Sunday, 27 July 2014

Puddings and sausages in their skins

With apologies to all vegetarians, I am going to wax lyrical about sausages! My family has always been fond of proper butcher’s sausages, it was a food my mother often cooked but always in the oven, never fried or grilled! Like me I think she hated the smell of cooking getting all over the house - this was before cooker extractor hoods had been invented remember!

As youngsters, my sister or I would either be sent “over the road” to Durrant’s the butchers to get a pound and a half of linked sausages, or when Mr Durrant retired we’d need to get some at a town butcher’s in King’s Lynn on Saturday morning before coming home on the bus with them.
I was actually once a member of the British Sausage Appreciation Society and here is my pin badge to prove it. I think it was a once and for all membership I purchased in the late 70’s for about a  £1.50 postal and the price of a couple of stamps! I wonder if technically I am still a member today?

Lets consider some prehistory here...the oldest type of pudding is one that is boiled in the stomach, small or large intestine of an animal. For as long as man has been carnivorous, the intestinal tract of meat animals has been used for pudding and sausage casings - not to mention a variety of other uses as well.

Since ancient times, continuing into Medieval, Tudor and later periods blood, chopped offal and fat were used to make black or blood puddings when pigs were slaughtered in autumn. When these ingredients were Incorporated with oats and spices a nutritious, tasty food product would result. Such puddings, and other sausages as we now commonly call them, are known to be one of the oldest and most enduring forms of processed meat. In some respects, they may even be considered the world's very first "convenience food"!

The intestines or animal casings were turned inside out and washed or “scoured” many times. I hope this was done in clean running stream water! The mixed ingredients were forced into the animal casings and twisted or tied off in “boudin” or sausage shapes, or for a larger pudding filled the animal’s stomach. Cooked immediately because a blood sausage’s keeping properties were very limited after this initial cooking, slices could be fried or boiled again shortly afterwards. But essentially the blood sausage was eaten “fresh” in England and in countries with similar climates. In hot or cold, dry and windy climates such as mountain areas of Spain or Scandinavia respectively, the same blood puddings were cured by air drying, thus prolonging their keeping properties.

In Medieval, Tudor and later times sweet “white puddings” were also favourites on the high class menu and based on rice, oatmeal, almonds, bread, eggs and cream with spices. Or alternatively unctious “marrow puddings” often eaten for breakfast. Often parboiled and then cooled and kept, they were gently toasted to brown them off before eating.
Tudor sausages: blood puddings, rice pudding and marrow puddings 
Here are the results of MedievalMorsels’  research and modelling of 12th scale miniature Medieval/Tudor food - puddings in skins. Or, as Ivan Day the social food historian, expert consultant on Medieval food, blogger and experimental chef less delicately puts it - “puddings in scoured guts”! Take a look at his real recreated puddings with authentic ingredients at http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/ryce-puddings-in-scoured-guts.html
And below is some contemporary 12th scale dollhouse charcuterie. Pork, beef (a Scottish favourite) and venison sausages, plus some thinner chipolatas, modelled for “a basket of…” for sale at UK dolls house fairs. 

12th scale dolls house food: contemporary beef, pork and venison sausages 

Lets leave blood pudding aside but stick with the savoury theme. As well as pork meat, other types of sausage filling were popular in Medieval times. Porpoise, then common sea and a mammal not unlike a dolphin, with pepper and ginger fillings were enjoyed by nobles during Lent. Classified as a fish, porpoise could be eaten all year long! The same exception applied to the flesh of very young rabbits. Other white meat charcuterie based on (real) fish and cheese was popular - all complying with the medieval church’s strict “laws” on abstinence from meat for many days of the year.

Black puddings still feature in a full English breakfast today. And Haggis - pinhead oatmeal, finely minced sheep heart, liver and lungs and finely tuned spices including white pepper - cooked in the sheep's stomach is of course the national dish of Scotland. Very tasty with "neeps and tatties" on Burns Night (January 25th) it is too!!

National rice pudding day is August 14th, which is easy for me to remember as it just happens to have been my parents’ wedding anniversary. My dad was very fond of the skin from a conventional rice pudding, as well as the pudding itself, so it was generally reserved for him - however burnt it might be! My mum would usually make a rice pudding when the oven was on for a Sunday roast, especially if no Bramley apples were available from our tree for the usual alternative - apple pie and custard!