We caught up with UK Sausage Week competition judges, Claire Holland of the Q Guild and Debbie Wilson of Ladies in Pigs, to get their views on what makes an award-winning sausage. Because after tasting so many, they really are the experts. So, what did they say?
Q. What do you believe makes the British banger an ever-popular choice for consumers?
Claire: Its versatility, range of uses in cooking, appeal to all ages, range of flavours and that even other meats are now giving pork a bit of notable competition.
Debbie: The British banger is an ever-popular choice for consumers because it combines the very best welfare meat with tasty combinations of seasons, whether it be a traditional pork sausage or something more innovative. It is a quick and easy protein source and, because of the high quality of the product nowadays, it is not as high in fat as it used to be.
Q. In your view, what makes the perfect sausage?
Debbie: There needs to be the great balance between the meat itself, its preparation to go in the sausage and a lovely seasoning that is enough to make you want to have another!
Claire: A high level of good quality meat content along with flavours which don’t mask that lovely meaty taste.
Q. How would you advise butchers and manufacturers to make the most of UK Sausage Week?
Claire: Create a novel tasting flavour, which then creates a talking point alongside their best sellers. Put up posters and display any trophies or certificates gained especially from the UK Sausage Week competition. Have tastings in store – people love to try a new flavour. Get the local school, cubs or guides to run a competition to come up with a new flavor, which you could then produce and sell in store. Also, sausage-making demonstrations always go down well.
Debbie: UK Sausage week is an ideal opportunity to showcase your butchery brilliance alongside your taste-buds! Always ensure that your preparation of the raw sausage is at its best as this will set you up for the cooked product doing the rest.
Q. Data reveals sausage consumption out-of-home and on-the-go is increasing. What do you think makes them a popular choice when dining out or grabbing a snack?
Claire: In my view, it is the ease of eating on-the-go – whether that’s in a tortilla wrap or soft bread roll, they are perfect for outdoor fun food, throughout the whole year from BBQs through to Halloween. When dining out the sausages on offer are more likely to be locally sourced from butchers which means they have to stand up to scrutiny day in and day out. Chefs also make a point of developing dishes around the sausage flavours, by accompanying them with flavoured mash and gravy. Consumers are spoilt for choice.
Debbie: Sausages are one of those amazing products that do not spoil when eaten cold or in a different dish or setting. They are portable, easy to handle and tasty to boot! They are also versatile to use in or out of the skin within a wide variety of dishes from casseroles, muffins, pies or just good old sausage and mash. There is also the growing British charcuterie sector, which is showing sausages in a different form that can be eaten on-the-go.
Q. What can you tell us about this year’s UK Sausage Week competition judging and were there any surprises?
Debbie: This year’s competition was excellent with an overall higher quality of entrants in both sections. There were some excellent combinations of taste in the ‘innovative’ category. The surprise for me was the higher number and quality of gluten-free sausages as there are a rising number of consumers who have an allergy or intolerance.
Claire: The quality and range was superb – producers and butchers really have upped their game. Even the packaging was getting better with some looking like they had packed the crown jewels. It’s also great to see that enthusiasm isn’t waning and that to be the top sausage producer is still worth the effort and lengths that many go to.
Once again, UK Sausage Week will be championing and raising the profile of the great British sausage. Across the country people and businesses will be hosting their own sausage events, special promotions, new product launches, competitions and tastings to celebrate between 28th October and 3rd November.