In British Sausage Week, it seems appropriate to offer some recipes for making what we now see as a commodity product. Different varieties of sausages have been made for centuries the world over, but the most frequent recipe I have found in eighteenth-century manuscript books is similar to this fairly basic one:
Take a leg of Pork, Parboil itt, take hogs sowit [suet] and sage, and mix them together very small, put in a good deal of Pepper & Salt as much as you think fitt, stir itt well together, then take Sheeps Gutts and scower them very well with salt and fill them, tye them up in Links and hang them up smoaking till you use them (MS 7998, Wellcome Collection)
They would be hung near the fire to dry, although this recipe is a useful reminder that doing so would have added a smoky flavour.
Other recipes note that the sausages can be made from mutton or veal as well, and add more herbs, such as ‘a little fennells seed bruised a very litle thym, marioran, penny-royall, winter savory, parsly a good deale of sage, chop all together’ (MS 4054, Wellcome Collection). And some observe that you can dispense with the skins, frying the resulting patties in butter or a form of stock, as in this pleasant-sounding example:
Take either mutton, veale or pork (you may cut it from the legg as much as will make a reasonable dish & not deface the legg) then take of any ruff suet as much as your quantity of meat is, then beat it & shread it very small, and putt to it a little sage shread small, & season it with salt, pepper & nutmegg if you please, then take one egg white & all mix them alltogether very well, Rub your hands with a little flower so rowle it up in rowles twice as long as your finger, as thick as pig puddings, frye them with butter or any other liquor, or you may stew them in mutton broath with apples & onions. (MS4054, Wellcome Collection)
The Johnson family recipe book helpfully advises ‘If you propose keeping them long omit the egges, for they wont keep so well, but if they be for eating within a few days they are much the better for them’ and offers this rather more exotic recipe for Mrs Walter Johnson’s Oyster Sausages:
Half a pound of lean Veal, Pork, or Beef, Half a pound of Beef Suet, One Score of Oysters just warmed in their own liquor, all to be chopped very fine and mixed together with two Eggs well beaten, a very little Cayenne, Salt and Nutmeg, and one or two Cloves, make them into flat Cakes or Balls, roll them in Crumbs of Bread, and fry them of a pale Brown, add the liquor of the Oysters to the Sausages. N.B. If the Oysters are small it will require two Score. (MS 3082, Wellcome Collection)
Of course, oysters were a staple and inexpensive food in the eighteenth century, but using 40 of them today would put that recipe in the gourmet category!