What The Heck Is In Bologna, Anyway?

Happy National Bologna Day, everyone!

We wanted to do a little demystification on one of America's favorite lunch meats. What is bologna, anyway? As we took to Google to decipher exactly what you wanted to know most about bologna, we realized that you had some fairly normal questions and also some... rather... irregular ones.


All totally reasonable.


Wait, cats? Dogs? Are that many of you considering sharing your bologna sandwiches with your pets?

bologna cake

Sorry. Did you say cake? We tried to get to the bottom of these. Without further ado, your five most burning bologna questions answered.

Where Does Bologna Come From?
Bologna comes from Bologna -- Italy, that is. Although if you ask for bologna there, no one will know what you are talking about. What you'll end up with is mortadella, the Italian godfather of American "baloney." Mortadella is a thick Italian sausage, flecked with bits of fat, peppercorns and sometimes pistachios. Mortadella is to bologna as fresh, roasted turkey on Thanksgiving is to sliced turkey lunchmeat.
Why Doesn't American Bologna Look Like Mortadella?
For bologna made and commercially sold in the US, like hot dogs which are lumped into the same category, the USDA says the product must be comminuted (or reduced to minute particles). That means you can't be able to recognize any flecks of lard, spices, etc. in your bologna, and it must be uniform. That's right, meat paste.
What's In Bologna?
Usually pork, sometimes beef, sometimes both. Bologna is a sausage, so it starts as a blend of meat, fat, salt and spices, which are then stuffed into a casing and smoked. Companies that produce bologna tend be very cagey about their ingredient list, since the "trimmings" that go into it occasionally come from parts of the animal that make people want to faint. They are also protective of their particular blend of spices (which are conveniently allowed to just be listed as "spices" on nutrition labels).

Most mortadella and bologna are seasoned with some blend of the following: black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, allspice, celery seed and coriander. If you just thought to yourself, "oh, pickling spices," you'd be exactly right. Except for the myrtle berry which is the wildcard that gives bologna that recognizable je ne sais quoi.

If you don't believe me, go get yourself a bottle of Mirto, a traditional Sardinian digestif made from myrtle berries and tell me it doesn't kind of taste like bologna.
Is Bologna Healthy?
Well, no. It is as healthy for you as any sausage, which is blend of animal fat and meat with salt, spices and preservative agents. I am sorry to report that one of the best ways to eat bologna happens to be fried, which I'd actually endorse at least once. Go big or go home, right?

It does appear that most commercial bologna is gluten-free, if you're into that kind of thing. I'm not sure why it wouldn't be, but a lot of you seemed to want to know. I WOULD endorse using bologna as a substitute for gluten-free bread, however.
What Is Bologna Cake?
Um, this is bologna cake. What are you guys even doing over there?

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