“Bangers and Mash” is one of the most widely-known British dishes in the world, starring the much-beloved British Sausage aka the “Banger”. England and Ireland are both respected for their distinctively delicious sausages, but are they really interchangeable?
The honest truth is that Irish and English sausages are very much alike in taste, texture and presentation. They are usually made with pork meat, but may sometimes include beef added into the mixture. Both include a filler of some sort as a requirement along with herbs and garlic. Irish sausages contain eggs and “rusk” (a variety of breadcrumb) while English sausages have only breadcrumbs.
These juicy little sausages are found in a traditional Irish or English “Full Breakfast” (more below) and other favourites such as Sausage Rolls, Pigs in Blankets and sausage sandwiches.
Irish Sausage is also commonly known as “English Sausage”, “British Sausage, and as “Bangers” outside of the UK; the terms are used interchangeably. The traditional recipe consists of ground pork, a bread filler, eggs, seasonings and a natural pork or beef casing. When properly cooked, the outside is crispy and tight while the inside is juicy, soft and very flavourful. A few notes on real Irish Sausage:
- Irish Sausage is not called “banger” by Irish people nor anyone in Ireland. However, the Irish Sausage is indeed called a banger by the rest of the world.
- Irish Sausage must contain at least 20% filler in order to have the proper texture and consistency. Commercial sausages will range in meat-to-filler ratio depending on the price and brand.
- The filler in Irish Sausage must be a special sort of breadcrumb called “rusk” (see “links” below)
Irish Sausage is mainly served as part of an “Irish Breakfast” but is also the star of traditional dishes such as:
- Dublin Coddle – Irish comfort food; sausages, bacon, potatoes and onions cooked together in one pot.
- Irish Sausage Rolls – Irish Sausages wrapped in pastry and sold as a take-out meal or in smaller sizes as a kids’ meal, appetiser or snack. Also served Spicy.
In England, the term “banger” is only used to refer to the dish “Bangers and Mash”; otherwise they are simply called sausages.
English sausages are usually served at breakfast, but are also used in dishes like:
- “Toad in the Hole” (sausage baked into Yorkshire Pudding)
- Sausage casserole
- Sausage Roll – Sausage wrapped in puff pastry and sold at bakeries
- Battered Sausage – Deep-fried battered sausages sold at take-outs.
- Sausage sandwiches
There are several variations of what is widely known as the “Full Breakfast” or “British Breakfast”, depending on if you are in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland or even regions within the main. Canada and the US, as well as former British colonies including Commonwealth nations serve their own variations that may include Corned Beef Hash, Pancakes, Grits, Crêpes, Fruits, Ham, Steak and other forms of preserved meats.
Eggs are usually served fried to order, but may also be scrambled or poached. “Back Bacon” is more like ham or Canadian bacon in that it is cut from the back loin instead of the belly and is much less fatty. American bacon is called “streaky bacon” and is also used especially in the US and Caribbean.
“Irish Breakfast” – A real sausage fest on a plate including Irish Sausage (grilled or pan-fried), eggs, baked beans, toast or soda bread, bacon, white pudding (another Irish sausage recipe) and black pudding (blood sausage). Possibly various accompaniments like fried liver, fried potatoes, grilled onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.
“Full English Breakfast” – aka a “Fry Up” traditionally includes English sausages (fried), bacon (fried British back bacon), eggs, potatoes (hash browns or fried chunks), fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans and toast. The “Fully Monty” includes any and all available sides, including Black Pudding (blood sausage), Bubble & Squeak (cabbage & potatoes) and even smoked fish.
“Scottish Breakfast” – A variety of Scottish Sausages including links, Lorne Sausage (square sausage patties), Scottish Black Pudding (blood sausage) along with back bacon, eggs, toast, baked beans and potato scones. Possible sides include haggis, fried mushrooms, fruit pudding, white pudding (sausage) and oatcakes.
FOOD FACT: In England and Ireland, “Pigs in Blankets” are pork sausages wrapped in bacon and then fried. In the US, “Pigs in Blankets” are any sort of sausage wrapped in pastry and baked. Sausages cooked in pastry in the UK are called “Sausage Rolls” and are sold at bakeries.
