Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Top Sausage 2015 - Churchgate Sausage Company - Red Pepper & Chorizo

We've tried extensively the products from the Churchgate Sausage Company over the last few years and these Red Pepper & Chorizo certainly got our interest going. Not to mention our tastebuds...

Jason Drage tells us that his father made sausages for many years before him and the combination of really good quality pork, with red pepper and chorizo according to his father do really make for a good sausage flavour.  We would agree too having now tried them out on a few guests who were all in agreement that the Churchgate Red Pepper & Chorizo is a top sausage.

Now in the cooking up (we pan fry as in all our sampling) yes they do leak a bit of dark oil in to the pan, from the chorizo no doubt, but this isn't an issue is it?  Well we don't think so as it's this oil that's got flavour itself that the sausage sizzles in. The good quality natural skins tightened up and what was most noticeable was there was no shrinkage of the product.  OK a little weight loss which you would expect in the cooking process as some moisture is cooked off and oil released from the chorizo. 

I will ask Jason though when I call in to the shop next, what sort of percentages in the mix is he using, as the balance between the pork and the chorizo was absolutely spot on as far as we were concerned.  Not so much chorizo that the sausage becomes heavy and dense, but enough pork so that the sausage still retains fair texture with a good bite, and avoids being a heavy going to eat "sausage log"!

Taste-wise we all agreed these particular sausages were bang on the money, with just enough red pepper flavour sweetness to please, and just enough chorizo flavouring to provide a warmth and tingle to the taste.

The texture of the cooked sausage was pleasing with a really good distribution of ingredients that can be easily seen from the photo below.  

Jason Drage of the Churchgate Sausage Company certainly knows his stuff when it comes to sausage making. 

This is THE flavour so far we've found in 2015 that you really must try.

Top Sausage 2015 - Churchgate - Red Pepper & Chorizo

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Monday, 9 March 2015

Top Sausage 2014 - Allingham's of Hitchin, Herts, UK - OSB

Sausage Review have been searching for a 5 banger mark sausage for quite a while, and here we go, we think we've found one...certainly our Top Sausage of 2014...

Now the OSB, or Oxford Sandy & Black, that Allingham's make is a fine looking sausage in the raw. They quote a minimum 65% Oxford Sandy & Black pork meat on these but you can easily tell they are a really, really well made item with top quality meat, probably (I think for sure) well over the percentage they advise!  Top quality natural skins are used of course and all tied beautifully.

Allingham's shop is right central in the old town market place and is a delight incidentally, like going back slightly in time and a really nice experience. The butchers serve you, have a chat with you in that old style friendly way I remember from my young years, and then you go to the cash desk window at the back of the shop to part with your money!  If you call in, do look out for plenty of free samples of sausages on the counter top. Believe me they are very proud of their sausages, and they will tell you such without prompting!

The OSB sausages cooked up beautifully, with nicely browned skins, and a medium texture that gave a good bite, but didn't need a heavy chew at all.  Succulent, and definitely moreish!

Got to stop a minute, I'm salivating writing this! 

The flavour was what I would describe as delicate, with a light spice and a taste that gently lingered on the tongue.  We all immediately agreed on the scoring for these I hasten to add. They are that good as far as we are concerned!  

I had to fight to keep one sausage back to be eaten cold later...and what can we say about a word...wonderful!  A right proper sausage.

Minimum shrinkage and weight loss in cooking, no splits, or spits.  All in all, absolutely delightful food!  A worthy 5 banger marks scored!

Don't just take our word for these, if you get a chance call in and buy some.
Allingham's Old English sausages are blooming good too!

Allingham's of Hitchin, Hertfordshire - OSB (Oxford Sandy & Black)

Top Sausage 2014

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Friday, 3 January 2014

Top Sausage 2013 - Churchgate Sausage Company - Pork, Beef & Mustard

We spotted these the very first morning that the Churchgate Sausage Company of Sheering, Essex (near Old Harlow) got a couple of shelves of display in our local Budgens Store...didn't go in for sausages...but came out with these!...

We've tried many of the very fine sausages made by Jason Drage of the Churchgate Sausage Company and all of then have been top notch, but these have been the ones we've liked the best so far. Usually we talk about the product before we make statement like this but these Pork, Beef & Mustard really hit the mark.

