The Way of the Sausage

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The way of the sausage

I seem to be a man of increasingly simple tastes. I’ve been in ecstasies lately over the humble sausage. I suppose if I’m honest the sausages I eat aren’t all that humble, but the ways I use them are usually pretty no-frills. That said, even a ho-hum snag can be used to great effect in some quite surprising ways and when I’m feeling frisky, which of  a week night is almost never, I do just that. 
Sausages have always been something of a staple in New Zealand. Thanks to the largely working-class ancestry of Pakeha Aotearoa, these fetching offal concealment units have a special place in our hearts -and have no doubt contributed to the premature failure of a good number of our hearts too. And while I shudder at some of the other legacies of our local culinary past, [such as the ritualized abuse of brassicas], I thoroughly approve of a decent snarler. But not just any old processed, vacuum packed, suspiciously slippery so-called. I mean real sausages, of the real meat, real flavour kind.

I was fortunate enough to grow up near a very good, old-fashioned butcher who made the aforementioned genuine article in the traditional style- from off-cuts and probably the odd snout or nipple. They were richly flavoured, moist and fragrant and they had a cult following in 1980s Devonport. On any given Thursday morning a jittery queue would snake out from the Vauxhall road butchery; an anxious snap shot of the community, all hoping to get their weekly garlic sausage fix. Back in the 80s such shops were already the exception to the rule. Much of New Zealand had long since settled for filler laden-travesties or worse still, cheese injected,  meat flavoured [is there an more terrifying suffix?] food-like substances resembling poached penii,  with tantalizingly onomatopoeic names .  My mother wisely banned all such horrors from the house. Fortunately as the Kiwi palate grew up though the 80s and 90s the real sausage stomped out more of a foot-hold. These days even supermarkets offer at least a few decent bangers among the sea of cheap and nasty. Most butchers today pride themselves on the quality of their sausages, and while ego and enthusiasm might sometimes run amuck, [teriyaki pork and shitake!?!] the results can be sublime.

A certain sort of person delights in telling horror stories about what really goes into sausages. They will gleefully declare that all sausages are the ground up remains of pigs eyes, cow sphincters and various visceral odds and ends. While not entirely without foundation these stories should be taken with large flake of Maldon.  
Sausages have existed in various forms, for many hundreds, if not thousands of years and are found in most cuisines. It would be impossible to say who invented them and when, because it’s probably a matter of synchronicity. Our ancestors- wherever you personally hail from- couldn’t afford to waste any part of an animal; a fiscally or physically pricey item depending on how far back you look. Eye balls, other balls, ears, offal, anuses and udders are rich in protein and are at least edible if not appetising.  Perhaps understandably, chopping them up into an anonymous mash and further disguising them in cleaned out intestines is a common approach. In reality the modern sausage [at least in New Zealand] is a pretty inoffensive affair. They are mostly real meat [as in muscle tissue], fat and various fillers- soy protein being the most common.
Offal is unlikely in the modestly priced banger because it imparts a distinctive flavour, spoils quickly and is more valuable sold separately. In the better quality sausage the only preservative will be salt. Nitrates are used in some cases [mostly in cheaper products] to help maintain an appealing pinkish hue but they serve very little preservative function and have the irksome side effect of being quietly carcinogenic. Having said that by the time you have ingested enough nitrates from sausages to be at serious risk of tumors you will also be morbidly obese and on the cusp of spectacular heart failure.
When buying pre-packed sausages, always check the ingredients. The meat, be it pork, beef or venison [I don’t recognise any other kind], should be the main ingredient and make up least 80% of the total content. The sausages should be raw and therefore squishy with a decent amount of fat visible through the casing. Lean sausages are dry and tasteless sausages. Much of this luscious white death will escape during cooking so don’t fret too much,  what remains helps to moisten the meat and carry flavour directly to your eager taste buds.  As consumers we have an understandable suspicion of extenders and fillers in food- they’re a great way of ripping us off. But in the case of sausages don’t be too quick to judge embellishment. Sausages are, in my marginally humble opinion, improved with a little filler- ideally breadcrumbs or oats. These help to hold the meat together, retain moisture and enhance the texture. A sans filler beef sausage, for example is little more than a crumbly bag of steamed mince. Only pork works well with the pure and natural treatment as pig flesh is self-binding i.e. no eggs, crumbs or scarily indefinable textured vegetable protein required.
So far I’ve only been talking about the traditional English style of sausage best known in New Zealand- meat, minimal seasoning and little else besides. These days, however the sausage repertoire of the nation is an ever expanding feast. Just about everyone knows that chorizo is a Spanish sausage- unfortunately nobody seems to know how to pronounce it [Chor-eeth-oh] or that it’s available in both fresh and cured forms. Various spirals of South African sausage or Boerewors are a common feature in most supermarkets thanks to recent migration trends. Even pungent, offaly Thai and Laos sausages can be found if you know where to look.  So in other words ‘sausage’ can mean different things to different people. Regardless of type, fresh sausages are [with the possible exception of the latter examples] more or less interchangeable in most recipes-depending on individual tastes.
How they are cooked will depend entirely on the recipe- if you are going for something as basic [but perfectly respectable] as sausage and mash, it will be a choice of grilled, baked or fried. On a weeknight, when I can rarely being doing with much of a fuss, fried is my preference.  On a low temperature in a covered pan or wok, it’s about as easy as cooking gets.
Assembled below are a number of ways with the humble and not so humble banger that I inflict upon my family from time to time. I really like these. Maybe they do too.


