East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food Blog

Sausage factory tours…

As a footnote to my earlier blog about sausages, the Spalding firm of butchers George Adams is opening its Heritage Factory in the Crescent, Spalding to visitors as part of the South Holland Food Festival. There will be an opportunity to see the process of making Lincolnshire Sausages and hand raised pork pies and sample some of the firm’s products. These events take place from 7 – 9 pm on 4 and 11 August; £5 per person, including refreshments. Tours are limited to 20 people. For more information or to book a place, telephone (01775) 725956.


Food dates for your diaries…

If you’re not away at the seaside, here are some food-related events in the East Midlands in August:

Bakewell Show, Derbyshire

The 180th Bakewell Show at The Showground, Bakewell on 4 – 5 August. Derbyshire’s premier agricultural and horticultural show. Many different breeds of animals are featured in the traditional Grand Parade of livestock and heavy horse winners to the centre ring to collect their prizes. For details, see https://www.bakewellshow.org/.  

Donington-le-Heath Manor House, Leicestershire

Guided walk of the period gardens by the gardener, who will talk about the historic importance of gardens through the ages, and the use of plants for cooking and medicinal purposes. Wednesday 25 August, 2pm. Pre-booking essential. Admission £4 Adults, £3 Concessions, £10 Family (2+2) or £7 (1+2). See http://www.leics.gov.uk/donington for contact details and directions.

Eating Creepy Crawlies Exhibition, Highcross, Leicester

Natural History Museum exhibition at Highcross Shopping Centre, Leicester. This looks at the variety of insects eaten in different countries across the world, either as part of the staple diet or as delicacies, including water beetles in China and tarantulas in Venezuela. The exhibition also features larger-than-life heads and mouths of a dragonfly and honey bee on the Lower Mall of the shopping centre. It runs until 29 August. Free entry. See http://www.highcrossleicester.com/website/ for more information.

Local Food Hero of the Year – Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards 2010-11

Nominations are invited for the ‘Local Food Hero of the Year 2010/11′ award. The awards are ‘aimed at celebrating all that is great about the county’s produce and drink, recognising excellence among the county’s eateries, and giving a public pat on the back to those who strive to offer their customers the best of the best’. The closing date for nominations is 31 August 1010. Nomination forms can be downloaded from www.letyourselfgrow.com/live/food/awards or www.cprenorthants.org.

South Holland Food Festival, Spalding

Lincolnshire is the main food-producing county in England, and a major employer of labour in agriculture and horticulture. Events taking place during the Festival, which runs until Sunday 15 August, include Food Themed Craft activities at the Unique Cottage Studios on the outskirts of Spalding (10 August, 10 am – 2 pm); an Evening with Liz Wright, editor of ‘Smallholder magazine (7 August at Bookmark, Spalding from 7. 15 pm); and a two day Food Fair at the Castle Playing Fields in Spalding on 14 – 15 August. For full details of all events, see http://www.food-festival.net/diary.asp. You can also download a free Food Festival cookery book from http://www.food-festival.net/media/Recipe%20Book.pdf

Victorian Kitchen Tour, Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire

‘Behind the scenes’ tours of Newstead Abbey’s Victorian kitchen (not part of the normal tour of the house) take place on the last Sunday of each month until September at 12. 30, 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30 pm. The kitchen has disabled access for wheelchair users. Tickets: £1.50; season ticket holders and children free. More details at http://www.newsteadabbey.org.uk/.


Some slightly surprising things about sausages…

Lincolnshire sausages are one of the food specialities of the East Midlands. They differ from sausages produced elsewhere in being made with pork that has been coarsely ground rather than minced, and flavoured with herbs – usually sage. So distinctive are they that in 2004 a group of Lincolnshire sausage-makers, led by the Spalding firm of George Adams & Son, launched a campaign to secure Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for the Lincolnshire sausage similar to that granted recently under European Union law to Melton Mowbray pork pies. If successful, this would mean that only sausages made in the county to a particular specification (including a minimum of 70% of meat, flavoured with sage, and with natural casings) can be described and sold as ‘Lincolnshire sausages’. To keep track of the progress of this campaign, see the website of the Lincolnshire Sausage Association at http://www.lincolnshiresausages.co.uk/.

Here are a few more things you might like to know about sausages:

1. The word ‘sausage’ comes from the Latin ‘salsisium” meaning something salted. In Middle English the word became ‘sausige’.

2. It is believed that sausages were introduced to Britain by the Romans. They were commonly made of fresh pork mixed with chopped pine nuts, bay leaves, cumin seeds and black pepper.

3. 86% of sausages are made with pork.

4. Cumberland sausages are made in a continuous spiral and can be over a metre long. They are traditionally sold by length rather than weight. Pork and leek sausages are popular in Wales, with ginger sometimes added.

5. Sausages were nicknamed ‘bangers’ because of their tendency to ‘explode’ if the skins are not pierced before cooking. They were particularly prone to do this during World War II when they had a higher than usual water content due to shortages of other ingredients, but the word was in use well before that.  

6. According to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, in the year to June 2008 five million people a day in Britain ate sausages. This amounted to an annual total of 182,848 tonnes, – enough to form a wall four sausages high around the whole coastline of Britain.

7. Sausages were divided into links for the first time during the reign of Charles I. Does anyone know why?

8. A recipe for ‘sassages’ from Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire, reprinted in Northamptonshire Past & Present, Vol.2, No. 1 (1954), p28, used six pounds of pork, three ounces of salt, an ounce of pepper, fennel seeds, coriander, and the rind of two oranges.

