Sunday, 20 January 2019

Lincolnshire Sausage Season #13 of 13 - Hargraves - Pinchbeck - Old Style Lincolnshire Sausages

Pinchbeck can be found two miles north of Spalding. On Knight Street, just around the corner from the thousand year-old church, past the football ground, and on the other side of the road you will find Hargraves the Butchers. Marvellously they have their own private customer car park beside the shop so parking up while you buy your meaty goodies is simple. If you want to use SausNav the postcode is PE11 3RA. Also I would recommend visiting on a Wednesday if you’re a sausage fan (and if you’re not, why are you reading this?) as that’s the day that Hargraves put several different and interesting varieties of snorker on sale – but beware, they sell out quickly and when they’re gone, they’re gone....

Under gloomy and leaden skies, but with a passion for excellent meat products lighting up my heart, I found myself in Hargraves car park in Pinchbeck. As well as being a nice village, the word pinchbeck is the name of an alloy invented by watch-maker Christopher Pinchbeck in the eighteenth century, composed of 89% copper and 11% zinc, and developed so that less wealthy customers could own “gold effect” watches and jewellery. So what would a historic village steeped in agriculture have to offer to us sausage lovers? Read on....

Two cheery Stanettes were waiting behind the counter when I arrived, bundled up in many layers of thermal clothing – this shop always keeps its doors open to give a friendly and inviting welcome to customers. I felt a little sorry for them actually, apparently it can be “blooming  parky” when the wind whips over the flat fenland countryside and straight in through the door. Good service was provided though.

Opening Hours:
Monday – 0730 to 1730
Tuesday – 0730 to 1730
Wednesday – 0730 to 1730
Thursday – 0730 to 1730
Friday – 0700 to 1930
Saturday – 0630 to 1700
Sunday - Closed

Warm, homely and old-fashioned (as you would hope, judging by the name of the sausage), these are very tasty bangers. The very local  pork is light and moist and a million miles from any terrible “sausage” you may find in a supermarket. To my mind there is marginally too much pepper for the genuine Lincolnshire flavour but that is a very minor quibble – make no mistake, these sausages taste delicious.

In a word – “Superb!” These are known as Old Style Lincolnshires as the filling is chopped coarser than their standard version. There’s a juicy, chunky feel in the mouth and the sausages are really pleasant to chew. Very solidly bonded bangers. Lumpy, clumpy and there’s even the occasional meaty squeak as you eat. Skins are natural and make this a top quality sausage - I am a fan already.  They are also very hearty, I wanted to eat more but was just too full.

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 64 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 60 grams
Rest assured, these are solid logs of sausages, and what’s even better is the tiny amount of weight lost during the frying process, meaning that you do end up eating what you paid for.

Value For Money:
£2.74 for 8 sausages weighing 511 grams. This works out as £5.36 per kg and 34p per banger.
We rate this as ruddy brilliant value for money, you’d be crackers not to try some as soon as possible.

Three Word Verdicts:
Junior Sidekick was not present.
Ruth “Delicious, snappy, peppery”
JP was away.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
We lined up the survivors against four options – Branston pickle, English mustard, horseradish sauce and “Rib Tickler BBQ Sauce” by The Chilli Jam Man. All would make an acceptable companion for a cold sausage butty but the favourite in this case was the Branston pickle, closely followed by the mustard. The Rib Tickler sauce is absolutely delicious but not quite the right partner for a sausage, and the horseradish didn’t work particularly pleasingly.

And Finally, Esther:
These are lovely sausages at a very tempting price – you really can’t afford to ignore them!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Lincolnshire Sausage Season #12 of 13 - Ancaster Butchers

Ancaster is an attractive village in south Lincolnshire, halfway between Sleaford and Grantham. In days gone by it was a Roman settlement and it lies on the Roman road Ermine Street, where said road crosses the modern day A153. There are two nearby nature reserves, each of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, dedicated to the Tall Thrift plant, which is native to this area of England and a vulnerable species.

