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Cooking up a treat during British Sausage Week

WHETHER you like them tucked into a bed of fluffy, floury Yorkshire pudding, slipped inside a sliced bread roll or straight out of a sizzling frying pan and splashed with sauce, everyone loves a sausage.

During the 10th British Sausage Week Jemma Walton pulled on a butcher’s apron to make a very special ET-themed banger.

YOUR jeans were probably made in Japan, your trainers in Timbuktu and it’s a safe bet to say the banana in your lunchbox wasn’t picked in Bretton.

We don’t make too much in Britain these days, yet, what we do make, we make well. In certain areas our craftmanship, our experience and our sheer bloody minded attention to detail makes us world beaters. Take sausages.

Lincolnshire might not be able to offer you mind-blowing cultural experiences, or a string of Michelin-starred restaurants, but it can offer you a tasty sausage. Lincolnshire’s sausages are known and admired literally the world over.

The Country Butchers isn’t in Lincolnshire, but isn’t far off. It’s in the picturesque littlevillage of Ailsworth, and, confusingly for some, the butchers there do make Lincolnshire sausages. Apparently, what distinguishes them from your common or garden banger is sage.

“We’re making four special types of sausage for British Sausage Week,” said Jim Wood, the farmer who owns the shop.

Jim isn’t a trained butcher, and so can’t make sausages – but he knows two men who can: his butcher Shawn Wynne and “Bob, the part-time adviser”.

This week, Jim, Shawn and Bob will also be offering Gloucester Old Spot sausages – Gloucester Old Spot is a breed of pig which has very strong-tasting meat – pork and leek sausages, plus a very exclusive sausage – the ET Black Cracked Pepper Hot Off The Press.

This is a spicy, feisty little banger, a cheeky little pork confection, a blooming gorgeous meaty treat, which I made a batch of last week.

I tasted the raw sausage mixture to make sure it was OK, fed the mix through the machine and into the pigs’ intestine which makes the sausage skin and I twisted them into neat sausage strings. Sausage heaven.

As a Lincolnshire-born lass I should probably be to the sausage-making machine born, but the truth is that I don’t really like sausages, much less have ever made one.

I had a traumatic experience with a cheap earhole-and-eyehole banger once, and retreated to the reliable tranquility of the bland, meatless Quorn sausage.

But Jim assures me that knuckle, eyeball, toenail and the like would never besmirch a Country Butchers’ sausage.

“Our sausages are made from lean leg meat and are only five per cent fat,” he insisted.

“We get our meat from Suffolk Meats, and our Gloucester Old Spots from Robinsons of Elton, and they’re free range.

“People can drive by them and see the pigs before they’re sent to us, you don’t get much fresher than that. But not everyone likes doing that, of course.”

Thanks to the runaway expansion of mega-powerful supermarkets, traditional butchers are a dying breed, but nonetheless a breed much loved and valued by the community it serves.

“We have been open since 1977, with a couple of breaks, and there was once a time when we didn’t have time to make our own, said Jim. “And so we bought what we thought were very high quality ones from another butcher.

A lady came in and bought her sausages and came back the next day and told us that her old man said they weren’t our usual ones and he didn’t like them.

“And so I tried another supplier, who sells sausages to Harrods. She bought some of those and came back the next day and said the same thing. “She was only happy when we started making our own again, which are made to a recipe which won the best sausage award at the East of England show 30 years ago.”

As well as sausages, The Country Butchers offers customers soups, pies, chutneys and cheeses, including Cornish Yarg and Celtic Promise, a cheese blessed with a fetching pink mould-fuzz on its exterior, which is handwashed in cider and tastes like stale dishwater at first but later like heaven.

The benefits of making the effort to visit a butcher, particularly during Sausage Week, are obvious. A butcher knows all about his material, and can tell you exactly which parts of meat came from where on an animal.

“We had someone come in and ask for an H Cut,” said Bob. “I knew what they meant, it’s a cut from the hip bone, very popular in London. But I’m still learning, you never stop in this job.”

Jim and his butchers hang their meat a couple of yards from the shop counter. Enter it and you see dark, bloody slabs of beef hanging alongside whole pigs. “You never know what people will come in and ask for,” said Shawn.

“Some people want steak mincing, others just want one or two sausages, things like that. But the other day we had a dentist come in and ask if we had any pig’s teeth, as he had a South African dentist starting work with him, and dentists use pigs’ teeth to train on…”

Some of us might think of sausage as a fatty, junk-foodish dish, but Jim said he hasn’t noticed a downturn in sales with the increased focus on health and weight in the media.

Altogether, he shifts around 140lbs of bangers a week, and when you think that he gets eight sausages to the pound, that’s a fair few sausages.

“Sausages will always be popular because they’re a quick, cheap meal,” he said. “20 minutes in the frying pan, or in a casserole, or with mash, or in toad in the hole, and there you go.”

Apparently, English people munch their way through a meaty 180,000 tonnes of sausages a year, so they must have something going for them. And if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well eat ’em. Those Quorn sausages are headed for the bin.

Full story from Peterborough Evening Telepgrah

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