The combination of 40% pork and 40% beef really do provide a wonderful meaty balance, but then add some bread crumbs and mustard plus a few bits of spinach leaf too and what have you got? 
You've got a stonkingly good sausage!

The excellent quality skins cook up and brown really well.  The texture is medium, retains quite a succulence and the feel in the mouth as you bite is blooming good.  See the image of sliced sausage below...

We were so impressed with these, we gave a pack to senior family members to try and to give us their own views...all they said in a slight Suffolk lilt was "those sausages were bootiful".  So a result all round then!

A very well made and balanced sausage that has stayed at the top of our charts.

Jason Drage of the Churchgate Sausage Company certainly knows his stuff when it comes to sausage making. You've just simply got to try these.

Churchgate - Pork, Beef & Mustard
Top Sausage 2013

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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sausage Fest 2013

I have a passion about sausages.  My wife calls it an obsession.  
Hey ho!  It’s only an interest.  Honest!

We had some friends visit over at the weekend and she suggested we all had “Sausage and Mash” for a meal.  I thought yes, at last...passion rules OK.

Little did I know this was a psychologically underhanded and heavily disguised ploy to clear out my half a drawer of “sausage stash” from the freezer to make some space before Christmas!

So if you’re going to do sausage and mash, you need the right main ingredient…the sausages! Listed here in alphabetical order only, were my choices for the evenings entertainment:

Churchgate Sausage Co’s - 5 Chilli sausage
Churchgate Sausage Co’s - Boerewors 
Heap’s - Award Winning No 1 sausage 
Heap’s – Smithfield Breakfast sausage
Mountain’s - Boston sausage
Mountain’s – Farmhouse sausage

The preparation was very involved (yes, yes, only logistically) but eventually using two frying pans and a full grill pan, I managed to cook all 38 sausages.  The mashed potatoes, fine green beans and the thick, thick onion gravy, using a method involving extensive saucepan movements on the hob completed the task…

Enough food to feed an army.  Mind you, there were just the 4 of us.  
Tuck in then we did, plenty to go round…

Hmm, I didn’t mention the home made “brussel sprout” soup for starters…it was really good too and well, that’s entirely another story!

Back to the sausages.  My wife had suggested (good idea…wish I’d thought of that first) I make and attach some cocktail stick flags to each of the small piles of sausages just so our guests could decide their preferences.  Just as well really on reflection, because the Churchgate 5 Chilli really has a sting in the tail!

Churchgate 5 Chilli
Heaps Smithfield Breakfast

Churchgate Boerewors
Mountains Boston

Mountains Farmhouse
Heaps Award Winning No1

Over a really nice wine jelly with whole blueberries and double thick cream (oh we do live well here) to finish, we had a discussion with our guests on their thoughts on the sausages presented…

The 5 Chilli it appears were very tasty but far too hot for the girlies!  Mountain’s Farmhouse were succulent but too crumbly and peppery…for the girlies!  Seems like a pattern appearing….   I thought that the Heap’s Award Winning No 1 with it’s mild spice would prove popular with the girlies, but not so either.

Heap’s Smithfield Breakfast with it’s slightly peppery taste and Mountain’s Boston sausage with similar mild “pepperiness” jointly got the most votes…mind you Churchgate’s Boerewors with it’s deep “beefiness” was a close runner-up!

All super sausages with mash and onion gravy we all agreed!

If you want to read individual sausage reviews, have a look at

Friday, 25 October 2013

Why are German bratwurst so special?

A while ago I was emailed a question: "Why are German bratwurst so special?" 

Well Dave (from Didcot), now come on, the words bratwurst and special don't immediately in my mind especially go together.  I can't say I even remember the last time I had one as part of a meal or even a take-away.  Yes Ok I know they're popular in Germany and the US...but here in the UK?  Not sure... 

What is a BRATWURST then?   

Basically , a sausage made from pork, in a natural (or synthetic...horrid things) case or skin, that's grilled or pan fried.  So what's different about these than our British banger or chipolata? 

