(CNN) — The sausage -- it's nothing more than minced meat slipped into a cylindrical skin, perfect for breakfasts, barbecues or snacking at a sporting event.
Or is it?
Across Europe, one hears tales of the dark side of the sausage: under-the-counter items talked of in whispers.
These are the sausages no one speaks of in polite society.
Sausages that could strike fear, as well as saturated fat, into the heart of even the hardiest hog fan.
Europe has more than its fair share of sausages that time forgot.
Here are some of the best or, depending on your attitude toward offal, worst.
Andouillette de Troyes
A traditional French sausage lovingly made from strips of swine intestine rolled-up and wrapped in the pig's colon -- known in the food trade as chitterlings -- the andouillette has an easily identifiable aroma of decay.
The sausage is a specialty of the Champagne Ardenne region and yes, there is a certain irony in the world's glitziest wine being combined with the world's least-glamorous sausage.
Legend has it that the andouillette can trace its origins to the Middle Ages, and it certainly smells like it.
The andouillette should be made by hand so, like snowflakes, no two are the same.
Also like snowflakes, they can be eaten cold, but hot is preferred to get the full effect of the smell.
Snag it: Charcuterie Marc Colin, 3 Place General de Gaulle, Chablis, France; +33 386 42 10 62
Scotland's top chefs may try to pass it off as haute cuisine, but there's no escaping the fact that the country's most famous dish -- haggis -- is just a big sausage, albeit one filled with mutton rather than pork.
To make it, sheep heart, lungs and liver are all blended together with oatmeal and packaged up in a sheep's stomach to be slowly simmered into submission.
Onion and spices give it a bit of a kick and it's often served in combination with "neeps and tatties" -- mashed swedes and potatoes.
It's not every sausage that gets celebrated in verse.
Scottish national poet Robert Burns hailed the haggis as "great chieftain o the puddin'-race."
Other sausages should take note.
This delicacy from Devon and Cornwall in southwest England takes something porkers have in abundance -- fat -- and makes an entire meal out of it.
Hog fat blended with oatmeal, suet and barley is somewhat on the bland side, but the addition of handfuls of cumin and garlic means there is some flavor.
Not scary enough? Wait until it's time to cook.
This grease beast spits like a camel and cooks will need to dress like firefighters to stay safe when frying -- or risk the whole thing exploding in the oven if baked.
With more than 1,500 varieties, no one could accuse Germany of shirking its sausage duties.
Inevitably some of these are "acquired tastes."
Among them is a form of "head cheese" known as Zungenwurst, or blood tongue.
Head cheese has nothing to do with milk, but is a terrine made from anything north of an animal's neck -- in this case the pickled tongue of a pig or cow.
Zungenwurst is, in fact, a mix of blood, tongue, bread crumbs and oatmeal.
The brown-black sausage is cured so it can be eaten cold but is usually sliced and then fried in a little butter.
Snag it: Straight from the farm. Hofmetzgerei in the Bavarian village of Geiersthal slaughters the animals and makes the sausage on the spot; +49 9923 2240
The "botifarra" variety of this Portuguese sausage uses parts of the pig lesser sausages leave behind.
Ears, snout, the head itself -- nothing is wasted.
They are prepared and cooked in the home during pig-slaughtering season -- yes there's a pig slaughtering season -- from December to February.
The Azaruja botifarra is a local adaptation of a sausage hauled into the region by Catalans in the 19th century.
Snag it: Carnes Assuda butchers, Rua Revendedora, Evora, Portugal; +351 266 703 177
Morcilla de Burgos
Watched "Twilight" and thought, "yes, I see the attraction?"
There's a sausage for that.
Blood sausage comes in many forms throughout Europe.
This northern Spanish version blends pig's blood with rice and seasoning such as oregano, salt, pepper and paprika.
Lard binds it and onion bulks it out and, if you're lucky, it'll be served in cow tripe skin.
After boiling, it is usually eaten in thin fried slices. It's characteristically brown, rather than black.
What could make blood sausage more -- or, indeed, less -- appealing?
How about sugar?
Danish blodpolse includes the red stuff, but also milk, sugar, raisins and cardamon, all lovingly bound together with suet.
This sweetened version isn't aimed at fooling kids into eating offal.
In fact, there is an interesting historical reason for the invention of sweet blood pudding -- in the past sugar was not merely a sweetener, but a flavor enhancer, so by including sugar you could really enjoy the blood.
Blodpolse is usually dished up with stewed apples, butter cinnamon and syrup.
It's like all the courses of a meal in a single skin.
Who could resist?
Snag it: Buy online from Danish retailer Grisogko; +45 7452 36 24 Or, if you speak Danish, want to make your own and have a very strong stomach, there's a video showing you how: http://bit.ly/1z6W4AF