Simon Majumdar finds out which sausages are the best in Britain!
The craving for a decent sausage is, I am told, one of the main reasons so many of our vegetarian friends return to the meat eating fold.
One can hardly blame them. Cheap versions using fillers and poor quality meat may have earned them a deservedly bad reputation over the years, but when made well with great ingredients, there can be few better things to eat than the great British sausage.
I can certainly testify that, now I spend so much of my time travelling around the world, a dozen pure pork sausages are the first things in my shopping basket when I return home.
Sausages have been part of man’s diet almost from the time when he first started farming and butchering animals. They were a perfect way of using the residual scraps of meat, blood and intestines of the slaughtered animal after the prime cuts had been removed.
There are records of sausages being made as far back as 3000BC in the diet of the ancient Sumerians, who were amongst the first to cultivate crops and farm animals. But, they can also be found in the culinary history of China, Ancient Greece and Roman civilisations.
It was the Romans who many people believe first brought cased meat making skills to Britain in the form of the Botellus, a sausage filled with meat, nuts and boiled eggs. This was not only the ancient relative of the sausages we know today, but also gave British cuisine the haggis, blood sausage and the word “pudding”.
The British sausage went through a bit of a bad patch after The First World War. Good ingredients were replaced with poor quality meat and rusk fillers, which resulted in sausages that would often burst while cooking in the pan resulting in the nickname “bangers”.
Nowadays, however, the Great British Sausage is very much on the up and up. Gourmet versions are beginning to appear on menus of fine dining establishments and even the humble supermarket sausage can be depended upon not to explode all over the kitchen walls.
Although, I am a particular fan of the pure pork variety, sausages are now available in myriad varieties using an astonishing range of ingredients. Below are my own top five fine practitioners of the sausage maker’s art.
1) O’ Hagan’s Sausages - Chichester
Bill O’Hagan is arguably the man responsible for restoring the much maligned sausage to its rightful place in British cuisine. He has moved his famous shop, previously in Greenwich, to the quieter climes of Chichester where it can now be found sharing space with a pub. Despite the unlikely setting, the sausages are still top of the tree and his range includes everything from tradition varieties made with pork and oats to more unusual varieties like a Goan Pork Curry sausage.
Can you buy the sausages online? Yes, visit www.topsausages.com
2) The Ginger Pig – North Yorkshire
Tim Wilson, owner of The Ginger Pig, was one of the first of the UK’s first “superstar” farmers. Meat from his farms has received plaudits from just about every food writer in the country. However, it is their sausages that really bring a happy tear to my eye and in particular, a version made with little more than Gloucester Old Spot pork, salt, white pepper and a little nutmeg. The perfect sausage.
3) Higginson’s Butchers of Grange – Cumbria
The Cumberland Sausage is an odd sort of beast, cooked as one long coil rather than separated into links like other varieties. It is also spicier than other sausages, which can make it something of an acquired taste. If you are a fan, you wont find many better examples than those made by Higginson’s Of Grange, who have been selling their award winning pies and sausages from their shop in Grange Over Sands in Cumbria.
Can you buy the sausages online? Yes, visit www.higginsonsofgrange.co.uk
4) Puddledub Butchers – West Fife
I first encountered Puddledub Butchers when I was on a food tour through Scotland. Although I was very taken with their pork and beef products, it was the offer of some wild buffalo breakfast sausages that really intrigued me. One whiff of them sizzling in the pan, however, was enough to convince me that these were the real deal. Owner Stephen Mitchell is a regular face at the Farmers Markets of Fife. The lines that form from the moment he opens are testament to the fact that the hard-to-please folk of Kirkcaldy agree with me.
Can you buy the sausages online? Yes, visit www.puddledubbuffalo.co.uk
5) Laverstoke Park Farm - Hampshire
Soon after the Millennium, Formula One legend, Jody Scheckter purchased Laverstoke Park Farm and dedicated his life to creating food and drink governed by fiercely ethical guidelines. Fortunately, he is also a man who likes things to taste great as well and all the sausages produced from his assortment of wild boar and pig species are seriously good. Particular favourites, however, are a deliciously gamey variety using wild boar and garlic grown on the estate. Mmmm.
Can you buy the sausages online? Yes, visit www.laverstokepark.co.uk
Despite what my doctor tells me, I have not yet sampled every sausage in the country. If you think I have missed any real beauties off the list, do let us know in the comments section below.
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