What makes one sausage better than another?

What makes one sausage better than another? In most cases it is not an elaborate recipe handed down by an amazing cook nor the artisanal skills of a highly skilled butcher. What makes food taste great is simplicity itself! The kind of simplicity that is incredibly hard to find. A simplicity precious, rare and profound. 

The gentle and caring farmer Adam, and Large English Black pigs on pasture, at Jonai Farm, Blampied, Victoria.

In the case of a sausage, that simplicity takes shape in the form of pigs raised on pasture. Pigs fed a diet of grains fermented or whole, fresh strawberries unwanted or eggs cracked. It is pigs moved every other week onto fresh soil where they can use their snouts to dig the earth over and over. It is pigs bathed in sunlight, cloaked by wind and washed by rain. Pigs nestled in outdoor glamping tents made from wood and corrugated iron, their floor insulated by straw. 

Meat and fat with pepper and salt.

You know as well as I do that 98% of pigs are raised in sheds. Big sheds with hundreds of pigs. The smell there abhorrent, the lack of UV sunlight creates a perfect storm of bacterial infections. The noise pollution is monumental. The pigs are nothing short of depressed, miserable constrained for six months in a hostile place. And of course, they must be given antibiotics. Pigs in sheds won’t survive without them. Imagine me and you and a few hundred others all sleeping and toileting in the same room for six months. We’d need to douse ourselves in penicillin too.

No artificial flavourings, just peppercorns grown from peppercorn trees.

What makes one sausage better than another. It is the farmer and the decisions she/he/they make every single day that creates a delicious sausage. The decision to use the best meat from the animal not parts unwanted. 

Meat and fat and pepper placed in the mincer.

In a cheap sausage the very worst parts of the animal are used. For example a Guardian Article published back in 2010 had this to say about ‘cheap sausages’, “the cheapest, most processed ones can include some or all of the following: low meat content, added water, sugar, additives and mechanically recovered meat (MRM) – where everything is blasted from the pig carcass to form an unpleasant red sludge. The lower the quality of sausage, the more additives there are, including flavourings such as monosodium glutamate (E621), nitrates to keep the sausage pink and aid preservation, and anitioxidants to prevent discolouration. All these are currently deemed safe, but why eat them when delicious and far healthier options are available?”

No nitrates are used because we don’t need to pretend that red meat stays bright red after it has been handled. The truth is that meat stays red only for a short period of time. It oxides quickly and turns a deep red, more close to brown. If the meat you buy looks very red then it’s because the butcher has used nitrates to make the meat look like it was cut the moment you walked into the shop. Let’s be real because these illusions create the very opposite outcome of what we all want. We want fresh but not pretend fresh, not nitrate fresh, not uneducated fresh. Meat goes brown. If it’s fresh it will smell fresh.
Adam has been farming at Jonai Farm intensely for two years. He is amazing! generous, kind, a great communicator and hard worker. He has been involved in all aspects of the farm, from paddock to plate, from feeding to butchering, to deliveries and teaching. In this photo he is mixing sausage mince with salt and pepper.
Mince is added to a piping machine that simply pushes the mince out and into sausage skins. Sausage skins are made from pig intestines. The cheaper sausages are made from cellulose or collagen skins. Both cellulose and collagen are natural ingredients, but the skin they make has a different texture and feel to skins made from the animal itself. In this photo farmer Will from Pig and Earth farm has invited various locals to join him so that he can share his trade.
From front to back: farmer and butcher Will from Pig and Earth farm, Veterinary student Tori is accompanying Will on all his projects to learn all aspects of animal wifery, and at back farmer and butcher Adam.
On farms where animals are cared for, people flock from all over the state of Victoria, Australia, to take part in on farm activities. Here Tori a vet student and Nicola define the sausage lengths.
Once the mince is placed in the long skin casing which is a continues long casing, the butcher places twists along the length to define each sausage. Then lengths of sausages are hung for about 24 hours, in a refrigerated space or a cool larder, this allows them to stabilise and hold their shape when they are cooked. For our class in July, we will not be able to to do this stage in order to fit the class into one day, instead we will cook them very very gently.

What makes one sausage better than another? It is simplicity, real meat combined with real fat unadulterated. I can’t emphasise this more, it is simplicity! Using naked ingredients, raw and unsullied. It is a pig free to live on pasture. It is a pig not locked in a shed. It is a farmer who is fulfilled by light, the outdoors, verdant hills, trees planted and a modest income. It is a sausage made from every day decisions that place care of people, land and animals front and centre. It is simplicity!