I’ve never had to think too much about sausage rolls until recently. I’ll sometimes buy one from Perfectionery, the bakers, or Roneys, the butchers, to “help me up the hill” if I’m walking back home from Hunters Bar to Nether Edge around lunchtime.
Sausage rolls are good in buffets and funeral teas. I went to a funeral recently and in the rectory afterwards there was a table with sausage rolls next to the egg sandwiches. I’ve got another funeral lined up and so I hope will be the sausage rolls.
It’s such a workaday, humdrum little morsel that I was surprised to read recently that the august New York Times had told its readers that sausage rolls were eaten by the aristocracy on Boxing Day, to fill their tummies because the servants had taken the day off. It even published a recipe.
No doubt they thought that Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham sent Carson the butler out to Greggs for some at Christmas.
Twitter was full of incredulity, not least for the fact that Americans had never heard of a sausage roll. Or of Boxing Day. As one Tweet put it: “America, please don’t explore new planets when you haven’t even had a sausage roll. Your priorities are in the wrong places.”
I naturally assumed the USA, like all Anglophone countries, knew all about the sausage roll. It is, for example, very popular in Australia and New Zealand. This would suggest it first appeared in Britain after the Pilgrim Fathers set sail but before Captain Cook cast anchor in Botany Bay.
Incidentally, it is not the only misapprehension Americans have about us. I recall reading in a US book a few years ago that British young ladies washed their faces in the water from pearl barley soaked overnight to keep their complexions clear.
The Dutch are rather like us and they have the sausage roll or Saucijzenbroodje, in either puff pastry or bread dough for a wrapping. I think the latter has an English regional cousin, having seen it referred to recently, but I can’t find the information now.
Bread would lose the classic partnership of textures, crisp shards of flaky pastry up against the meaty filling. You perhaps don’t want to know too much about what’s in it except that for ‘mouthfeel’ you need fat, although not so much that it drips down your chin in the way that the pastry crumbs inevitably fall down your front.
All this musing brought me to the Greggs shop on The Moor (the chain has over 1,600 of them and you pass four just walking towards the city centre), about to buy an 80p sausage roll. The company sells 130 million of them a year, accounting for about a third of sales. Until now I’ve always been a bit sniffy about them and avoided going in.
Greggs has been untroubled by my rejection. Its expansion goes on a pace with some 1,600 stores, more in the UK than the ubiquitous Starbucks. Unlike the coffee chain, however, it will not be going for world domination as the sausage roll is too idiosyncratically British. But what does it taste like?
The Greggs sausage roll is a good size, just over 100 grams, and the pastry is crisp while the filling is salty but otherwise a little bland. I’d reckon the ratio of pastry to filling is about 50/50. Incidentally, figures on the net show the fat, at 25g, makes up a quarter of the weight. A single roll will set you back 349 calories, which is 14 per cent of a man’s daily intake, or 17 per cent of a woman’s.
For comparison I popped into the Moor Market and bought a much smaller sausage roll from Waterall Brothers’ stall. This was much smaller, cost 52p and I’d reckon the filling was less than the pastry. The filling was paler than Greggs’ but porkier so, for taste, it gets my vote.
But if you want a really memorable sausage roll you should try the humdinger head chef John Parsons sells at the Druid Inn, Birchover, in North Derbyshire. The crisp sesame specked pastry encases sausage meat, black pudding and chorizo and I’ve already written about it here http://wp.me/p5wFIX-dh