Nice to meat you

The best-tast­ing sausages are al­ways the ones you’ve made your­self, dis­cov­ers Emma Hughes, as she learns how to perfect a banger

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When, years ago, I be­came a veg­e­tar­ian (bear with me), ev­ery­one told me that ba­con would be the thing I’d miss. ‘You just wait,’ they’d say know­ingly. ‘You’ll smell it fry­ing one morn­ing and that’ll be it.’ But, in the end, it wasn’t rash­ers that made me switch back. It was sausages. Specif­i­cally, sausages in Novem­ber.

For me, Bon­fire Night equals bangers. When I was grow­ing up, we had them in bowls of the palest, fluffi­est mashed po­tato as gold­dust from the fire­works rained down in the dis­tance. They were the real deal: herby and meaty and bur­nished in the pan, bought from an aproned butcher who ad­dressed my par­ents as Sir and Madam. And, as sum­mer turned into au­tumn, I couldn’t stop think­ing about them.

Per­haps it was the leaves start­ing to crackle un­der­foot or per­haps it was a sus­pi­cion that my dis­like of cheap, con­stantly avail­able meat might be bet­ter ad­dressed by supporting re­spon­si­ble pro­duc­ers. ei­ther way, I de­cided that, if I was go­ing to start eat­ing sausages again, I wanted them to be ones I’d made my­self.

Flash for­ward to Oc­to­ber, and here I am at The Gin­ger Pig, butcher to the stars (Nigella Law­son has been spot­ted in the queue), dressed like Rosie the Riveter in over­alls and a head­scarf, for a sausage class. The busi­ness was named after the three cop­pery Tam­worths founder Tim Wil­son started out with in North York­shire and good hus­bandry is still at the heart of what it does.

‘happy an­i­mals taste ex­cel­lent,’ de­clares se­nior butcher Daniel Du­mi­tra­che, who’s been in the trade for 25 years and is end­lessly en­thu­si­as­tic. ‘The most im­por­tant thing, when you’re mak­ing sausages, is their qual­ity of life and what they’ve eaten.’

That be­ing said, there are some ba­sic dos and don’ts. ‘You can make sausages with more or less fat, but never no fat,’ ex­plains Daniel, un­veil­ing our (lit­er­ally) raw ma­te­ri­als. We’re go­ing to be us­ing shoul­der of pork—a hard­work­ing and highly flavour­some mus­cle— com­bined with fat­tier belly pork, and back fat, which will baste the sausages from the in­side out as they cook.

When sausage shop­ping, Daniel con­fides, we should look out for a coarse tex­ture, which means the meat in­side will only have been minced once. Less scrupu­lous butch­ers will put their sausage mix­tures through the grinder four or five times to dis­guise the skin, ten­dons and worse that tech­ni­cally fall within the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of ‘meat’. he splits open a blame­lessly chunky Gin­ger Pig sausage to show us what he means.

And, with that, it’s time to get crack­ing. We’re each given a huge tub of freshly ground pork mince and told we’ll be turn­ing it into Ital­ian sausages, sea­soned with salt, pep­per, minced gar­lic and fen­nel seeds (‘De­li­cious! Perfect!’ beams Daniel). Knead­ing every­thing to­gether with my bare hands is oddly sooth­ing; it feels like bak­ing, but with meat. I make a ter­ri­ble joke about The Great Bri­tish Steak Off and ev­ery­one laughs oblig­ingly.

I’m hav­ing such a good time, I barely reg­is­ter that the conker-sized piece of cooked mix­ture Daniel is prof­fer­ing (so I can check the sea­son- ing) will be my first bite of meat since the last Labour govern­ment. I take a deep breath and pop it into my mouth. It tastes in­tensely of it­self, in the way only meat from well-reared an­i­mals can. And be­cause it hasn’t been bulked out with bread­crumbs, the tex­ture is first rate.

Next, we’re in­tro­duced to the hand­some stain­less-steel sausage ma­chines The Gin­ger Pig sources es­pe­cially from Italy. Stuff­ing our mix­ture into the drum (imag­ine load­ing a can­non), we screw every­thing into place, then thread what will be­come the cas­ing onto the noz­zle at the end. It’s all nat­u­ral, made from a thin layer of the pig’s in­tes­tine. Front­line stuff, yes, but it’s a car­ni­vore’s duty to make sure noth­ing from an an­i­mal is wasted and be­ing re­minded of that is no bad thing.

Daniel starts crank­ing the ma­chine’s han­dle and, be­fore I know it, I’m wrestling com­i­cally with a 6ft sausage. he shows me how to twist it into perfect links, as if he were mak­ing a bal­loon poo­dle at a chil­dren’s party. By the time I’ve fin­ished, the string looks like some­thing a ter­rier would run off with in an eal­ing com­edy. I feel enor­mously proud—and hun­gry.

At the end of the night, when ev­ery­one’s ef­forts have been strung and safely stowed in bags, we sit down to wine and a feast: three dif­fer­ent types of sausages, herby slaw and—my heart fairly bursts—a huge dish of but­tery mashed po­tato. I’m first in the queue and clear my plate.

When it comes to meat-eat­ing, it looks like I’m back—with a banger. The Gin­ger Pig’s sausage-mak­ing classes (£155 per per­son, in­clud­ing food and wine) run on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days at the Lon­don shops, from 7pm to 10.30pm and Sun­days from 4pm to 7.30pm. To book, tele­phone 01751 460802 or visit www.theg­in­ger­pig.co.uk

It’s a car­ni­vore’s duty to make sure noth­ing from an an­i­mal is wasted

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