Apart from bacon, is there a more exciting word in the English language? I don’t think so.

A shout out then to a friend, Phil Kernick, for a reminder of some notable facts about these marvellous culinary delights, which prompted this quick post. Seen below is “The Victorian”, produced by the inimitable Turner & George butchers; one component of the amazing Hawksmoor breakfast

The Hawksmoor breakfast. Photo by Ewan Munro on Flickr.

Apparently, sausages predate both the Greeks and the Romans; the Sumerians (who inhabited what is now modern day Iraq) were making sausages some 5,000 years ago.

  • The modern word sausage is derived from the Latin root salsīcius meaning “something that has been salted” and the first specific reference in English came in a 15th C. vocabulary ‘Salcicia’, a ‘sawsage’ according to the OED
  • Early Romans mixed fresh pork with finely chopped white pine nuts, cumin seeds, bay leaves and black pepper. Absent the pine nuts, that’s still what we do today.
  • In another bearded sky pilot act of madness, in 320 AD the Roman Emperor Constantinus I and the Catholic Church, made sausage eating a sin whose consumption was thus banned. Morons.
  • It was in the reign of Charles I that sausages were divided into links for the first time in Britain. I don’t think that contributed to his later head loss. But who knows?
  •  Once made, sausages used to be stuck up chimneys to be mildly smoke cured.

What are you waiting for? Head off to T&G or Ginger Pig or any of these other fine butchers and buy some.

In The Victorian, the beef is dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days, and the rare-breed pork used has a higher than usual fat to meat ratio so that they’ll stay juicy. It’s a coarse ground mix for texture and as well as the beef contains some aged mutton for strength of flavour. Hand-made and then slipped lovingly into natural casings what’s not to like? Already my mouth is watering…

© Londonist

And how to cook them? You can of course fry them — that’s both traditional & tasty. But how about listening to Tim Hayward who, in “Food DIY”, suggests strongly that you poach them:

The truly ideal way to cook a sausage is to poach it slowly sunk to its hips in a bath of olive oil but, failing that, massage each individually with oil first then slide them into an oiled pan and keep them rolling, on a low heat, for as long and as continuously as possible.

Trust me, even 25 minutes of gently rolling them back and forth, jostling their plumply greased little bodies against each other is not too long. As the skins change to a light tan, then begin to caramelise as the Maillard reaction takes place, you’ll find yourself shifting into the perfect meditative state to honour your sausage.

I don’t know about you but that’s enough writing; I’m off to eat.

Wandering Wells-Next-The-Sea; and no pork:

Breakfast sausage, bacon & black pudding; that was pretty much the sole pig product intake over the past 3 days. And — any Salute The Pig heresy aside — a diet none the worst for that.

@ Gurneys Fish Shop, Thornham.

So, in reverse order, here’s a few highlights of the recent trip we made to the North Norfolk coast. It’s pretty much pictorial; not many words needed for this nature and culinary odyssey (I guess “odyssey” is stretching it a bit — we may have walked miles in a vain attempt to counteract the huge quantities of great food inhaled but, even so, the Iliad it ain’t.)


So, what’s so awful about offal?

Just a reminder that meat doesn’t come pre-packed in styrofoam coloured packaging; at least not naturally. Which is why I keep talking about offal.

© Michael Ruhlman

Technically it’s defined as: “those parts of a meat animal which are used as food but which are not skeletal muscle”.

The term comes from “off fall”; originally named after those pieces which fall away from a carcass during butchering and originally applied principally to the entrails. It’s since been extended and now covers all of the “internals” including the heart, lungs & liver (collectively known as the “pluck”), all the abdominal organs and extremities: tails, head & feet (which I talked about in this post) along with the brains and tongue. Bird offal is known as “giblets“.

Another, archaic, English word for these insides, especially those of deer, was “umbles”, a term which survives in the expression “to eat humble pie” (meaning to be apologetic or submissive).

The taste and texture of offal depends a lot on the particular organ, and on the species and age of animal from which it came. Offal from calves is generally held up as the finest, providing as it does, large organs of a more delicate flavour and texture. Lamb’s offal is also good, but sheep, pig, and ox offal inclines towards a more coarse flavour and texture (or so say some. Me? Bring it on!).

Offal doesn’t keep well, so is either prepared and cooked quite soon after slaughter or turned into a product suitable for keeping such as brawn, haslet, paté and some sausages.