9. No one appears to know why sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter are known as ‘toad-in-the-hole’…

10. British Sausage Week 2010 will take place from 1-7 November. See the British Sausage Appreciation Society website for some recipes from 2009 – http://www.50connect.co.uk/food_and_drink/recipes/super_sausage_recipes2. The Society has around 7,000 members in the UK.

For more surprising facts about sausages, see Sausage Links – http://www.sausagelinks.co.uk/facts_trivia.asp; and British Sausage Week – http://www.recipes4us.co.uk/British%20Sausage%20Week.htm.


The corner shop – an exhibition…

News of a new exhibition at the Central Lending Library, Leicester:

Britain as a nation of shopkeepers is the subject of an award-winning exhibition set to tour the Midlands from this month. It is at the Central Lending Library in Leicester from 2 - 28 August 2010. It explores the heritage of the corner shop and small independent retailers within the Black Country and Birmingham which have been British institutions for over a hundred years. The exhibition is part of a wider Heritage Lottery funded project which involved volunteers and school groups talking to people about their experiences of running independent shops over the last 60 years. The stories collected inspired a sell-out theatre production performed in empty shops in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton during 2008 and 2009.

The Corner Shop project is led by Black Country Touring and Foursight Theatre in partnership with English Heritage, Sandwell Community History & Archive Service, Sandwell Museum Service and Birmingham Archives and Heritage. The project recently won the 2010 Renaissance in the Regions ‘Best of the West’ award, in the category of ‘Innovation’.

Suzanne Carter from English Heritage says “The corner shop has been a community landmark for longer than we can remember. It is a place to meet friends and neighbours while we shop, a work place, but also often a home. The diversity of products sold reflects our changing world. The corner shop holds memories and is an important window onto our social history, which we have tried to capture within the exhibition.”

The stories of residents have become part of the archive at Sandwell’s Community Heritage and Archives, and an image gallery is held at www.connectinghistories.org.uk.


No-trouble breakfasts 1914 – style…

What do you have for breakfast, that most important meal of the day? The author of an article in the popular women’s magazine Home Chat in 1914 referred to a friend who ‘gives her family boiled eggs for breakfast one morning, and cold pickled pork the next, with fried bacon on Sunday. All excellent, of course, but I do think it may get a little monotonous… I do not  like turning out early any better than most people. But my people have a hot breakfast every morning… I choose dishes that can be got ready the day before, and only need heating up when morning comes’.

Her ‘specialities’ included Fish Croutons, a mixture of cooked fish, hard-boiled egg and anchovy essence on fried bread; Mowbray Eggs, four eggs baked in the oven and served with a hot vinegar and parsley dressing; and Ham Cakes made of mashed potato, chopped ham, parsley and onion, and fried ‘a pretty golden brown’ in a pan of fat ‘on the fire’. In case you fancy something different for your own breakfast, here is her recipe for Curry Balls:


Curry Balls

Four ounces of well-boiled rice

Half a pound of any cold meat, game or fish

One teaspoonful of curry-powder

One teaspoonful of lemon juice

Two teaspoonfuls of grated onion

Half an ounce of flour

One ounce of butter

One gill of stock

One egg, crumbs, frying fat

Overnight I mix the finely minced meat with the rice, melt the butter, add to it the curry-powder and the onion, and let these cook in a saucepan over the fire for a minute or so. Next I stir in the flour to the butter, add the stock, and stir the mixture over the fire until the sauce boils. Then I mix into it the meat and rice, lemon-juice and seasoning, and let the mixture cool, when it stiffens. I shape it into neat balls, and coat them with egg and crumbs. Put them aside on a tin covered with a piece of soft paper, and see there is plenty of clean fat ready in the frying pan.

In the morning all I have to do is to heat the fat until a smoke is rising from it, and then fry the curry-balls a nice tempting brown. I serve very hot, with a little sauce if I have any. NOTE. – Do not make fresh sauce if you happen to have any left over. Any unsweetened kind will do.

The recipe itself is perhaps not so different from a 21st century version of curry balls, but the article also gives some glimpses into the diet and lifestyles of its readers just before the First World War. At 1d. an issue it was accessible to a wide audience, but it is clear from the fashion advice and advertisements that its main target was lower middle class women who – like the author herself – ‘only have one maid’ and thus had to do their share of the cooking and other work in the house. Although the magazine looked forward to the day when ‘electricity will play a much larger part in domestic affairs than it does at present’, in 1914 it was still ‘merely a luxury for the wealthy’. This explains the extent to which much food was still cooked ‘on the fire’, and the effort involved in cleaning the cooking range, the ‘heaviest and dirtiest part of present-day drudgery’.   

This particular edition (31 January 1914, Vol. LXXVI, No. 985) also carried the advice that ‘Wringing Spells Ruination’ for woollen clothing, and advertised a ‘safe home treatment’ guaranteed to overcome a ‘drink habit’ in only three days or ‘money back… Cut this out and show it to others in need of this joyful news’. There were also some fascinating ‘Points About Porridge’ that I promise to pass on to you another time…

Somewhere to visit - the National Gas Museum in Aylestone Road, Leicester has a large collection of gas appliances including cookers. The museum building was originally the gatehouse to the gas works where town gas was first made in 1878. Admission is free. See http://www.gasmuseum.co.uk/about.htm for more details and opening times.


About this Sponsor

A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.