Ancaster Butchers is located on what appears to be the “high street” in the village but is actually the existing route of Ermine Street. You should be able to park nearby on the roadside. If you are using SausNav type in NG31 3PW.  There is a website with a nice “About Us” section here: ANCASTER BUTCHERS

I visited Ancaster when I was collecting chipolatas and streaky bacon for our Pigs In Blankets Taste Test before Christmas (see how they turned out in the last three photos of this review). While I was there I also bought some incredibly thick pork chops which were absolutely bloody lovely – when you pop in be sure to get some yourself. But how did their Lincolnshire sausages rate? There’s only one way to find out – read on....

Opening Hours:
Monday – 0730 to 1700
Tuesday – 0730 to 1700
Wednesday – Closed
Thursday – 0730 to 1700
Friday – 0730 to 1700
Saturday – 0730 to 1200
Sunday - Closed

The cosy shop space backs onto a longer preparation room which was a hive of activity when I visited. The meat masterminds are Luke and Spencer, who also build the bangers. I was served by the very helpful Becky. Efficient service and lots of warm smiles is a great combination.

After a couple of peppery Lincolnshire offerings these samples were refreshingly light on the stuff, just as they should be. There’s a gentle sage flavour throughout, and the overall taste is rather mild. These bangers are inoffensive. If Ford Prefect was a sausage reviewer he’d say they were “mostly harmless”. That’s not to say they are not worth eating because I enjoyed them a lot, it’s a good choice for your full English breakfast.

My notes start with “Fine, firm, manly” which isn’t a bad three word summary. In fact it’s a very good combination. They firmed up very well in the pan and resisted strongly when we tried to squish a fork through the filling. I did notice some rather obvious stripes developing while cooking which is either down to my poor kitchen skills or the presence of something artificial in the sausages. I’ll have to have some more soon to check this out. The skins were commented on as “average”.

By the way, I'm not saying that The Powers That Be consider this blog to be a threat to the fabric of society, but I was buzzed by a pair of Apache helicopters as I left....just saying!

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 58 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 54 grams
Meat Content = 96/97 %, Luke wasn’t entirely sure.

Value For Money:
£3.90 for 8 sausages weighing 466 grams. This works out as £8.37 per kg and 50p per banger.
We rate this as good value for money, a decent price for a nice example of the Lincolnshire sausage.

Three Word Verdicts:
Junior Sidekick “Sausages very good.”
Ruth “Nicely spiced. Good.”
JP “Juicy, very tasty.”

And Finally, Esther:
A decent version of a Lincolnshire sausage which I will be trying again in 2019.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Lincolnshire Sausage Season #11 of 13 - Pick's - Dorrington

Picture the scene. The Famous Five are riding their bicycles en route to Aunt Fanny’s cottage on Kirrin Island where they expect to discover and take down a counterfeit cigarette operation run by the Albanian mafia. All of a sudden one of them clips a kerb and falls off in a shower of satchels, cardigans and middle-class superiority.

“DICK!” yells....Dick. “George, you’re such a flipping dick!”. Dick immediately loses three fingers when he is attacked by George’s over-protective and un-micro chipped new dog Tyson. Poor old Timmy was knocked over by a pantechnicon just after the Autumn hols last October.

I know you will have enjoyed that brief nostalgic vignette. And if you want to imagine what the background of the scene looked like, take a glimpse at Picks Butchers shop frontage, in the sleepy Lincolnshire village of Dorrington. It is pure picture-postcard English perfection. Red brick facade with a pleasingly simple sign, a red telephone box, a red pillar box on a, errrrm,  pillar and hand-written blackboards. Beautiful.

I had heard great things about Picks, especially about their pork pies, so was excited to step through the Lincoln City coloured chain-link door screen. At this year’s prestigious Poacher awards Picks bagged Gold for their pork pies and dry cure bacon, silver for Lincolnshire sausage and pork & tomato sausage, and a bronze for their haslet. These awards are not given out willy-nilly, so you know you’re dealing with a good quality producer here. But how did their Lincolnshire sausages rate for us? Read on....

Where To Find Them:
Picks are on Main Street in Dorrington, easy to find and with easy street parking. If you’re using SausNav type in LN4 3QA. You can’t miss them.

