Everywhere in the world takes minced meat and stuffs it inside some sort of casing. It is truly horrifying watching this process. It’s faintly reminiscent of alchemy and other dark arts, but the sight of a well-filled sausage emerging at speed from a machine is not pleasant, however you romanticise it.
I remember my father coming home with a pig over his shoulder too often. It is the defining memory of my adolescent home. The windows and doors of the kitchen were thrown open and all was done to make what was the beating heart of our home into a cold place in which to unseam these beasts. Pa would be lost for the rest of the night and we would come downstairs to the smell of a butchers.
This would be but the first day in the pig butchery cycle. Eventually, three days later, the day of sausages would come. In the beginning of my father’s pork butchery, this day was the worst. Not only would the ground meat paste find itself covering too many surfaces, but the resultant sausages were just plain wrong.
The meat was ground either too finely, and so had a cheap feel, or it wasn’t minced fine enough, and so was like a burger in a sack, or it wasn’t stuffed tightly enough, and so had a mealy texture. Rusk or breadcrumbs, and in what proportion, confounded us. How much or how little fat? It was a slow learning process, which meant months of inferior sausages.
It made me appreciate the fine art of the butcher. Those sausages in their counter are uniform in shape, size, weight, texture and taste. Happily, it is hard to fall foul of a truly bad butcher in Yorkshire. The worst will simply buy in and sell on. The better will make their own sausages which will be fresh and wet in real casings. They will probably make a wonderful range of nuanced pork products as well. It is beyond me to make some sniggering joke about juicy, plump sausages and dicks, but you can make the comparison if you want.
Elsewhere in the country the famous Cumberland might reign, with its strong peppery notes, and in some parts even those squeaky continental-style par-boiled ones have a following. There is however a distinctly Yorkshire sausage.
In this, God’s own county, the flavouring is solidly of mace and perhaps a little faintly of medicinal marjoram. They taste like they should. They taste like they have always done and it is easy to imagine the same sausage being sold since the Victorians. They should have a liberal amount of fat and be juicy. They should cut well. They should be moreish.
At the breakfast table, you should want that third sausage when you know that it means a morning of indigestion. It should be so delicious that in a toad in the hole you completely run out of gravy and still have a full sausage left. And that’s fine, because it should be delicious enough on its own.
Words: Oliver McKinley