The type of offal used (or indeed whether any is used) in any given culture depends very much on the favoured meat animal, which may in turn depend on those weird, stupid, just plain dumb, religious dietary laws. Muslim countries use a lot of lamb offal — as they’re too fixated on some bearded sky pixie ramblings to make the sensible choice and also eat pigs. The Chinese on the other hand, weird though they may also be, have numerous ways of dealing with the organs from pigs.

Offal is a great source of protein, and some organs, notably the liver and kidneys, are particularly valuable nutritionally. In most parts of the world, especially the less developed countries, it’s prized accordingly. In the English-speaking world, however, the pattern is a little different, at least in more recent times. In North America, there has been and still exists a squeamish attitude which prompted the title “Unmentionable Cuisine” for a (hugely readable and enjoyably written) book by Schwabe.

In Britain, where there used to be no, or anyway few, qualms about eating offal, consumption declined in the last half of the 20th century, although the offal is in fact still eaten in processed foods where it is not “visible” and its use is increasing again as people rightly go for the “nose to tail” approach .

This squeamishness? Heads and feet tend to remind people that (shock!) this food is of animal origin. And a certain ambivalence about eating certain bits of an animal’s anatomy, such as testicles, is expressed through the used of euphemistic names.Rather unsurprisingly, in the USA, they refer to “organ meats” or “variety meats” instead. Euphemism is all. Some offal has rather surreal shapes and those strong flavours, which are not to everyone’s taste. And the meat of feet and ears is characterised by textures which are gelatinous and crunchy at the same time, a combination which is more disliked in the western world, although greatly appreciated in the Orient.


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, 1999. pp. 548-49

Is the first cut always the deepest?

Let’s start at the Schnörrli and work back shall we and see how best to cook all the animal?

And whilst there’s some differences between the breeds both in terms of fat to flesh ratios (think Mangalitsa v. Large White) and thus, the size of the cuts able to be made from them, this guide to how best to use all of the animal (diced up over the next few weeks for your delectation), pretty much applies to any of them.


The butt (see what I did there?) of jokes to some (think back on a not lamented, ex-Prime Minster and his public school sexual proclivities) or an object of horror to others, the head is full of fatty, rich, gelatinous goodness. Although people rightly say about the pig that one can eat everything ‘except the squeak’, the eyeballs – albeit edible – aren’t something I’d recommend you hurry to try but the rest of the head provides lovely rich pickings.

So, how do you cook it?

The whole thing: unless you have quite a large pot, it’s probably best to ask the butcher to split it in half; then either slow roast until it’s lip-gluingly tender or simmer it in water with some bay leaves, good stock, sliced vegetables and some herbs until it’s whisper-soft (Fergus does it this way below), falling off the bone. Pick the meat from the bones and set in a terrine with the reduced cooking liquid (which will have jellified) to make brawn.

Ears: this recipe is by the very wonderful Stéphane Reynaud in his (aforementioned and canonical) “Book of Tripe”

…resulting in this delight…

Photos by Marie-Pierre Morel

Cheeks/jowls: sweet, delicious nuggets of tasty meat that require long, slow cooking, thanks to the work they’ve done. They can be salt cured overnight, simmered gently for a few hours and then bread-crumbed and fried to give you Bath chaps. Known as guanciale in Italy, the cheek should be finely sliced if it is to be grilled or fried as a bacon cut. Cured, the cheek is also a great addition to a bean or lentil soup. Or you can slow cook them in (I’d suggest duck) fat to then make a cured pig cheek pate.

Snout: not often cooked on its own so it’s usually included in a recipe for brawn or roast head (as below). That said, it does yield a small amount of lusciously tasty meat and can be simmered until tender, then again sliced, bread-crumbed (or panko-crumbed would work) and deep-fried until a golden brown. crunchy mass.

And of course, such a guide wouldn’t be complete without a full couple of recipes from the canonical “The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking” by the equally canonical Fergus Henderson:


Surpassing Spanish sausages? Use the rustic breeds…

Empirical proof — that is, if any were needed for you good and clever people — that the best meat and thus, the best sausages, comes from the heritage breeds and not those bland, pink, over-farmed hybrids that I rail against all the time.

This excellent rebuttal of the bland (and quite frankly disgusting “recovered meat”) approach — taken by such as Wall’s — to sausage making, comes from the Dept. of Food Technology at the University of Murcia. Almost straight from the h̶o̶r̶s̶e̶’̶s̶ pig’s mouth…