Sossies, swags or weenies, you can call them whatever you like but there's no denying the great British banger is somewhat of an institution. Whether grilled, fried, bbq'd or baked they will do double and triple duty as an any time of the day meal or snack.
You can breakfast like a king on sausages , stuff them into a sarnie or roll for a delicious lunch or serve them as supper either as the main attraction or as a garnish; the saucisson goes on and on and on!
Thee word we use now, “sausage”, comes from the Latin word salsus, meaning “salted” and the Old Northern French saussiche, but sausage’s roots go much deeper. The historical record on sausages begins around 4,000 years ago. Texts from the ancient Sumerians mentioned meat stuffed into intestinal casings, as well as other delicacies such as pickled grasshopper - definitely NOT Kosher! Sausages make infrequent but important appearances in historical documentation from then on, for example in 1500 BCE, ancient Babylonians were using fermentation to make sausages; Egyptian murals depicted blood sausages being made from sacrificial cattle; in the 9th century BCE, Homer’s best known traveller Odysseus is described as a “rolling from side to side as a cook turns a sausage”, stifling his rage at the encampment of suitors who have laid siege to his home and his beloved Penelope, and a Chinese goat and lamb sausage was recorded as early as 589 BCE!
Ancient Roman 'Salcis' served with broad beans.
But what exactly makes something a sausage? is it just the shape or is it the texture and the fact that it is stuffed into a casing? It can't be as that would mean that sausage patties or Cumberland Rings wouldn't qualify. According to Gary Allen author of Sausages: A Global History "It’s a complicated issue, where to draw the line," Sausages are a forcemeat—they are usually, but not always, chopped or ground meat, usually, but not always, forced inside a casing. The meat can be nearly any animal protein in combination with grains, cornmeal or oats, to bind it together. Proteins in the meat bond together in the cooking, drying or fermenting process, meaning that the sausage’s inside doesn’t crumble.
Smoked sausages such as viennas, salamis, wursts and kabanos work on the principal that smoking creates an outer preservative layer on the meat that will help make it resistant to bacterial spoilage, but other preservatives such as acid fermentation and salt are also used.
Even Queen Victoria was reportedly partial to a sausage herself, provided the meat was chopped NOT minced and cooked slowly (according to a popular cookbook of the day,) to prevent their skins from popping.
For many years the consensus was that sausages and viennas were made with reclaimed 'rubbish' meats, highly seasoned to mask any untoward flavours and full of fat, preservatives and colouring.
Nothing could be further from the truth today with sausages being a truly artisan product made with love, care and pride. The correct cuts of meat are chosen to ensure that there is the correct level of fat to ensure a moist and tender sausage, minimal seasonings and colourings are used to let the flavour of the beef, lamb, chicken or turkey speak for itself and the humble sausage has been elevated to gourmet status.
I am often asked how to stop the fatal 'Banger Burst'. My reply:
To prick or not to prick, that is the question?
Whether 'tis nobler of the cook to suffer the splatter or hot fat in a pan
or to take evasive action by cooking them in the oven.
A Sausage can be a tricky beast; as there is such a high turn-over at Louis Mann they rarely get the time to 'hang' and firm up and usually go from being minced and mixed to shelf and into your shopping bag in less than a day. This means that the mixture has not had enough time to set and can lead to a 'saus-plosion'. The best way to counter this is to cook them in the oven to set them at around 160-170c gas mark 3-4 and then finish them on the bbq or frying pan or do as I do and just leave them in the oven on a baking sheet until they are done to your preferred level of browned crispiness.
Cocktail or chipolata sausages are great for a cocktail nibble or as a side dish and one way to posh them up is to either devil them or glaze them in some way. Here are two recipes to give them a bit of pizazz.
1 dessertspoon tomato ketchup or BBQ sauce
1 dessertspoon soy sauce
1 dessertspoon honey
1 -2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
freshly ground black pepper
Blend all the ingredients together by first mixing the dry mustard to a paste with the soy sauce and then mixing in the other ingredients in a large bowl.
Cook your sausages and then tip them into the bowl, stir to coat and then pile into a serving bowl.
Honey mustard and thyme glazed sausages
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 dessertspoon grainy mustard
a good squeeze of lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground black pepper.
Mix all the glaze ingredients together in a large bowl. Cook the sausages and then tip them into the bowl, stir to coat and then serve.
Another great mid-week meal is a sausage tray-bake. This recipe can be scaled up to feed more by doubling or even trebling the quantities. If you suddenly find you have another mouth to feed just bung in some extra vegetables to stretch it or serve the sausages and onions in crusty rolls with the vegetables on the side. I sometimes add some mustard and honey to the oil but keep an eye on it as the honey is apt to brown very quickly and can go from caramel to black in an instant!
SAUSAGE, POTATO & RED ONION BAKE
1 pack of sausages of your choice - I really like the mini ones.
500g baby new potatoes halved
3 red onions, cut into wedges
1 red pepper and one yellow cut into strips - optional
6 fresh sage leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
Salt & Pepper
A green salad, to serve
Heat oven to 200/180 fan/ gas 5-6
Place the potatoes, onions and herbs in a roasting tin or oven proof dish, drizzle over the oil and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes.
Stir the vegetables. Add the sausages to the tin and continue roasting for 20-30 minutes until everything is cooked through and the sausages are well browned and crispy.