There's quite a few varieties and shapes and sizes of bratwurst available in Germany which individual regions claim as their own.  Coburg have their "Coburger Bratwurst" made from veal or beef, with only salt , pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest added.  Traditionally cooked over pine cones or so they say.  Whereas the Swabian region has it's spicy "Rote Wurst" made from finely ground pork and bacon.  They cut an X in to the ends when grilling or frying. The ends open during cooking, with the rest remaining as is, thus giving it a shape all of it's own.  The Wurzburger bratwurst is a variance on the spicy Thuringer but theirs with white wine added.  

Ooo I'm getting interested in "brats" the more I research.... 

The makings are evidently more often than not minced very finely we're told using a "bowl-cutter" (sometimes known as a "bowl chopper") to almost emulsify the meat.  Passing the mix through a very fine mincing plate a couple or even three times gets close to it but to make them accurately, a bowl-cutter is what's needed.  The mix is then loaded in to preferably natural skins. 

The "brats" would be normally steamed (or pan simmered in water) to cook them and then chilled ready for use.  Frying them off in a hot pan or under/over a grill to give them colour before serving.  Some recommend spraying them with water or beer whilst they're grilling to keep the skins cool.  Cooking them by grilling or pan frying, without pre-cooking is a skill, as burning the outside and the inside remaining under cooked or raw is very likely.  Not good. 

OK, so I arranged some un-cooked brats from our local sausage specialist (The Churchgate Sausage Company of Sheering, Essex).  Yes they're not German produce but these will do to get started with an opinion on bratwurst.  As it happens, we liked the "Churchgate Bratwurst" from Herr Drage...mind you I suppose we should have eaten them rather than with mash and onions, but in a bread roll with some German mustard perhaps.  Hey ho, next time.  The texture of the meat was fine/smooth and the taste was definitely different to a British sausage.  More like a frankfurter (or dare I say a "saveloy").  Don't get us wrong, there was nothing wrong with the "foreign" sausage, but then again we like what we like and no doubt other nationalities like what they like! 

I've read that in Nuremburg alone the estimate is around 1 billion brats being produced a year! Now add the rest of Germany's production and you've got a serious amount of sausages being consumed! It appears to be around 60 lbs of sausage consumed per person per year in Germany...and they have around 81 million citizens!  This compared with the UK's 63 million people and 7 lbs of sausage per person per year!  Good heavens!  

I've also read that VW factory in Wolfsburg have their own butchery department within the factory complex that produces LOADS of sausage for the staff meals and supplies some very local supermarkets.  Whether they only produce their very popular "currywurst" or do in fact produce bratwurst as well, I may need to arrange a visit to find out! 

Audi in Bavaria, also have their own butchery department...pork/veal/milk weiswurst over there.... 

Now back to the initial question...I still can't see why German Bratwurst would be so special.  I prefer the Great British Banger personally, but then that's me!  However I'm sure there's people out there who would disagree...each to their own of course!    

So perhaps the question should have been "Why are German Bratwurst so popular"! 

Answer: They taste good and 81 million Germans will no doubt be the first to say so.... 

BTW: Did you know that sausage production in Germany, Austria and northern France was effectively halted for a time during WW1 (with sausage eating banned) by the German authorities.  It appears that animals intestines used as sausage skins became so sought after during this time with them being used in Zeppelins to hold the hydrogen gas.

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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Chipolatas - perhaps the solution to the smaller portion size?

Chipolatas anyone? Have you noticed that producers are regularly making and selling good quality smaller versions of their main stream sausages as chipolatas?

Now there was a time that chipolatas were seen as "kids food", but I have been surprised at the number of adults who we have spoken to recently about our sausage reviews who actually enjoy and would recommend chipolatas as an everyday sausage to eat.  OK not "everyday" as we all know the health warnings and implications about consumption of fatty foods. 

Photo of the excellent Churchgate Sausage Co - Pork Chipolata (Review)

However good quality chipolatas do come in at roughly about half the calories, fat and carbs of their bigger brothers from what we can see on the labelling, so 2 on a plate with your choice of mash, onions and gravy for example, in your mind, this may still be a completely satisfying meal.  Perhaps?