Anyone can carbonize a sausage on gas grill. To make something interesting of this mediocrity I like to brown them and then split them down one side. With only the touch of the knife they will splay open. Now baste the split side with a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and chilli oil. Keep turning them and add as many layers of the sticky, spicy glaze as possible.


It just isn’t paella without a few fiery fresh chorizo chopped up and folded into the steamy rice. For a truly transporting paella, choose good quality fatty pork chorizo [see below]. Carefully slice and sauté in a little olive oil until the gorgeous paprika stained fat starts to flow.  Set aside the sausages and use the fat to fry the rice etc. Not exactly what the doctor ordered but I think we all just need to calm down a little when it comes to saturated fat.

Devilled sausages

Known to most Kiwis as something you make from that iconic yellow sachet- and containing far too many numbers and things ending with ‘phate’ for my liking. But to be fair, this much loved faux-food really does taste good, more so when made from scratch with the best pork sausages you can find, crisp autumn apples and served on butter and cream laden mashed agria potatoes.
Brown your bangers quickly in a hot pan and set aside. Do the same -separately- with a couple of sliced onions and a couple of sliced, peeled apples. In the same pan melt a little butter, stir in some flour to make a roux and add a cup or two of good vegetable or chicken stock. Stir until thick. Add ¼ cup of tomato ketchup, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a good glug of Tabasco and season to taste. Now return the other ingredients to the pan. Simmer on a low heat until the sausages are cooked and the apples tender.

Sausage and Peppers

An Italian American classic that probably has its origins in the poverty stricken Calabria of the early 20th century-with the ancestors of most Italian Americans.  Tres, tres Godfather.
Very much as its name suggests- sausages, preferably pork and of the spicy, fennel laden kind, roughly chopped and sautéed in olive oil with lots of ripe peppers [also chopped], a few cloves of garlic [crushed], a couple of pulped tomatoes, a little chilli and good handful of bitter-hot wild rocket. Season to taste.  The sausages and peppers should be nicely browned with the tomato adding just a little moisture and acidity. Scoop up with oven-warmed ciabatta or similar and wash down with litres of rough red.  Bada bing.

Garlic studded

There’s nothing very clever or new about this one but it has big nostalgia value to me. My mother has a thing for garlic and never passes up an opportunity to include it in quantity wherever possible. It’s a safe bet that any sausage cooked by Mum will include a clove or two sneakily slipped inside, creating lovely little nuggets of mellow garlicky sweetness.  As a child I spent a lot of time trying to do the same thing with cheese. Take it from me, it can’t be done. Unoriginal as it may be, the garlic studded snarler is still a crowd pleaser. To make it truly memorable, slip a couple of chillies in too.

Ok so this isn’t about using sausages but actually making them. Natural sheep intestine casing can be obtained from any obliging butcher. For my home-made efforts I buy high-fat pork mince from a Chinese butcher. These guys know a thing or two about pork and always have the best quality and priced cuts around. To make an approximate of fresh chorizo- take a kilo of pork mince and add about 2 tablespoons of smoked and 2 of regular paprika, 6+ cloves of crushed garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne, 1 teaspoon of  ground white pepper, 2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme. Thoroughly mix and knead together until well- blended and darkly stained from the paprika. In a hot pan, test-fry about a tablespoon of the mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Getting the meat into the skin is a little tricky if you don’t have a machine but it’s quite do-able- after a fashion. For years I used a kitchen funnel with the pointy bit cut down to about 4cm. It’s a bit messy and time consuming but still does the job. These chorizo are worth any amount of toil- they’re dizzyingly good.

Well that’s about enough out of me. How do you serve up your snarlers?

Virgil Evetts

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14 thoughts on “The Way of the Sausage

  1. I’m an Aussie hanging out for a NZ Hellers God Father Sausage! Can’t get them here sadly, but I have tried.

  2. can i suggest you look at a you tube video called making sausages with a caulking gun .
    its very informative
    cheers jim

  3. That’s a fantastic idea Virgil – I’ll make Moroccan sausages. I have a recipe for Moroccan lamb stew, so I’ll use the spices from that in the sossies.

