Evergreen, a 20-square-mile South Alabama town with a population of 3,591, according to the 2020 U.S. census, may not have the history of Birmingham and Selma, Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, or the SEC splendor of Tuscaloosa and Auburn, but it does have a statue of a giant pig enthroned on a lawn chair armed with a grilling fork. He sits outside the Conecuh Sausage plant, home to hickory-smoked links that inspire unparalleled devotion.
Henry Sessions started the company, originally called Sessions Quick Freeze, as a meat-processing facility and cold storage locker in Evergreen 75 years ago. A few years later, he started processing and packing meats, and quickly became known for his hickory-smoked sausages. The company pivoted from storage to production, changed its name to Conecuh (pronounced “cuh-neck-uh”) Sausage in 1986, and relocated to its current spot right off I-65’s Evergreen exit, about halfway between Montgomery and Mobile. It eventually accrued a massive gift shop that pulls in tourists on their way to and from Alabama’s Gulf Shores or the Florida Panhandle, who sit on the porch with a Conecuh dog in hand, pose for obligatory photos beside the mascot pig, pick up Yeti coolers packed with sausages, and peruse porcine Christmas ornaments. Every October, Evergreen hosts a sausage festival complete with rodeos, a car show (because every festival in Alabama has a car show), and more than 100 vendors.
Even when they’re not on their way to Florida or visiting a South Alabama sausage festival, locals love Conecuh too — and during football season, it’s their meat of choice. On Saturdays, the autumn air is thick with the aroma of grilled sausage emanating from backyards, living rooms, and stadium parking lots. Tailgating is an intimate, almost sacred affair in the Yellowhammer State — especially when Bama and Auburn are playing — and the brand has played up their association, becoming the official smoked sausage and hot dog of the Crimson Tide, the Tigers, and even the Florida Gators.
The Deep South doesn’t play around when it comes to pork. In a region where plenty of anthropomorphic pigs beckon passersby to sit down and enjoy a pulled-pork sandwich or plate of smoky ribs, Conecuh sausage stands above the rest.
What makes Conecuh sausage so good?
The company uses a secret blend of seasonings, and the Sessions family, which still owns the brand, has kept the recipe the same since Henry conceived it. Conecuh sausage’s strength lies in its subtlety. Its flavor is mild and balanced, with flecks of red pepper to add buzz without overwhelming the palate. To many Southerners, it tastes like home, and done right, it can easily enhance a dish without throwing its flavors askew.
David Webb, a self-described Conecuh Sausage ambassador and founder of fan group Conecuh Life, has been cooking with the brand for 40 years and keeps 400 packs of Conecuh sausage in his fridge “at all times.” He first tasted it when his father, a retired Coast Guard officer, brought home a few pounds from the Coast Guard commissary in Mobile, back when the brand wasn’t such a sensation. “Every time we had family and friends over, we were grilling that stuff up and every time someone had it it was just like, ‘Wow, this is some really good stuff,’” he says. Webb estimates he’s converted thousands of people over the span of four decades. “[It’s exciting because] I know what they’re going to say before they even put it in their mouth,” he adds. “Every single time their eyes look like they’re going to pop out of their head.”
While the ingredients are important, Conecuh sausage’s defining factor is its hickory smoke. “I’m sure [the hickory] is probably locally grown there in Evergreen, but it’s the process of getting that smoke into the sausages” that distinguishes the brand, Webb says. “I guess it would be equivalent, you know, to have an old hickory smokehouse on the farm. And they put that farm flavor all over their sausage.”
How to eat it
Conecuh currently makes six varieties of sausage, as well as bacon, hams, franks, seasoning blends, and even turkeys (Webb approves of all the sausage flavors). Fans chop the sausage into pieces that add a flavor boost to gumbo, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and collards, or simply slap them on the grill and stick them into hot dog buns. In online groups like the Conecuh Sausage Fan Club and Conecuh Life, acolytes trade original recipes, incorporating the sausages into cinnamon roll pigs in a blanket, grinding links into burgers, adding them to spaghetti or fried rice, and even creating a sausage-forward take on a shrimp boil called a Conecuh Sausage Throw Down.
“I’ve found it’s best to let the flavor of the sausage dominate whatever I’m making,” says Conecuh Sausage Fan Club member Ed Williamson, who first encountered the brand at a South Alabama hunting camp in 1967 and has developed his own recipes over the years to share with other enthusiasts. For many members, Conecuh is the only sausage allowed in their homes, so they’ll inevitably swap it in for andouille, kielbasa, or chorizo in just about any recipe.
Where to get it
Conecuh sausage is available at regional and national retailers like Publix and Amazon. On many fan groups, you’ll find discussions about where to buy it outside the South and shoutouts to restaurants that feature Conecuh on their menus.
Note: Like many items in the post-2020 world, Conecuh is facing supply chain issues. Many restaurants have had to work with substitutes, so verify with the staff when you encounter Conecuh in the wild.
Conecuh Sausage Gift Shop
Although Conecuh sausage is carried in major supermarkets, you’ll find the best variety (and elusive flavors like cracked black pepper) straight from the source. In addition to offering samples, they also hawk fresh Conecuh dogs as well as rotating specials like cheesesteaks and mac and cheese.
200 Industrial Park, Evergreen, AL, 36401
Satsuma Chevron BBQ
The Chevron station in Mobile County’s Satsuma is home to breakfast gumbo, a combination of grits, scrambled eggs, bacon, Conecuh sausage, and sliced green onions, topped with a splash of hot sauce. Hundreds of people stand in line daily for the inexpensive breakfast bowl.
6105 Highway 43, Satsuma, AL, 36572
Milo’s, an Alabama-only fast-food chain, is best known for its hamburgers and sweet tea (sold by the bottle and gallon at grocery stores and gas stations in the South). Pull up to the drive-thru in time for breakfast for your choice of Conecuh biscuits, sandwiches, burritos, and protein plates.
Located throughout Alabama
Located along Mobile Bay, breakfast and brunch spot Rise offers the breakfast of Southern champions. Their famous ‘Bama Bowl piles scrambled eggs, mixed cheese, and Conecuh sausage atop a bed of biscuits and gravy. For something a little more structured, try the ‘Bama Benny, which is composed of poached eggs, Conecuh sausage, and hollandaise served on a biscuit.
10198 U.S. Highway 31, Spanish Fort, AL, 36527