Back to basics

5 min read

Sausage making is my favourite part of butchering. My first experience of sausage making was in Mick Byrne’s, Butchers on West Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth. There was a large block where 6/7 butchers were working and once a week the pigs were broken down and the shoulders and bellies were boned,  derind and cut up for sausages. This is where I first learned that to make a good quality sausage, you had to use good quality pork and quality pork cuts.

You can really divide the pig into four parts. The shoulder, the loin, the belly and the leg. The shoulder has many uses in terms of butchering and cooking from roasting, boiling  and when boned and each individual muscle taken out you can do so much with them.

Travelling Europe opened my eyes to other cuts and spices

In countries like Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain each muscle is sold separately for different cooking methods, each individual muscle has a unique flavour. Traditionally, in Ireland the shoulder would make up the large part of the lean content of the sausage but to get the flavour you must use the belly. It is the fat that flavours the sausage and a sow pig is the best for flavour and softness.

The next stage is the pork is mixed and mixed and the spices added. Butchers long ago took great pride in their sausage making and spices used were a well- guarded secret. A lot of good sausage recipes come from Germany where after the war a lot of Germans came to Ireland and opened up a Pork Butcher Shop. Some of the names still here today are well known sausage brands.

Combining those unique ingredients with the right technique

Seasoning a sausage is very simple and really centre’s around salt and pepper and after that you can play around with so many other spices but really keep it simple is my belief. The texture of a sausage depends on so many things, like what size plate you use in our mincer, how many revolutions you give in the chopper, do you use a bowl chopper or just mince it. The technique may vary in the type of sausage you are making. When I make a BBQ sausage I don’t use a bowl chopper, I mince it twice and therefore the texture is much softer.

The winning of National & International Awards brought me huge satisfaction. Years of hard work and trials and tastings paid off.

Trial and Error

I remember making black pudding in my kitchen with my wife Caroline, seeking to find the correct flavour and texture. Sausage making and pudding making are the same process except the pudding is cooked.

I met many friends over the years that helped me to learn more about sausage making. One guy, Matt from Stuttgart in Germany who worked for me as a young man for two summers.. We discussed in detail almost every day, sausage making and I travelled to his family shop to see for myself the different techniques they use. I also made great friends with Cedric a great butcher from Reims in France and we travelled together for a week around Lyon and Zurich calling to butcher shops and learning new ways of making pudding and sausages. This was a great trip, one of the best I ever made.

Sausage making and pudding making are the same process except the pudding is cooked.

Standing up to competition with Craft and Community

Working in a Butcher Shop in France, Germany, Ireland or anywhere else, it is all about passion and quality. The quality of a sausage made in a Butcher shop is far superior, in my opinion, to anywhere else. 100% pork meat is used and the taste and flavour is without question totally different than the mass produced offering.

Unfortunately, competition is fierce in the sausage market and therefore quality is suffering at an alarming rate. The ordinary consumer wouldn’t pick up on it unless they are very interested in exactly the make-up of the sausage.  The substitution of rind (pork skin) for pork meat is widely used. This is a very cheap product with a high fat content and unfortunately gives a good sausage and good sausage makers a bad press.

A good quality sausage can be a very good meal option one day a week (I am thinking bangers and mash) or for breakfast provided you purchase a good quality sausage. I always advise my customers to make sure they buy from their local butcher who is famous for making his own sausages.

A good quality sausage can be a very good meal option one day a week

Provide fair value, but quality comes first.

Remember it is almost impossible to produce quality food cheaply; don’t forget the “Horse Burger” scandal: This is what happens when the price of food is driven down to the floor with price pressure. Darina Allen a very good Ambassador for Irish food would agree with this sentiment. Poor quality food should carry a Government warning like Cigarettes. It is bad for your health, increases weight gain and ultimately cost you a lot more money than you think.

Poor quality food should carry a Government warning like Cigarettes.

Friends at home and abroad

The publicity that I gained from all the Awards I have won in the past has brought me many places from Moscow to Newfoundland. I was contacted by a very good friend, Brian Cunningham (a great food lover) some years ago to make sausages in Newfoundland. So I set off for St. John’s and hit Newfoundland where the first meeting was in “The Shamrock City Bar” with D’arcy Broderick, a famous Irish singer in Canada. In conjunction with Brian and the Harrington brothers we set about making Irish sausages for the Newfoundland market. We travelled to the countryside which was wild and vast and brought me back in time to when Ireland was a backward in the forties and fifties. We eventually got to make the sausages in a rather old fashioned type factory with old fashioned machinery but managed to finish the task and bring them back to the Shamrock City Bar where they were tasted and devoured and enjoyed.

I hope you enjoy the story of my Sausage making and hopefully I have given you an insight into how to choose a good quality butcher sausage.  If your ever in Ashbourne drop into our Store and I would be delighted to showcase our sausages and lots more of our products.