Butchers Guide to the British Banger
By Ali Graham, Medium Well
The actual origin of the humble sausage is like the history of many other foods, not entirely known. It is believed they were being made in the Middle East in the Bronze Age, and they were seemingly popular with the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The word sausage derives from the Latin salsisium, meaning something that has been salted, and over the centuries sausage has been adapted to fit climate and cultures across the globe, and as such what should go into a sausage varies widely depending on geography.
Some countries make sausages from cheaper cuts of meat, and pad out the sausage by adding barely, rice, breadcrumbs, rusk or oatmeal to give a cost effective but tasty food. Other countries and cultures select more expensive cuts, have strict rules about processing and disapprove of using anything other than pure meat and spices. Over time this has resulted in a massive sense of national pride when it comes to sausages. While Germans are immensely proud of their sausage laws dating back hundreds of years, and Italy as the birthplace of salami, the ‘British banger’ has its own style and tradition.
Sausages hold a special place in the hearts (and mouths) of most Brits. A big reason for this is that they were part of childhood and spark memories of family barbecues, camp fire food, rainy weekends and a big breakfast. The fact they are, (and hopefully always will be), a good way to make a quick, easy, family meal has made them a family favourite for generations.
Although the emerging trend of artisan charcuterie has seem some excellent British produces spring up over the last few years, there is no real history or tradition of making dried salami-style sausages here. British sausages are generally either fresh or cooked puddings. Characteristically there is a history of adding cereal, originally ground breadcrumbs, more generally rusk nowadays, to a sausage mixture, which gives the British banger it’s softer texture than the all-meat varieties favoured in Germany et al.
Traditionally British sausages were linked by hand into bunches, their length determined by the width of the butchers hand, and while size variations are now common, historically English sausages were thick with 6-8 per pound (454g), and Scottish sausages were thinner with 10-12 a pound (454g).
Some broad variants of British sausages are
Beef Sausage - usually deep pink in colour, this has a strong meaty flavour. Traditionally very popular in Scotland where sales outstripped pork sausages.
Black Pudding - pork blood, onion, barley and cubes of pork fat are the general ingredients to a black pudding, with herbs more prevalent than spices as a rule. There are regional variations, such as Lancashire’s pudding using celery seed and pennyroyal.
Cumberland Sausage - a classic coiled sausage the traditional Cumberland sausage contains a minimum of 80% pork.
Faggot - an old fashioned sausage pudding made using all the offal of the pig(combining minced pork belly, heart and liver), flavoured with sage or other herbs. Shaped into a patio and wrapped in caul fat, and served baked usually with onion gravy. Originally from the Black Country it is believed they are names after a direct word for a bunch of sticks.
Lincolnshire sausage - less peppery in flavour than other British sausages, these are coarse-ground and chunky and usually seasoned with a mix of sage, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.
Lorne sausage - also known as square sausage or slicing sausage, this is usually a sausage meat made from either pork, beef or a combination of the two, fouled into a brick and sliced into squares. Lorne sausage is a served on Scottish breakfasts. It tends to have quite a high fat content, but when it comes to taste, do we really care?
Pork and Leek- although considered to be a Welsh speciality this is wildly sold across the UK as the exquisite combination of the sweetness of leeks contrasts amazingly well with pork.
Saveloy - a red, smooth-textured, well seasoned, smoked sausage, comparable to a large hot dog. Popular in the North of England in the last century it is widely seen now in fish and chip shops who sell them battered and deep-fried.
White pudding - known as ‘hogs pudding’ in the West Country of England and ‘mealie pudding’ in Scotland, white pudding is actually most famously associated with Ireland. Made from pork fat, oatmeal, onions and suet, some varieties also contain cooked pork.