    Agree about chicken sausages – what’s the point? It’s like that fake turkey bacon. There are 101 better uses of turkey than making bacon.

  4. I am a total fan of the French sausage and white bean creation. Cant get enough of the textural number.
    A must is only to use sausages free of scary preservative and only natural casing to ensure a lovely soft sausage.
    I too have suffered at the hands of those who feel an inferior sausage can be disguised with a heavy and rich sauce. I beg to differ…so too does my stomach.

  5. Leoli it must be tough being married to a German if you don’t like sausages! My partner probably feels your pain. I recently horrified her by coming home with a pound of Lardo- which is sort of like streaky bacon without the bacon. I Love Bratwurst with sauerkraut. Most underrated stuff, saurkraut.
    Irene I use the very good sausage stuffer attachment for my Kitchen Aid. Works a treat. I’ve had my sausage skins under salt in the fridge for years. I just dig out what I need, soak them and they’re good to go.
    Louisa I could probably stretch my tastes to a lamb sausage- they do these in Morocco to great effect apparently. Its chicken I really can’t abide. Truly horrid.

    Does anyone have a recipe for that old fashioned sausage curry? My Grandmother used to make it when I was little- I remember it being very yellow, sweet and containing raisins.

  6. Virgil, you’ve made me want to rummage in the bottom of the freezer to find some long-forgotten sausages!

    We had a sausage-making party for my husband’s 40th (last January). We provided the minced meat (pork, beef or sheep, from our own animals) and a dizzying array of possible ingredients, as well as breadcrumbs. Our guests got to mix their meat with their choice of flavourings, then I stuffed the sausages and my husband barbequed them. Great fun! Only we were all sausaged-out by the end and have barely had any since.

    You say you’d only have pork, beef or venison in a sausage – why’s that? I have several hogget/mutton flaps in the freezer and was thinking of turning them into sausages because of their high fat content. What do you reckon?


  7. Our local butcher makes fantastic sausages. I have always been a lover of sausages and have always preferred the plain beef sausages. We generally have our sausages 3 different ways – bangers, mashed potatoes & peas with gravy (great comfort food). Or curried sausages but I do a real curry sauce (not the yellow one that I remember my Nana used to do – even though that was rather yummy) and add onion, carrots and potatoes so it’s almost a stew – had this last night as a matter of fact and have brought leftovers into work for lunch! And last but not least is just in a slice of bread with tomato sauce & mustard or even my own homemade sweet chilli sauce. Sausages are great! And I would never ever buy them from the supermarket again – they’re dreadful. By the way, I used to fry my sausages but for years now, I’ve grilled them after parboiling them which does seem better as any extra fat drips out, but generally I don’t think it matters as they always taste yummy.

  8. Virgil, we have started making our own sausages, and just like you using good quality mince, some just pork, some just beef, some with both combined, and qood old lard softened down. Fresh thyme is a must. And then we vary according to how we are feeling … last time was cubes of cheese and dollops of red wine. The result was out of this world.

    Fortunately George has large hands, so lots of squishing and squishing by hand to combine.

    And then we have the manual sausage filler machine. First one which we bought from Trademe we onsold, as it wasn’t the best. But our current one does the job perfectly

    Did you know you can store the skins. We have them in a jar in the fridge submerged in salt.

    Our next step is a home made smoker to cold smoke them.

    Long live the humble (pure) sausage !!

  9. I have read and (mentally) digested but can still not be tempted by a sausage. My view remains that they are naught but a mish-mash of sweepings from the butcher’s floor, encased in condoms. I do, however, cook them. Needs must – my husband is German. A “good” fat sausage, an excellently boiled potato, a pile of sauerkraut and a ladle of gravy sees him in transports …
    I fail to see the attraction myself.
    He also comes home bearing slices of some form of salami which is studded with globules of fat/lard, and speckles of heaven knows what, and I exclaim, “you paid $30 bucks a kilo for THAT!”
    Nevertheless, I do a pretty good toad-in-the-hole which the grandkids seem to like.

    • Your husband has been grown up in a country where butchers would have been killed in the middle ages if some one would have had a food poisoning from his products.You exclaim because he spends $30 for THAT.This is the NZ sausage mentality it seams so many of you poisoned by mad butchers $5 bucks sausages.How can you expect to get something good in this price range dog food is more pricy.Don’t you think you should feed your children something good instead this rubbish on the stick or so.For a sausage you need good meat good spices and very costly machines how can you expect quality how can you say studded with globules of fat/lard.You have no idea of what is good and healthy .I bet you serve your children margarine and ice cream with anti freeze and consider lard as bad.