The first (and I say this with some smugness) makes it highly unlikely that meat of an equine leaning has passed my lips. It’s not a class issue but I am not a member of the Findus ready meal target audience. I could tell you why but I would bore even myself. The second means that I have an unfounded and unshaken conviction that all burgers and sausages must contain lips and eyelids and the third means I can eat filthy fatty snacks that definitely contain only skin, lard and salt.
So what? The ‘what’ is that I controversially believe that if you’re eating such shite as a Findus pre-packaged lasagne or a Tesco value burger, what on earth did you expect? Kobe beef? Minced marbled sirloin? I am still surprised that Food Standards haven’t yet unearthed dog or even cat DNA.
The problem with supermarket convenience food is that not only does it cripple your taste buds with salt and is an expensive way to eat but it also disassociates people from the food they are eating and this is a fundamental and elemental problem.
The simple unquestioned faith that is placed into some packaging with a label, a date, a price and some pretty colours is astounding and makes belief in a Christian God a far more intelligent choice. Why worship unconditionally and so unintelligently at the feet of the supermarket gods? We may live in a secular age but supermarket fundamentalism is rife.
Not so for Gavin Roberts and his family that run the Kernow Sausage Company. Dairy Farm in Tregony is one of those rare places where all stages of the process (well almost) happen on one site: rearing (slaughtering off-site), butchering, preparing, packaging and selling. I am happy to worship in this church as a meat eater, as would you dear reader if you had tried the end product in a bun on arrival.
Gavin claims that in 2005 he ‘accidentally’ got into the sausage making business after a request to make them at a fund-raising event got out of hand and after which he swore, “never to make another sausage again.” But he has actually been making them since he was a boy: “I was taught how to make sausages by my grandmother. In fact I still own my gran’s sausage machine. This snake would appear anaconda- like across the kitchen table and before I knew it, I was a polished sausage maker.” His first customer was The Ship in Portloe.
Gavin’s slaughtering and butchering background means that he has an artisanal approach coupled with a larger corporate understanding of the industry. He now creates bespoke sausages, bacon and even ‘beef bacon’ for the likes of Chris Eden, St Austell Brewery, Ben Tunnicliffe, Neil Haydock and Paul Ainsworth. He ended up leaving the slaughtering industry because, “I began to ask questions and had become very disillusioned with it.” On the horse scandal, he understands how it could happen: “They use inexperienced butchers and how would they know the difference?” The solution for Gavin? “The consumer has to take some responsibility.”
Gavin initially butchers a pork shoulder into 80% meat, 20% fat. The meat chunks go into a mincer, come out into a big bowl and are mixed by hand with some seasoning. “You’ve got to go well out of your comfort zone when seasoning sausage meat,” he explains, “it’s to do with the large surface area of the meat once it’s minced.” He refuses however to give away the secret seasoning recipe. Next, water to break down the seasoning which is mixed in by hand and changes the texture of the meat by extracting the proteins and making the fat more elastic, a vital part of a good sausage.
Finally, rusk – to absorb the fat but also trap it in the sausages and the whole lot is minced one more time. “The quality of the meat means that we can have a fairly coarsely ground sausage. One important rule however is not to eat the sausage immediately, you have to wait for the meat to bond with the casing.”
Then into the sausage machine and out come the innuendoes. A strip of natural casing is fitted condom-like to the pipe and the ‘anaconda’ of Gavin’s childhood is once again wriggling all over the table. Mine come out chunky owing to too much pressure from my fingers on the meat as it pumps into the skin. A sausage’s worst enemy are apparently not the hands of an amateur, but air bubbles. Gavin then neatly plaits, flips and twists the lengths into strings of sausages, ready for toad in the hole, sausages and mash or just a plain old white floury roll.
Watching Gavin at work has given me faith in some processed meats and if sourced with care then there won’t be a whisper of horse meat in your banger. Leave it to a food chain which snakes ‘anaconda-like’ across Europe and back and my faith leaves me. According to Gavin, the sausage is: “the ultimate convenience food,” and what’s more it’s refreshingly removed from that idiosyncratic British habit of equating quality fodder with class because as he states: “The sausage is the food of kings and paupers alike.”