It seems to be the practice though to produce the chipolatas with their mix minced (ground) a bit finer so it will go easier in to the smaller diameter cases/skins, but essentially it's the virtually the same recipe that's being used.  OK some producers will do a slightly different mix for their chipolatas but please stay with me on this on the principle.  Yes we know sadly that you can get budget and value chipolatas out their from cheap shops and supermarkets that are horrible "fat sticks" which contain the absolute minimum percentages of meat plus heaven knows what else as fillers.  I'm really referring to choosing "quality produced" chipolatas here.

We are essentially talking of the psychological impact of the way you present food.  I am convinced that we have been conditioned that anything less than 2 sausages on a plate (with whatever you fancy...OK fellas I don't mean 2 more sausages!) is the minimum to make a good meal.  

I tried this recently with the family evening meal.  Sausage, mash and onion gravy all round using 2 very good quality chipolatas instead of 2 full porkers each. No complaints. In fact one of the ladies said she preferred the choice of chipolatas and would happily have those again.  OK a salad might have been dramatically less calories rather than mash and onions, and certainly the balsamic vinegar laced gravy, but it's the principle of effectively reducing portion size and still enjoying your food I'm banging on about.

OK yes I know, you could just dish up some of those "low fat" full size sausages I wrote about previously, but really this isn't what I see as the way forward.  
Adjusting to a smaller portion size though is probably going to be hard going I agree, but let's not kid ourselves too much that just dishing up less and serving such on smaller plates is going to fix everything. 

Try the chipolatas in place of the full size porkers next family meal time and see the reaction...if it works...way forward.

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Low Fat Sausages - are you sure?

Low fat sausages? It's not the sort I would immediately think of buying, however it looks like there's members of the Weight Watchers community out there counting their calories that do and probably will be quick to quote their "pro points" of the ones they say they prefer.

Now call me cynical but how can a low fat sausage be anything like a "proper sausage"?

A properly made, shall we call it a traditional sausage, will have around say 20% fat in the mix.  If you go less than this, the result when cooked we're told can be a rather dry and the taste and feel just isn't right. So if you take out some of the fat, what can you put in to the sausage to still keep it moist and not affect the taste?

Producers it seems have access to alternatives (or fillers) to make lower fat content sausages where a proportion of the added fat in the mix is replaced with the likes of SOYA PROTEIN, "FAT REPLACER", GELATIN (or AGAR AGAR), NON FAT DRY MILK POWDER, POTATO STARCH and TAPIOCA FLOUR to name just a few.  These fillers absorb and bind with water to bulk and keep moisture within. OK I get that but it's the "fat replacer" that I have been told of as it sounds rather "industrial", that I wanted to know more about...

From some research I find that there's a dietary fibre (Inulin) developed originally in Belgium that's extracted from certain plants, that when mixed with water, results in a creamy emulsion/ paste that can be added to the sausage mix to replace some of the fat. This fat replacer holds moisture and because of it's neutral flavour gives the sausage when cooked little or no perceivable reduction in taste and the "mouth feel" is more consistent with a full fat sausage.

In speaking to a local producer I asked whether he would consider low fat production and his view was that it wouldn't make business sense for him to produce as the demand was very low.  He also added that if people really watching their weight wanted to reduce calorie intake then perhaps they shouldn't eat sausages at all?  Or at least, instead of a portion of 2, make it 1 thus seeing a reduction of 50% but still enjoy their meal perhaps?  

I can see where he's coming from but what are Low Fat Sausages like?

Recently we sampled some Powters (Newmarket) - Low Fat sausages and surprisingly they taste very good. They had a nice "herby" and spiced flavour, and certainly a very good medium texture with a slight crumble as you bite in to them. The skins browned well.  So certainly a sausage that seem to work as a sausage should. From the ingredients on the packet, there's no mention of a specific fat replacer so I expect that the mix is bulked with extra rusk which is probably why the texture is crumblier no doubt.

I wasn't convinced entirely though that these would replace "proper sausages"...


So, armed with some low fats and some standard Powters, I cooked up a sausage and mash for the troops to see what the results of a full comparison would bring.

The low fats were spotted immediately.  The texture gave them away. 

Quite crumbly compared with standard ones the troops reported.  I agree but at the end of the day, low fat Powters from what we've found are at least as close you are probably able to get to a proper sausage whilst still giving some reduction in fat content.

Weight Watchers: 2pp for 1, 5pp for 2 and 7pp for 3 - well, what ever that means?.......

See our full review and others at