Opening Hours:
As per the picture, but just to reiterate:
Monday – 0700 to 1700
Tuesday – 0700 to 1700
Wednesday – 0700 to 1700
Thursday – 0700 to 1700
Friday – 0700 to 1700
Saturday – Closed
Sunday – Closed

Nice and quirky, just how we like it. These guys obviously enjoy their weekends!

What a treat! Two delightful and welcoming Stanettes serving the steady flow of customers, and enjoying a chat with all-comers. In the background a solitary Stan a-chopping and a-slicing like the clappers, at a bench placed just behind the counter. I hope the intention is for us punters to see the produce being created, which is a bold move and demonstrates their obvious confidence in their goods.

Warm, herby, delicious. BUT there was a BIG issue with these sausages. Despite using the same pan, same heat, same oil as with every review, seven out of eight sausages split their sides during cooking. This is obviously a bad thing – we love small eruptions from the ends of bangers, but so much bursting is disturbing. The fluid that leaked from the broken bangers was coagulant and clogging.....and TOTALLY buggered up the home-made hash browns that are always cooked in the pan after the sausages depart. Look at ‘em, just look at ‘em. Hash splodges they became.

The skins were obviously compromised as they had split. You could say there was no Snap or Crackle, cos they Popped. Disappointing. The filling was actually really good, large pieces, crumbled apart beautifully when pushed but clung together to provide a most excellent sensation in your mouth. A great texture.....but let down...

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 68 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 49 grams

Meat Content = 95 %

Value For Money:
£3.82 for 8 sausages weighing 542 grams. This works out as £7.04 per kg and 48p per banger.
We rate this as not bad value for money, which would have been much better without the bursting drama and weight loss. If you buy in a more “bulk” kind of way the price reduces.

The "Aah, Bisto" Factor:
No noticeable aroma in the pan, but I “was” heartily annoyed with all the bursting carnage going on so may have been distracted.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
There were no sausages left over for the next morning, which in itself must say something about the flavour. Crap bangers tend to last longer....

And Finally, Esther:
I want to give these tasty sausages another try. Surely the split personality of these was a one-off event. Potentially good sausages I feel, but a slight disappointment on the day.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Lincolnshire Sausage Season #10 of 13 - Odlings - Navenby

Where to start with this well-known, well-loved Lincolnshire butcher. Speaking with uber-Stan Dan Mitchell I found out so much about this business. To discover the full, fascinating history of this company click this link and then select, obviously, the “History” section – ODLINGS

As a brief summary the firm started in 1920, so they are busy planning some special celebrations for their centenary in a couple of years time. Starting off selling just pots and pans, this grew into a hardware shop with a few meat products on the side, and then blossomed into the splendid village butcher that you can visit today. And visit you definitely must!

Where To Find Them:
Navenby is an attractive and ancient village in Lincolnshire, dating back to the Bronze Age, around 600BC. It was also a garrison staging point for Roman forces marching up and down Ermine Street. The wide main street is evidence of its more recent history as a market town, with a charter being granted by Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century. More recently a more saucy side of the village was revealed when Lawrence of Arabia wrote “I'm too shy to go looking for dirt. That's why I can't go off stewing into the Lincoln or Navenby brothels with the fellows.” He was stationed at RAF Cranwell near Sleaford at the time.

Odling’s shop is located on the High Street in Navenby, if you drive slowly you can’t miss it – and as a bonus they have their own large car park just across the road, what more could you ask for? If you’re using SausNav it’s LN5 0ET.

If you can’t travel to Navenby the good news is that Odling’s deliver in the local area. Many years ago they ran a fleet of seven vans but nowadays it’s just the one, with various different routes around the area, depending on the day. Either see their website for details or call on 01522 810228.

Opening Hours:
Monday – 0600 to 1800
Tuesday – 0600 to 1800
Wednesday – 0600 to 1800
Thursday – 0600 to 1800
Friday – 0600 to 1800
Saturday – 0600 to 1730
Sunday – 1000 to 1600

I didn’t spy any Stans during my visit, but was pretty involved in conversation about all things meat-related with Dan Mitchell. A very capable, articulate butcher, you could do worse than ask for his personal assistance when you pop in. Cheers Dan!

