Sausages: some health officials will tells us they're harmful.
If you want to consider the real danger of sausages, then spare a thought for the man who, in 2005, was involved in an unfortunate incident involving a flying frozen sausage. BBC News reported that the 46-year-old was driving near his home in South Woodford when the sausage came hurtling through the open car window and broke his nose.
A paramedic is quoted as saying, “I have never seen or heard of anything like this before”.
The sausage was invented as a by-product of efficient butchery. The parts of pig that were left over once the animal had been divided into cuts were not to be wasted and so were packed into casings.
Most sausages in the UK are associated with a region, such as the highly spiced and coiled Cumberland, or the herby Lincolnshire. They were often developed in parallel with other industries such as cheese making, and the by-products fed to the pigs.
The Epping sausage
Most sausages were manufactured outside London because, well, that’s where most of the pigs lived, and the sausage most closely associated with London is the Epping sausage.
The original Epping sausage was made with pork mixed with beef suet and sage, and there is some controversy over whether or not it was skinless. This was a popular sausage, travelling to London daily by wagon until the city was rocked by news that the sausages weren’t genuine.
In Odd People in Odd Places (1883) James Greenwood describes how the wagon carrying what purported to be “warranted genuine Epping sausages” was actually being filled with fakes from “a notorious cheap sausage-maker whose business premises were situated in Smithfield".
Above: proof that horse meat scandals are nothing new. This one was reported in the North Devon Journal, 28 September 1882.
The Oxford Companion to food (Third Ed, 2014) describes the Epping sausage as “extinct” but it is actually still sold at Church’s butchers in Epping, where they’ve been making them since 1888. We spoke to Paul Parker at Church’s who told us that the sausages are made with pork, seasonings and locally grown sage — the latter being very important for the flavour of the sausage. Once packed into skins (yes, today's sausage has skin), they’re left to mature for a few days, which improves the flavour as the sage penetrates the meat.
London's best British sausages
The Ginger Pig Victorian Breakfast Sausage: The Ginger Pig supply sausages to restaurants such as the Hawksmoor group, who serve them with their outstanding full English breakfast. Their ‘Victorian breakfast sausage’ was created specially for the restaurants, and it’s made with pork, beef and mutton.
Hawksmoor Guildhall, 10 Basinghall St, EC2V 5BQ
The Ginger Pig, see website for locations.
The All-Pork Sausage At The Butchery: Australian butcher Nathan Mills runs two south London butcher shops in Bermondsey and Forest Hill. His pork sausages are made with free-range native breed meat, using fresh herbs, organic spices and natural casings. As with all the best sausages, the focus is on the quality of ingredients.
The Victorian Sausage at Turner and George: It seems that re-discovering Victorian recipes is all the rage among London’s best butchers. All the sausages are made using native breed meat. The beef is dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days, and the rare-breed pork has excellent meat to fat ratio so that the sausages stay juicy. The Victorian sausage is coarse ground for texture and contains beef, aged mutton for strength of flavour, then pork for fat. It’s hand-made at Turner and George shops and slipped into natural casings.
Turner and George, see website for locations and to buy online.
The Classic Pork Sausage at Flock and Herd: Flock and Herd make a wide range of traditional British sausages in their Peckham shop, all of which are excellent. Their classic pork London sausage was also voted London’s Best Banger by The Jellied Eel magazine in 2013. They’re made with pork belly and shoulder, with added fat to keep the mixture moist, and stuffed into natural casings.
Flock and Herd, 155 Bellenden Rd, SE15 4DH
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The Seasonal Sausage At M&S: The sprout sausage at M&S was a finalist at the British Sausage Week awards in 2016. Made with British pork, smoked bacon and sprouts, it tastes like caramelised sprouts and bacon when cooked.