Sausage week - the perfect excuse to celebrate this iconic food

una odwyer
una odwyer

Sausage Week begins on Monday and is the perfect excuse to celebrate this tasty iconic food.

The word “sawsyge” first appeared in the English language in the mid 15th century. It’s origin is from the Latin word “salsicus” meaning, seasoned with salt. When a carcass is butchered efficiently, the off cuts, fat and offal are salted to preserve them and then stuffed into casings. Often the result would have been smoked or cured to further extend the shelf life. Butchers have rediscovered this ancient craft of charcuterie and use it as a way to add value to meat. 

In Northern Ireland this traditional art has been embraced by a handful of butchers. Alastair Crown rears rare breed saddleback pigs at his farm in Myroe, just outside Limavady. He started by making a cured chorizo sausage and has added a fennel salami to his repertoire. An Italian friend of mine declared the latter “just like my Nonna’s” - no better praise. He recently won a gold medal for it at the Blas Na Eireann, Irish food awards.

In Moira, Johnny Cuddy has been curing meats for three years and won best charcuterie in the UK at the Great Taste Awards in September. The competition for this prize was fierce and to win it after such a short time practising his craft, is a brilliant achievement. 

We’re blessed in Northern Ireland with great butchers producing excellent sausages. They take pride in their recipes with just the right amount of fat distribution to meat and great attention to seasoning. Sausages in onion gravy is one of my favourite comfort foods - gently cook the sausages in a little oil, add onions and allow to cook until golden. Add beef stock and a splash of wine, simmer gently and then thicken with a little cornflour (or Bisto if I’m in confession mode...). Serve with some buttery mashed potatoes. A perfect showcase for this national treasure.

Roast poultry and stuffing is something we reserve for Christmas but really we should be enjoying it all year round. Chicken with a sausage stuffing has been elevated to a spicy new level with the addition of some local chorizo in my first recipe. The smoked paprika and garlic seasoning will take your chicken and stuffing to new realms.

My other recipe takes traditional sausage meat and combines it with fennel seed and chilli. They’re then fried and made into a sauce with scorched red peppers, tomatoes, a splash of wine and finished with basil. The smell of sultry fennel seed, sweet peppers, garlic and wine will make you think you’re in a little taverna in the Tuscan hills – add pasta, mop up with crusty bread or bring yourself right down to earth with a bump and have it with some good, local Aghadowey Queens potatoes – nothing better!