Briliantly balanced seasoning sets off these lovely sausages to a tee. The first word I wrote in the review notes was “delicious”, which is a fair one-word summary. The flavour is deep, dark and addictive, very faithfully Lincolnshire with a decent sage-y taste backed up with obviously high-quality pork. No ears, snouts or tail in these bangers, it’s all killer no filler. I asked for the recipe hoping to catch Dan off guard, but as usual it is “ancient and secret”. Bah.

I have to say I was not overly impressed with the texture, but that’s because I am extremely picky. The filling is quite fine and I prefer chunky – the bigger the better. Indeed a Lincolnshire sausage is traditionally chunkier inside than most. The skins were not very snappy either, which was a surprise. Blobs of filling oozed from the ends during cooking which I absolutely love. However, don’t let my own personal preferences stop you from trying these bangers, I think 99% of the population would bloody love ‘em!

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 58 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 45 grams
Meat Content = 85 %

Odlings source their pork from Porters, a high quality producer, also based in Navenby. If you’re trying to reduce your food miles then you can’t get better than that. Also, their beef is reared in the neighbouring village of Caythorpe, again excellent green credentials. Porters  also supply some of the other producers of top quality sausages in the area. 

Value For Money:
£2.88 for 8 sausages weighing 466 grams. This works out as £6.18 per kg and 36p per banger.
We rate this as brilliant value for money, unit price is quite a bit lower than many comparable sausages. Do yourself a favour and buy some as soon as you can.

The "Aah, Bisto" Factor:
Superb aroma in the pan, one sniff will take you straight back to teatime in 1977 when mum was frying your tea as you watched Blue Peter. Or Magpie.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
There was only one survivor from the eight brave bangers who jumped into my frying pan the night before. One survivor. And Ruth nicked it.....

She says “The taste was really nice, just as good as when they were hot and texture was a bit firmer cold.  Overall very nice”.

And Finally, Esther:
A tasty Lincolnshire banger which is also great value. You’d be (Christmas) crackers not to try some.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Pigs In Blankets Taste Test - Christmas 2018

Pigs in blankets are the best part of your Christmas dinner, but why do people insist on buying the ready-made, tiny monstrosities from the supermarkets? We always make our own so we have gone beyond the call of duty to rate five versions of this festive favourite. We bought 2 chipolata and 5 streaky bacon rashers from each butcher - if you make your own you will not need so much bacon, so bear this in mind when comparing the unit prices....

Each sample was voted on four aspects - Flavour, Juiciness (the kids' choice of category), Appearance & Aroma, and Texture. Marks out of 5 in each category meaning a maximum possible score of 80 points. Writing down of scores was hidden so that there could be no influencing between judges. And the winner was....

Sample A - Southern & Thorpe of Ruskington. Congratulations, another "prestigious" award. Scoring 57 out of 80 was a well deserved victory. Judges voted exceptionally high on Texture, well done chaps! Unit price for these was £0.71.

Runners-up were Odlings Butchers of Navenby (sample E), scoring 48 points. The flavour and appearance were both excellent, a well-earned silver medal. These cost £1.04 each.

In a close third place were the pigs in blankets from Picks of Dorrington (sample B). These were a good all-rounder with consistent scores across the categories. Cost was £0.75.

Close behind in fourth spot were Ancaster Butchers, sample C. Superb scores for flavour and texture were annoyingly cancelled out by the streaky bacon being a little on the short side and splitting apart a bit. I will be re-making these and using to pieces of bacon for each. Cost £1.11.

Fifth and last by a huge margin were the awful Richmonds/Tesco combo. Richmond chipolata looked disgusting when cold and tasted even worse when cook. All slop, no chop. The Fake Farm bacon shrank too much, leaving the end results looking like dismembered fingers. Cost £0.43 each - and a waste of 43p at that!

All in all a very informative and mostly tasty way to spend a family afternoon. The conclusion must be to buy your own quality ingredients from your local butcher and create your own pigs in blankets, as opposed to buying the pre-packed, tiny, unsatisfying product from the supermarkets.