or skinless sausage, because it does not use traditional pork casings. Instead, sheftalia is wrapped in caul fat — sometimes called lace fat — the fatty stomach membrane of pigs. Though is it rarely seen elsewhere, sheftalia is commonly found in restaurants in Cyprus, served on pita bread.
Ground pork, usually shoulder, is always included in sheftalia. Ground lamb or beef may also be combined with the pork. Pork fat back may be added for additional flavoring as well.
Although caul fat is easily found frozen in Cyprus grocery stores, it is not usually stocked in most European or American groceries. Butchers should be able to order it if requested, however. Lamb suet, a fat commonly found around the kidneys, may also be used in place of caul fat.
Onions, parsley, and mint are usually included in sheftalia. Garlic and lemon juice may be included as well. Cinnamon, salt, and pepper are normally the only spices used to season the dish, though some versions may omit the cinnamon. Bread crumbs, either pre-made or handmade from fresh bread, may also be added.
To make sheftalia, the meat, vegetables, herbs, and seasonings are mixed together. The mixture is then chilled for half an hour to combine the flavors. Meanwhile, the caul fat is gently unraveled and cut into small squares. This thin membrane is extremely fragile, so care must be taken while handling. The fat may be soaked in lemon juice and then rinsed before use, but most versions do not soak the caul fat first.
Once chilled, the meat mixture is shaped into small ovals, approximately the size of large meatballs. Each oval is placed on a piece of cut fat and then wrapped tightly. Some versions chill the completed sheftalia for several hours before cooking. The sausages may also be frozen for as long as four months.
To cook sheftalia, the small sausages are skewered, usually on a double skewer to prevent them rolling. Then, they are grilled, normally over charcoal, until they are brown. The fat in the wrappings melts away in the heat, adding flavor to the meat inside.
Sheftalia is traditionally served with Greek salad or fries. It may also be served on pitas with onions, tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers. These sausages are suitable as part of a main course or an appetizer and may be garnished with chopped parsley and fresh lemon juice.
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