Award winning sausages, Champion sausages, Gold this, Silver that ….confused? Read on to see if those award winning sausages are worth buying.
There are dozens of sausage competitions in the UK (plus European events):
- Butchers have local, regional and national competitions culminating in the 'Champion of Champions' which is the supreme UK sausage.
- Separate events are run in Scotland and Wales.
- The Guild of Q Butchers awards
- There are competitions run by the trade press (The Meat and Poultry News).
- The Soil Association runs the Organic Food Awards.
- Lastly there are the Great Taste Awards.
The most important are the Champion of Champions and the Great Taste Awards. Butchers tend to go for the Champion of Champions and the farms/specialist producers for the Great Taste Awards.
The Great Taste Awards are described as the Oscars of the fine food industry. The 2003 awards received over 4,000 entries. 251 Gold, 341 Silver and 518 Bronze awards were made.
Many awards should be taken with a pinch of salt! Look out for awards from a strong regional or national competition. Some competitions seem to award certificates just for entering. A recent event received over 200 entries and awarded 159 awards. The real credibility in this competition goes to the 7 category winners!
Sausage judges are butchers, farmers, chefs, food writers and people like me who are just mad about sausages. I was asked to judge at the Great Yorkshire Pork Pie, Sausage and Black Pudding Competition held last November (read more). This is the largest regional competition. Elite Meat of Harrogate won the competition last year and went on to win the 2003 'Champion of Champions'.
The procedure for the Great Yorkshire and most other competitions is as follows:
Entries are delivered on the morning of the competition. Each entry is made up approximately 450g of raw sausages and the same weight of cooked sausages. The cooked sausages should be cold (points can be deducted if they are warm). They can be cooked by any method.
The competition is divided into classes - usually Thin, Thick and Speciality. The 'blue ribbon' event is Speciality.
The sausages are numbered and laid out on trays. The entries are grouped by class and arranged on tables with around 30 per table.
All entries are judged 'blind'. Judges will work in pairs and take around 1 hour to judge a table. The Yorkshire competition uses the following score sheet:
|Cooked appearance and texture||10|
|Taste and smell||30|
Each table is provided with water, napkins and two knives. One knife is used for cutting the raw sausages and one for cooked. Each sausage is tasted, but given the numbers of entries only a thin slice is eaten. There are no restrictions on the types of sausage skins but most use natural.
The shrinkage and splitting marks are often vital. The judges look for uniform sausages and compare the size raw and cooked. This is an area where producers may try to reduce shrinkage by lightly cooking the sausages; judges can deduct marks for this.
There might be over 100 sausages entered in a class. These sausages will be placed on 3 or 4 tables and each table will select the top 3. The top 3 from each table will go forward to the next round to be judged again. The first, second and third in the class will then be selected. All other finalists receive a commendation.
The class winners will be then judged a third time to find the overall winner for the competition. The winner goes forward to enter the National Supreme Sausage Championship with a chance of winning the 'Champion of Champions' trophy.