Bangers, links, snags, snorkers… whatever you call them, sausages are a popular staple of our diet. The word sausage derives from the Latin salsicus, meaning seasoned with salt. This was adapted by the Old North French to saussiche which in turn was translated into English as sawsyge in the mid-15th century. Originally a method of preserving leftover scraps of meat and fat with salt and encasing it in the cleaned animal’s intestines, it is one of the oldest types of prepared food. Today there are hundreds of different styles of sausage that have evolved in different regions across the globe.
Although there are so many varieties available, the core ingredients of a good sausage are meat, fat, rusk (or breadcrumbs), water and seasoning. Don’t think that a 100% meat only sausage would be a better tasting sausage. The rusk absorbs some of the fat, adding flavour and giving the sausage texture. It also prevents the sausage from shrinking when it is being cooked. The fat allows the sausage to cook evenly whilst water keeps the rusk hydrated, so everything stays nice and juicy. Incidentally, the name banger came about during the Second World War when meat was rationed and extra water was added, causing the sausages to burst as they cooked. Salt imparts flavour and helps keep the meat succulent and tender. All of these ingredients are encased in a skin or casing which can either be natural or artificial.
As with bacon, there are many ways of cooking sausages, but whichever method you prefer - use the mantra ‘low and slow’ and you won’t go wrong. Sausages need to be thoroughly cooked all the way through, so if you have too high a heat source you’ll end up with a burnt skin and the risk of uncooked meat in the centre.
Never be tempted to prick a sausage to release the fat. Even the cheapest of sausages is unlikely to contain enough water for them to go bang and all you are doing is removing flavour and natural juices. This fat will render down helping to cook the sausage evenly and preventing it from drying out.
Try frying sausages low and slow in a frying pan with a little oil or butter for the best flavour, turning them occasionally so they brown evenly. Try grilling them as a healthier option, again using the low and slow mantra. Grilling will give a crispier skin to your sausage. There are some great electric grill options available.
Oven cooking is another option worth pursuing. Cooking them in a baking pan is the simplest method as you don’t need to keep turning the sausages as they cook. The only downside is you won’t get the characteristic grill marks you get when frying or grilling.
I must admit I would rather go in search of an artisan sausage than go through the rigmarole of making your own, but it’s easier than you think and you’ll know exactly what goes into them! All you need is a good quality mincer and a sausage stuffer to fill your casings with the sausage mixture.