A Good Skinful

A few weeks ago I agreed to take part in a sausage making competition. I had never made sausages before but hey, I’m always up for a culinary challenge.

As the deadline loomed nearer I thought I had better get myself organised. It would appear that amateur sausage making is not as uncommon as one might think. You can buy a hand-cranked sausage stuffer for under 20 quid, although I opted for a slightly more up-market model, and there are on-line suppliers who will sell non-industrial quantities of natural hog casings (naturally I eschewed the inferior collagen variety) and pinhead rusk (some of which is necessary for the texture of a traditional British banger although I’m inclined to use it sparingly, preferring a meatier sausage*).

Stuffer and skins having arrived, I approached my friendly butchers for some advice about the best cut of pork to use. Obviously a little tact was called for – I wouldn’t want them to think I was shunning their sausages – but they were most obliging.

So about three pounds of meat went through my trusty mincer and into a bowl to be mixed with the rusk, seasoning (I’m not going to divulge my recipe lest a potential competitor should be reading this) and a little water. Then it was time for the shiny new machine to go into action. There were a few teething problems: sliding the skins onto the nozzle was difficult until I realised I was using the wrong sized nozzle, and the end plate was initially reluctant to be screwed onto the barrel. But soon I was cranking out real sausages. And they looked the part, albeit slightly wonky and flaccid and a little too moist – but they tasted fine.

I’ve just made the second batch. With a slightly refined recipe and a firmer restraining hand on the skins as they fill, this lot came out firmer and plumper. I’ll leave the final verdict until the tasting, but in the meantime I think I’ve earned a pint.

* If I remember rightly, by law a sausage has to contain at least 55% meat. Thankfully, most of them nowadays have rather more than that, including supermarket own brands, many of which are excellent. The exception of course is those ghastly cheap pink things for which, inexplicably, there must still be some demand and which some hoteliers seem to think are an acceptable part of a full English breakfast, even if they serve perfectly decent meaty sausages on their bar menu.

Good Riddance

I haven’t seen a single Elsanta strawberry this summer. A few years ago they were everywhere. It was difficult to find any other variety in the supermarkets. They were even sold at Wimbledon. Now they are nowhere to be seen.

Thank God. Have consumers, retailers and growers finally woken up to the fact that this is probably the worst variety of strawberry ever produced? Pale, orangey-red, over-firm, odourless and practically devoid of flavour.

Presumably there was some commercial benefit – disease resistance, size, fast growth or whatever. But what use is that if they’ve got no bloody flavour?

In the 1960s and 70s they could get away it (I blame post-war austerity for creating a culture where all manner of bland, unnatural, processed crap could be foisted upon us). Thankfully people nowadays are a bit more discerning when it comes to food and drink. We’re getting there slowly.

Sweet Eve and Sonata aren’t bad but how about bringing back Royal Sovereign?