Forget Halloween and bonfire night: the most important fixture in your calendar is UK Sausage Week, which is now upon us.
The sausage transcends time, space and social class; it does not recognise political or geographical borders. It is the Doctor Who of the food world, the porky time traveller that witnessed the rise and fall of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. It even survived a ban by the early Church for its sinful pagan associations. Only something this noble could survive the travails of history and the whims of food faddism to retain its status as one of the most cherished of our food staples. UK Sausage Week (formerly known as British Sausage Week) is a fitting homage to this food hero.
Be cautious, though, and remember that wherever there is light, there is also dark. Like a metaphor for human potential, the sausage embodies all that is good and all that is heinous about modern food production. Choose your sausage wisely, for those who practise the dark culinary arts have created the cheap, ‘economy’ sausage. It may closely resemble its quality counterpart, on the outside, but the inside is another matter. This travesty is not worthy of its name, and should have no place at the party during UK Sausage Week.
Good Bangers, Bad Bangers
A pork sausage must by law have a minimum 42% meat content. That doesn’t sound too bad until you delve a little deeper into the definition of meat: in sausage world, meat can be 30% fat and 25% connective tissue. Connective tissue is the gristle and ligament.
Heavily processed, the fraudulent concoction that calls itself ‘economy’ is cheap in every sense. The ‘meat’ is scavenged from the connective tissue and other low quality scraps. This mess is held together and camouflaged with a great deal of rusk, flavourings (including monosodium glutamate), water (which is not on the label) and preservatives. And of course lashings of salt, to compensate for the sausage’s inherent shortcomings in the flavour department. Notice how the sausage shrinks when it is cooked – that’s the water content oozing out. Not such great value, after all.
A quality, premium sausage, unlike its evil twin, has a real meat content (shoulder and/or belly) of at least 85%, and much less salt. It can hold its own in the flavour department without the need for synthetic props. It will often have no artificial preservatives. Other ingredients in a quality sausage include herbs, spices and perhaps some honey, with just a small amount of water and cereal to hold it all together before being packed into a casing.
There are two types of casing: natural and synthetic. The synthetic variety is of course the cheapest, and is the type you find wrapped around ‘economy’ sausages. Natural casing is made from animal intestines (usually cow, hog, lamb or sheep).
If you really love a good sausage buy from specialist producers who make their meat products from organic, rare breed (very popular right now is the Gloucester Old Spot) or other free-range breeds that enjoy high welfare standards. Always check the meat content.
It’s UK Sausage Week Every Week
If you want something very decent to go with your breakfast banger, try some black pudding. Much maligned, black pudding is not only undeserving of its reputation, it is in reality a genuine ‘super’ food, as this AYCE article reveals.
As ever, you have to pay a premium just to get natural, unadulterated food. A quality porky blinder is well worth it: what’s in a cheap banger is a lot scarier than anything else you might encounter over Halloween.
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