On the question of who invented sausages, we've discovered that the origin of sausages goes back much further than we may have first realised. In fact, the history of sausages began with our very earliest civilisations, we now understand that the very first sausages came about as part of the solution to a significant problem of the time.
How to prevent or delay the spoilage of meat?
Prior to the age of refrigeration, the answer was…SALT! Notably, almost every tribe, nation, and ethnic group have a deep history of preserving meat with salt. Evidence shows this going back over 4000 years, and perhaps to the dawn of civilisation itself.
Where does the word sausage come from?
The word, Sausage originates from the Latin for salt - Sal, also Salsus – salt. Thus, sau and sal syllables are used to describe a variety of foods where salt is the focus ingredient or element:
Saussiche, saucisse - Northern France
sausage - previously Sawsyge in 15th Century Briton
Salumi - The art of preserving muscle meats with salt and is also where we get the word salami.
Mesopotamia - 2600BC
Ancient Greece - 725BC
Most noteworthy in Homer’s Odyssey we read an early description of Black Pudding making: “When a man beside a great fire has filled a great stomach (goat) with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it roasted”
Roman Britain - 400AD
Ancient Britains were originally introduced to sausage making by the Romans who were accomplished sausage makers. the Romans made sausage with pepper & exotic spices added to Pork, Beef, Mutton, Goat, and even Fish. Likewise, Lucanian or Luganega sausages were a staple of the Roman army and are still popular today. These Italian sausages were the origin of the Great British Sausage we see today.
The Tudors - 725AD
Influences from overseas saw the emergence of regional specialties in 16th century Britain. Traditionally Cumberland sausages contain 98% finely chopped pork and seasoned with salt, black pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, thyme, and sage. These days, the current PGI allows for as little as 80% pork and the addition of allergens such as rusk, spelt, soya & wheat.
The British Banger
Sadly the perception of our Great British sausages became one of popular ridicule. Thus giving rise to the term: British Banger - due to its tendency to explode. Skins would rupture due to pressure from absorbed water turning to steam. Unfortunately, as the country began recovery from post-war food rationing. Traditional sausage makers led by the now-dissolved Dewhurst’s chain saw an opportunity. Though, only natural that our British sausage makers wanted to maintain the margins they'd been used to. Hence, the inclusion of inflammatory cereal fillers was retained – who could blame them! Though this only meant further ridicule for our treasured sausage, giving rise to the less than complimentary phrase - There are 3 types of Bread; White, Brown, and sausages. Alas, those fantastic recipes that had evolved since the Roman occupation now at risk of being forgotten. Though some evidence shows that bread had been used occasionally in sausage since the middle ages, it was out of necessity, a reserve of the poor in times of lack. In post-war Britain, the now infamous British bread sausage was born and here to stay – at least for a while!
Luckily, since the ’80s, the British Banger has seen something of a renaissance with small artisan producers rediscovering traditional recipes and introducing them back into local communities. Though progress was initially slow, due to the sheer volume of cheaper commodity sausages (mass-produced) flooding the UK market (driven primarily by consumer demand for cheaper food and shareholder dividends). Furthermore, there is no UK legislation to protect those original proper sausage recipes. Bread, wheat and cereal, soya, legumes & chemical additives have become synonymous with British Sausage.
In spite of this, the prospects for great sausage in the UK is looking somewhat brighter due to increasing awareness of health, well being, and food intolerance.