Tony O'Reilly, consultant chef for Your Business, assembles a team of testers with the heavyweight task of sampling 16 varieties of sausages. Matthew Moggridge reports on the results.
British Sausage Appreciation Week started on October 29, which is good news for those who like sausages and even greater news for those who supply them to the pub catering industry. Why? Because, in essence, the week exists to promote and celebrate the great British sausage and what could be more in tune with pub food than a decent sausage?
The week is organised by the British Sausage Appreciation Society, an organisation run with the whole-hearted support of the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC), and has been timed to take in both Hallowe'en and the run-up to bonfire night, two annual events where a decent British sausage is bound to go down a treat with the customers.
British Sausage Appreciation Week was launched by Coronation Street's Fred Elliot and Ashley Peacock - billed as Britain's most famous butchers - and the week itself will see shops and pubs organising events and tastings to raise money for charity, not to mention special offers on sausages from butchers and supermarkets.
And Your Business is doing its bit too. In collaboration with the Prince of Wales in Iffley, Oxfordshire, a Wadworth's tenancy run by Andre Le Masurier, we organised the mother of all sausage taste tests using our consultant chef, Tony O'Reilly and a host of the pub's regulars to act as judges.
With so many sausages entering the taste test - there were 16 varieties which were split into two categories (speciality and premium) - it was good to hear from Tony that the overall quality was high.
For Tony, the key to a good sausage is shape retention during and after cooking, and he was pleased to report that all 16 entries passed that particular test with flying colours. Appearance, of course, is crucial. According to Tony, sausages must have a uniform size and appearance and, when cooked, should be golden brown and not split or burst. Cooking sausages too fast or on a high heat can result in splitting, he said.
Tony was a little disappointed in some of the judges who found the idea of sampling 16 sausages too much to bear. Shame on them! But, as Anthea Robinson, sector account manager for branded pubs, hotel chains and restaurants for the MLC, pointed out, there were some strong contenders for a professional sausage-eating competition.
Back to the sausages. When buying sausages, Tony believes there are a number of factors to be taken into consideration. First, the quality of the sausage and what goes into it. He advised pub caterers to look for Quality Standard pork sausages with a 60 per cent or above meat content. Shin of pork, said Tony, is flavoursome and contains "the right amount of fat".
The contenders for the taste test were a mixture of well known companies, such as Larderfresh and Brake Bros, catering butcher Fairfax Meadow, and 3663 to smaller suppliers like Villagers Fine Sausages and Powters.
Contenders were asked to submit examples of their premium and speciality sausages and some companies offered products for both categories.
For the speciality sausages, judges were asked to answer five questions about the sausages: are they appetising, do they have good texture, do they offer a good combination of flavours, do they hold their shape well and are they good speciality sausages?
Where premium sausages were concerned - and by "premium" we were referring to top quality pork sausages as opposed to "economy" brands - the judges were asked to consider the following questions:
- are the sausages appetising
- Do they have a good texture/combination of flavours?
- Are they mouth-watering and meaty?
- Do they hold their shape?
- And are they quality products?
With so many sausages to taste, the judges' task was awesome - as there were only first, second and third places available in both categories. Out of 24 individual sausages entered across both categories, only six would be named as the sausages to be reckoned with on pub menus this winter.
In the premium category there was a joint first place between Brake Bros' pork and leek sausage and Canterbury Foods' Old English variety. In third place was Powters' extra lean pork sausage.
In the speciality category, catering butcher Fairfax Meadow was first with its Cajun sausage, followed in second place by Larderfresh with its Olde English Pork sausage and Villagers Fine Sausages in third place with its Tuscany Tomato sausage.
It goes without saying that a good time was had by all, as the pictures above indicate, and that plenty of sausages were eaten by the judges, most of whom went home a little heavier than when they arrived at the pub.
The final score
Joint 1st place
Brake Bros' Pork and Leek Sausages (138pts)
Powters Extra Lean Sausages (122pts)
Fairfax Meadow's Cajun Sausages (138pts)
Larderfresh Olde English Pork 6s (133pts)
Villagers Fine Sausages' Tuscany Tomato Sausages (129pts)