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Are we getting bag for our buck in our bangers? Do we know where the meat in them comes from? Will sausages be the next horsegate scandal? This week I looked at eight sausages to see find out. Bord Bia awards a quality assurance mark when sausages have a minimum of 70% meat content and use meat from Bord Bia Quality Assured farms which must be Irish. On their website you can find a list of companies that are members of Bord Bia, but this does not guarantee adherence to these standards unless they get the quality assured mark, and meat could be imported.
One company I spoke to said the 70% meat requirement was irrelevant as the meat used in sausages if often fatty meat which melts away in the pan. I studied lists of ingredients and the common additive is phosphates which keep the added water in place, along with rusk which lightens the mixture. This makes them unsuitable for those with gluten intolerance. A preservative to keep bacteria at bay is necessary to prolong shelf life and this is usually a form of sulphite which needs to be listed on packs as they are shown to cause reactions in those intolerant. Sausages can have added fat and rind listed. This is required by law where is is over 30% added fat which brings the fat content up further.
Sausages in general are a high saturated fat product so should be eaten in moderation – two at a time weighing in at 100g could contain an average 9g of the least healthy saturated fats. They are best eaten with a vegetable or fruit that helps digest fats such as traditional stewed apple or cabbage. If fried, make sure sausages are well drained on towels to absorb excess fat. They are also good dry-fried with a tablespoon of water so the fat that oozes out can be poured off. The good news is that pork is good for the nervous system, high in B vitamins, helpful for fertility and a good source of iron.
Caherbeg free range pork sausages, €3.26 for 0.225g (€1.44/100g)
Made from meat of pigs reared on the Allshire farm in Rosscarbery, with occasional open days to see the farm, this is the closest we can get to knowing the individual animals supplying our food. A lovely, fulsome meaty flavour, with just enough spices it is an example how small farm, free range is the way to go to get depth of flavour. 60% pork is lower than some other samples, but they are more meaty than all of them with a good, not over-minced texture. There is added water, rusk and phosphates. All tasters liked this one best. While price is high compared to the others, the difference was worth it. Very good for main meals for stews with beans and lentils. Available in On the Pigs Back, some SuperValu stores, O’Keeffe’s St Lukes, O’Driscolls Ballinlough, Avoca shops in Dublin and others.
Marks & Spencer 6 thick Irish pork sausages, 400g €2.99 (74c/100g)
Deliciously succulent and meaty, these sausages have a decent 78% pork which is flavoursome. The rest is made up mainly of water and gluten-free crumb. The water is held by the stabilizer E450 which are diphosphates and the E223 named on the label are sulphites so watch for intolerances there. The stabilisers worked as there was no shrinkage when we cooked the sausages. Ground ginger, pimentos, mace, cayenne, nutmeg and cloves combine to give a satisfying full flavour. These enhance well-textured Irish pork used in a Northern Ireland factory. Saturated fat and salt are both above average. The second favourite of tasters.
Denny Gold Medal jumbo 8 sausages, 454g €3.19 (0.70c/100g)
Made by Kerry foods and not Bord Bia approved, the Denny website explains that their pork is does not consistently come from Irish farms but from unspecified EU suppliers. More info at denny.ie. 56% pork is supplemented by added pork fat and rind. Despite this, saturated fats are average. The remaining percentage is made up of water, starch and rusk stabilised by sodium triphosphate. At 2.2% salt is high amounting to over 1g of salt per sausage – enough salt for a full day. While the more spongy, extruded texture we have become accustomed makes for an easy bite, there is no depth of pork flavour under the spices.
Mallon’s 16 Irish pork sausages, 454g €2.99 (65c/100g)
52% pork is quite low added to mainly by water and rusk, emulsified by triphosphate. The flavour enhancer is E621 – monosodium glutamate (MSG), and as usual, sodium sulphite is the preservative, so watch for intolerances. There is also an anti caking agent E551 which is silicone dioxide, a chemical produced from sand. At 10.7% saturated fats are high along with 2% salt.
Based in Monaghan, while the company is Bord Bia Quality Assured and the pork comes from Irish pigs, as these sausages have less than the required amount of pork, they don’t have the quality assured mark. Flavours here are a bit harsh, more spicy and without a depth of meaty flavour to balance. However, an acceptable sausage, especially in a good quality bread roll to offset the spices.
Rudds 6 premium sausages, 400g €2. (50c/100g)
100% Irish with Bord Bia quality assurance, 75% Irish pork is a decent amount and these also have water, rusk and potato starch. The sausages are low in meaty flavour and somewhat over-flavoured with spices, herbs and the flavour enhancer E621 – monosodium glutamate (MSG). The preservative is sodium metabisulphite so watch intolerances. Saturated fats and salt are average to high.
Aldi Specially Selected 9 butchers choice Irish pork sausages, 370g €1.99 (0.53c/100g)
While there is an Irish flag on this product, it’s not the Bord Bia symbol but Aldi’s own quality assured symbol. The sausages are manufactured by Loughnanes of Galway. A decent 80% pork has added pork fat with water held in place by wheat flour and the stabliser triphosphate. Sodium sulphite is the preservative so watch intolerances to these. Saturated fats are average. At 1.78% salt is high – 2 sausages will have about 1.78g. However, this is a nicely spiced sausage with satisfying bite. Tasters liked this, but, like many of the sausages, not the idea that the flavour enhancer was monosodium glutamate.
Galtee 12 sausages, 454g €2.85 (0.62c/100g)
There is no mention of Irish pork on the label, and the sausages are made by Kerry Foods who also make Denny who don’t guarantee Irish pork. With 50% pork, water, added pork fat, rusk and mustard powder, sodium triphosphate is the stabilizer. The flavour enhancer is monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservative is sodium sulphite so watch for intolerances. Saturated fats and salt content are average. More subtly spiced sausage than many samples, the texture is quite meaty. Liked by most tasters, who still would prefer to have no MSG in their food.
O’Flynns Gourmet Sausage company, 300g €2.50 (0.83c/100g)
12 small sausages for the price are made in a factory in Tallow, Co Waterford by Cork northsiders from Irish pork. Sodium nitrate is the preservative used along with salt and flavourings which don’t include MSG (as they did some years back). Available in English Market, their new sausage grill on Winthrop Street and in SuperValu Midleton and Glanmire (and soon to be in a chain of stores in Dubai). These cut well and have a slightly harsh spicing, but still very tasty.