Sausages are created all around the world, with many different recipes for meats, seasonings, casings, method of preservation and cooking uses. Sausages may be sold and served raw, cooked, partially cooked, smoked, cured and aged and even fermented. Products such as Bologna, Headcheese, Salami, Pepperoni and other cured meats as well as vegetarian ingredients like soy and nuts are also considered to be sausage.
A few of the more popular international sausages include:
- Chipolata sausages – Common during the holiday season, these long, narrow pork sausages contain no fillers and are served grilled or used for Pigs in Blankets wrapped in bacon
- Lorne Sausage – Scottish square sausage made with pork, beef and bread fillers, also popular in Canada for breakfast sandwiches.
- Wurst – German sausages that include Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Frankfurters and other variations
- Kielbasa – aka Polish sausage, from Eastern Europe
- Chorizo – Cured, dry sausage seasoned with smoked paprika or chilli peppers popular in Spain, Portugal and Latin countries especially Mexico and Colombia.
- Pickled Sausages – Sold in large jars in the US as a snack
- Kamboko – Japanese fish sausage made from the same substance as imitation crab meat
- Italian Sausage – Made with pork meat with no fillers, this popular sausage comes in links, bulk or patties and is flavoured with fennel and pepper.
- Breakfast Sausage – American style, aka Country Sausage made with ground pork
- Frank – aka Frankfurter, aka Hot Dog is the most popular type of sausage consumed in the US.
LINKS & REFERENCES
The Complete Guide to the Full English Breakfast (ny.eater.com)
“There is nothing quite like a full English breakfast. Whether it be fuel for a hard day of labor, a comforting meal to ward off a dreary forecast, or the cure for an epic hangover, the “full Monty” or “fry-up”, as the meal is also called, is a celebration of breakfast. It is breakfast as feast.”
How to cook the perfect sausage (www.theguardian.com UK edition)
“What proportions of meat and fat should the perfect British banger contain, and how should it be cooked? Fried, grilled or poached, and most crucially, pricked or not?”
Homemade British Bangers and the Search for Rusk: How to make better bangers (www.thepauperedchef.com)
“…the case remains the same: Bangers must have filler or they simply aren’t bangers…” Proper British bangers require the inclusion of a mystery ingredient called “rusk”. Learn what exactly rusk is and how to make beautiful pork sausage bangers at home.
Sausage Definition (www.wikipedia.com)
“Sausage making is a logical outcome of efficient butchery. Traditionally, sausage makers would salt various tissues and organs such as scraps, organ meats, blood, and fat to help preserve them. They would then stuff them into tubular casings made from the cleaned intestines of the animal, producing the characteristic cylindrical shape. Hence, sausages, puddings, and salami are among the oldest of prepared foods, whether cooked and eaten immediately or dried to varying degrees.”
The Best Beer Pairings for Grilled Sausages (www.seriouseats.com)
“Our sausage line-up included the following: Chicago-style hot dog (garnished in the appropriate fashion), classic bratwurst, smoked Italian, Moroccan lamb, elk sausage with mushroom and cherry, spicy tomato basil chicken, and Tofurky kielbasa for the vegetarians.”
Pigs in Blankets by John-Bryan Hopkins (www.foodimentary.com)
“Pigs in blankets (also known as pigs in the blanket, pigs in blankets, devils on horsebacks, wiener winks, worstjes in deeg, kilted sausages, wild willies) refers to a few different sausage-based foods in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Canada, and Japan. They are often different from sausage rolls.”
RECIPE: Bangers & Mash w/Onion Gravy (www.seriouseats.com)
“I realized after doing a little research that a third component is equally important, though it doesn’t get main billing: onion gravy, the glue that holds this meal together.”
RECIPE: Toad in the Hole (britishfood.about.com)
“This individual Toad in the Holes recipe takes the easy Yorkshire Pudding recipe and with the addition of sausages, turn sit into a filling meal.”
RECIPE: Dublin Coddle (www.food.com)
“In Dublin itself, coddle retains its reputation as a dish that can be prepared ahead of time and left in a very slow oven while the people who’re going to eat it have to be out of the house for a while – making it an excellent dish for very busy people!”