If there’s one thing that our domestic cuisine is famous for, it’s the good old English friend breakfast, and at the centre of that classic is the humble sausage. In fact the sausage is something of a super hero in English cuisine, also featuring in the famous Toad-in-the-hole, the ubiquitous sausage roll, bangers and mash, and even battered and served in chip shops.
England is a nation of sausage eaters, with over 400 different types of sausage produced in the UK. We consume millions of these delicious meat dishes every day. Over the centuries we’ve even bred varieties of pig specifically for their sausage-making qualities.
The typical sausage is made from pork and a blend of herbs and spices, but the precise mixture can vary widely and there are many closely-guarded recipes that have been passed down through the generations, ensuring that there is a huge variety of sausage throughout the country. So which is your favourite? Here’s a quick guide to the very best English sausages.
Arguably the most famous of all English sausages is the Cumberland sausage. This has been a local speciality in the traditional county of Cumberland in the north of England for over 500 years. The Cumberland sausage is distinctive largely because the meat is chopped instead of being minced, which gives it an extra meaty texture. In fact, this sausage is such an important part of English cuisine, that it was given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in 2011, to ensure that no cheap imitations are allowed to sully the reputation of this dish.
The other big name in the English sausage pantheon is the Lincolnshire sausage. This is a widely available type of sausage, with a strong and distinctive sage flavour, which helps to separate it from the often peppery flavour that is common to other regional English sausages. You will sometimes come across Lincolnshire sausages with thyme and parsley, but in the sausage making world, these are not considered to be true Lincolnshires. These sausages are also known for their chunky texture, which is produced through coarse grinding rather than mincing.
The Manchester area may be best known for its blood sausage, which is not strictly speaking a sausage in the traditional sense, but there is another city sausage tradition. The Manchester sausage is a distinctive and unusual creation, made using nutmeg and mace. It has a long history, having been mentioned in a recipe book dated from the early 18th century, and it is assumed that the use of nutmeg was due to the nutmeg trade that flourished in Manchester at that time.
Oxford sausages offer an unusual take on the traditional sausage recipe, introducing veal to the mix. The Oxford sausage also usually features a high degree of spice seasoning. There were references to this style of sausage in the early 18th century, and it was widely popularised after being included in the famous 1861 cooking book Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. These days, the Oxford sausage is a mix of veal and pork, seasoned with herbs and lemon, though earlier recipes suggested seasoning with pepper, mace and cloves.
The Newmarket area is well known for its horse racing links, but the town also has a reputation as one of England’s most significant sausage hotspots. The tradition of sausage making in Newmarket may have been related to the fact that pigs were often kept around the stables as they ate stable scraps that helped to keep the area clean. The sausage making industry in Newmarket became so successful that today three separate recipes have earned PGI status. There are some similarities between all three recipes, though two use rusk as a filler and one uses bread.
The Gloucester or Gloucestershire sausage is notable for the type of meat used to make it, which traditional comes from the Gloucester Old Spot pig and blended with sage. The county of Gloucester is also famous for its apple orchards and cheese making, and pigs in the area were reputed to eat the by products of these crops, which was said to boost the flavour of the pork. In fact, one legend has it that the black spots came from falling apples. Whatever the truth of the source of the Gloucester sausage’s flavour, this is one of the most distinctive and popular varieties in England.
London may be better known for its gin and jellied eels, but the capital has also produced a distinctive sausage product. The traditional Marylebone sausage, still made from original recipes by some London butchers, is flavoured with mace, sage and ginger, giving it an unusual taste.
Speaking of unusual tastes, one of the strangest of English sausages, popular in the Midlands, is the tomato sausage. Made by adding tomato to the pork, which gives the meat a distinctive reddish orange hue and an unusually sweet taste, this sausage also has a smooth texture and is popular with children and with those who want a less savoury sausage.