Archive for October 14th, 2007

The tale of the Manchester sausage

O'Hagans sausage shop

Today marks the start of British Sausage Week, with events happening up and down the country. Ahh, the sausage. Never has a product been so debased. When a sausage is good, made from proper cuts of meat, there’s few things in life finer. But when a sausage comes frozen from a bag of 20 for £1.99 and made up of ‘lips and arseholes’ and bulked out with water, there’s not much worse.

According to the British Sausage Week website PDF, sausages are the number-one ‘in­home meal’ (ahead of the cheese and ham sandwich?!). Furthermore, Most people will grow up eating the one type of sausage that their parents bought. However, marriage is a turning point when both people bring their own ideas about sausages. This leads to the joy of joint experimentation and discovery!” Now, marriage is a turning point for a lot of things, but sausage experimentation? To think of newlyweds up and down the land exploring each other’s sausage habits raises a smile.

Anyway, I’ve a bit of previous in the hunt for good sausage. In the summer I bought some sausages from O’Hagans in Chichester. They were big, thick and meaty like a fat four-year-old’s arm, not those skinny pink things you see in the shops, and they formed the bulk of a BBQ I did at a friend’s house. Not a puff of smoke came off that BBQ; no ruptured cases, no spitting, no dripping fat. When cut open they revealed very fine chopped-up meat and recognisable pieces of herbs, not that spongy grey honeycomb paste that seems to make up most modern sausages.O’Hagans offer a huge range of tastes and flavours, including kangaroo and duck. And elsewhere I’ve even found a recipe for seafood sausage and even a League of Gentlemen sausage.

But this is British Sausage Week, so let’s be traditional. Most people know about the Cumberland – the long curled-up sausage flavoured with pepper – which is apparently applying for a PDO request. And some may even know about the Linclonshire, flavoured with sage. Fewer still may know of the Oxford sausage – skinless and flavoured with herbs and lemon, it’s an effete sort of a sausage in my opinion. But did you know about the Manchester sausage? That’s right – Manchester has its own sausage, too, and I bought some the other day while up north, from Homestead Farm Shop, Pott Shrigley, Macclesfield.

So what’s in a Manchester sausage, you ask? Well, the key ingredients are nutmeg and mace, finely ground pork, salt and white pepper, and that’s about it. The only reference to it on the internet that I can find is in the Greater Manchester section of this PDF from the Lancashire tourist board.

They’re made on Gabbotts Farm, to a recipe that goes:
“Our Dad’s is a fine textured pork sausage
seasoned with liberal amounts of white pepper, mace
and nutmeg – The original Manchester sausage!”

Joyce Dalton, who served me at the Homestead farm shop, says it’s from an 18th Century recipe book that belonged to a fellow sausage-maker, and he never let anybody look at it. Eventually he retired to Australia and said to his friends, “You can have ten minutes with the book”, at which they frantically wrote down a few recipes including the one for the Manchester Sausage before the book was packed in a tea chest, shipped away, and started a new life Down Under. Wonder where it is now…

There’s a recipe for Cumberland here that uses nutmeg and mace, but the Manchester tasted nothing like the Cumberlands I’ve had, having far less pepper and far more nutmeg. Nutmeg also features in the recipe for the Oxford, and this one and this daft American one, along with cayenne pepper and casings.

There’s nary a mention of the Manchester sausage on the website for the Manchester Food and Drink festival, which comes to a close this Monday, but it could have appeared at any of these sausagethemed events. There is, however, this amusing example of sausage misuse:

Pork cassoulet plus a bottle of cider for £7.50!
Odd Bar, Northern Quarter – Only during the Festival, Odd’s Amazing Pork Cider Cassoulet with a bottle of Magner’s Cider will cost you £7.50! Fresh, local pork marinated in Magner’s Cider with chunks of chorizo, lamb & mint sausage, potatoes and flava beans served with crusty bread and a bottle of Magners on the side.

So that’s a French dish consisting of English pork marinated in Irish cider with Spanish sausage, lamb and mint sausage (Welsh in influence), beans and potatoes?! And served with more Irish cider. That’s not cassoulet, that’s Eurostew!

Anyway, try and find some interesting and well-made sausages from British Sausage Week, and keep an eye out for the Manchester. Or visit www.sausagemaking.org, buy all the bits and make your own.

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I've left it here for historical purposes. Please visit my new blog at www.foodjournalist.co.uk

DISCLAIMER

These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
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