Sausage Facts

What makes the British sausage legendary? Facts and statistics about the Great British Banger.

What’s in the name?

  • The word sausage derives from the Latin salsisium, meaning something that has been salted
  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first specific reference in English came in a fifteenth century vocabulary ‘Salcicia’, a ‘sawsage’
  • Sausages were nicknamed bangers during the Second World War.  Their high water content due to the scarcity of other ingredients meant that they were liable to explode when cooked as the water turned to steam
  • Sausages should be cooked slowly either under a grill or in a pan, on a medium heat and should not be pricked, as this lets out the flavour.  They will burst if cooked too quickly!

History of the sausage

  • Sausages are even older than ancient Greece or Rome- the Sumerians (modern day Iraq) made sausages 5,000 years ago
  • During the early days of the Empire, Romans mixed fresh pork with finely chopped white pine nuts, cumin seed, bay leaves and black pepper
  • In 320 AD, because of their association with pagan festivals, Roman Emperor Constantinus I and the Catholic Church made sausage eating a sin and their consumption was banned!  This led to sausages going underground until the ban was lifted
  • It is believed that sausages were brought to Britain by the Romans some time before 400 AD. Since then various English counties have each had their own way of flavouring their local sausage – e.g. Lincolnshire uses fresh sage and Cheshire uses Caraway and Coriander.
  • By the Middle Ages sausage making had spread to Northern Europe and different varieties began to develop as butchers used ingredients available locally.  In some locations, early sausage makers became so adept at making distinctive sausages that their fame spread across Europe
  • It was in the reign of Charles I that sausages were divided into links for the first time in Britain
  •  Once made, sausages used to be stuck up chimneys to be mildly cured

Sausage psychology

  • Delving into the mind of a sausage lover reveals that the combination of a hard exterior and soft interior plus the moreish quality and succulent aftertaste makes the sausage irresistible
  • Sausages evoke strong emotional ties to childhood, memories of favourite comforting meals such as Bangers and Mash, happy family occasions such as weekend or holiday breakfasts cooked by Dad!

Top Sausages Facts

  • During the year to August 2016, the nation consumed 175,713 tonnes of sausages in the home, worth £717 million of retail sales.
  • 85% of British households buy sausages, on an average of 12 times per year.
  • Each household spends an average of £31.20 per year on sausages
  • Every day, 3.5 million meals containing sausages are eaten at home
  • A staggering 1.26 billion meals containing sausage are eaten in the home each year
  • More sausages are eaten as part of an evening meal/teatime in the home (61%); compared to 24% at breakfast and 14% at lunch.
  • 31% of the sausage market (by volume) is classified as premium, 58% as standard, 5% as low fat and 6% as economy
  • Sausage sales (by volume) are more than double the sales of burgers and grills
  • 24% of sausages eaten out of the home are consumed in pubs, 19% are enjoyed in full service outlets and 16% in a travel and leisure environment, 11% are eaten in the workplace.
 (source Kantar World Panel Retail & Usage and NPD Crest)

Sausages today

  • There are more than 500 recipes and flavours for sausages in Britain.  If you take into account all the different variations from butchers across the country you could eat a different British sausage every day for ten years
  • Northants butcher, Martin Trendall claims to have devised the world’s hottest sausage. Aptly named, The Pork Inferno, the sausages contain Indian Bhut Jolokia Chillies, Paprika and Chilli powder. Customers are advised to eat only one per meal!
  • Classic Pork sausages are the nation’s favourite, with other popular varieties including Cumberland, Lincolnshire, Pork and Apple, Pork and Leek and Pork and Herb. Newer flavours gaining in popularity include pork and caramelised onion and pork and sweet chilli. Sausage preferences vary by region. The North prefer their meat more coarsely ground, whereas the South prefer sausages to be smoother.
  • A traditional Cumberland sausage is never split into links
  • Broughton-in-Furness pig farmer, Gary McClure, established a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Cumberland sausage ring on the day the historic market town celebrated gaining its charter on 1 August 1575. The record-breaking sausage measured 3.3 metres in diameter, smashing the previous record of 1.5 metres, and weighed 135 kilograms.  It took six and a half hours to produce – excluding the time taken to prepare the ingredients – and 90 minutes to cook
  • Sausage machines can fill sausages at a rate of 1 ½ miles an hour
  • Health friendly sausages are increasing in availability from those made using olive oil which are 30% lower in saturated fat than standard sausages to those that are gluten free or have a low salt level
  • Not only do the British love a good sausage but so do the rest of the world. Sausages are now not only selling into European markets but the Far East and South East Asia are also loving pork sausages. Take a Japanese breakfast of two Cumberland Sausages with a thick rasher of fatty streaky bacon with a potato and cabbage salad!
  • Sausages feature in 1,415 dishes in a survey of 115 menus (menuarama).

Protected Sausages

  • The "Traditional Cumberland sausage" was granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in March 2011.
  • Lincolnshire Sausage has applied for a PGI, but so far has been turned down.
  • Newmarket Sausages has a Protected Food Name status the fiftieth (as at Nov 2012) British food product to earn European recognition for their quality, history, and links to the local area

Bangers and Mash

  • Bangers and Mash is one of the most traditional dishes and there are now many flavour combinations of not only the sausages but the mash as well, making this a dish now served in many top restaurants and hotels all usually served with a rich onion gravy or jus.
  • Bangers and mash are frequently seen in D.C. Thomson comics such as The Beano and The Dandy, usually when the protagonists of the strips are given a "slap-up meal" as a reward for good behavior. In these comics the dish is traditionally drawn as an over sized, conical pile of mashed potato with the sausages sticking out.
  • "Bangers and Mash" is a comedy song by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, released in 1960. In the song Sellers is a Briton who married an Italian woman (Loren) during World War II, but has never developed a taste for Italian cuisine and wishes she could prepare "the bangers and mash me mother used to make"
  • "Bangers and Mash" is also the seventh track by the band Radiohead on their album In Rainbows
  • Lovepotatoes recommend smooth potatoes for mash but check out their tasty-potato-guide to help you choose the best potatoes for your Mash.

Toad in the Hole

  • Toad in the hole is a traditional English dish comprising sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, usually served with vegetables and gravy
  • The origin of the name 'Toad-in-the-Hole' is vague. Most suggestions are that the dish's resemblance to a toad sticking its little head out of a hole provide the dish with its somewhat unusual name.

Celebrity quotes

  • Delia Smith: Braised sausages seem to have turned up many times in my books over the years… I love them so much [Delia’s How to Cook: Book One]
  • Ross Burden: You can't beat the great British banger
  • Nigel Slater: There are few things as warming as a hot sausage [Real Cooking]
  • Russell Grant: They’re heavenly; out of this world
  • Michael Caine: Forget caviar, sausages are the food of the rich and famous
  • Elizabeth Taylor: They are so delicious and so easy to prepare. When I come to London there is always one thing on my mind – a plateful of bangers and mash