Sausage tasting competition

Ludlow Food Festival’s Sausage Trail

Ludlow is a wonderful place to get good food, and once a year they have a fantastic festival that celebrates local and regional food.  The festival grows every year with new events and new foodie fanatics displaying their wares.

Some of you may remember that I was a judge for Shropshire’s Tastiest Sausage back in January and I blogged all about the wonderful time I had tasting delicious sausages.  Well, luckily for me, one of the expert judges, The Sausage King, had other commitments this year and found my post about judging sausages and asked if I could step in for him as an Expert Judge for this year’s Sausage Trail.  This was quite an honour, and when you take a look at The Sausage King’s website, you will see that I had a lot to live up to. The Sausage King certainly knows his sausages.

The Sausage Trail is a great part of the festival. There is a People’s Choice, where you pay £3.50, then you set off around Ludlow to taste the sausages in the competition and mark your score on the sheet you have been given.  This year there were five sausages to judge.  This is the busiest I have ever seen the festival and I can tell you that the queue I saw for one butcher’s sausages was long!

Then there is an Expert’s Choice and this year there were four judges, including me.  The other judges were Dave Gurr-Gearing, chef at The Queens, Ludlow, Howard Lyons of Taste Real Food, and Anthony Harrison, who bravely volunteered his services from the audience.

The entrants were all local or regional butchers, four from Ludlow and one from Bromyard in Herefordshire.

We decided that the sausages would be judged by taste, smell, appearance, texture and the salability of the sausage.  This last one was the hardest to judge, as I think you are either a person that prefers a plain pork sausage or you are a person that loves to try the more unusual varieties and so that would form the basis of judgement on the potential for commercial success of a more unusual sausage.

All of the sausages in the competition are new flavours that haven’t been sold by the butcher before.

Ludlow butchers are very proud of their sausages and the competition between them to create the best is strong.

The Expert’s Choice this year was A H Griffith’s Pork with Wild Hedgerow Berries sausage.  It was a difficult  decision to make because all the sausages were very delicious. It was the fact that they were all so good that meant that the vote wasn’t a unanimous one and the decision was made after a tot up of the scores we had given for each sausage.

The other sausages in the competition were:

Legges of Bromyard’s Pork and Black Pudding sausage
D W Wall & Son’s Pork with Wild Mushrooms and Blue Cheese
Andrew Francis’s Rare Breed Pork with Sage and Black Pepper
Ludlow Food Centre’s Pork with Honey Roasted Onion

It was a great experience being an Expert Judge and so thank you Sausage King for finding me and asking me!

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The Shropshire Sizzle Off

When sausages on a stick become a serious affair!

It has been an exciting morning!  I have been part of the judging panel for Shropshire’s tastiest breakfast sausage and Shropshire’s tastiest speciality sausage today.  In all 21 sausages were sampled – that’s a fair few sausages.

Just before Christmas Heart of England Fine Foods (HEFF) asked for judges for this competition and regular readers of this blog will know that I love a good sausage and so couldn’t resist this invitation. There were six of us judging today and no doubt the other judges have a great deal more experience than me of this sort of thing.  The other judges were John Holden of Lucas Ingredients, a man with a wealth of experience of the meat trade; Jamie Yardley, chef and proprietor of The Boyne Arms in Burwarton; Richard Fletcher, chef and proprietor of The Pheasant Inn at Admaston; Eluned Watson of Shropshire Kitchen Magazine and Jenny Griffiths of the Aga Shop.  The competition was held at the Aga Shop in Ketley, Telford, which of course offered me a chance to gaze longingly at the lovely Aga pans and pretty much everything else in the shop. Oh to win the lottery!

The sausages were cooked in the roasting oven of the Aga – the best way to cook a sausage, of course.  They were then sliced and put into numbered dishes. We had to judge based on taste, internal appearance and texture.  It was really interesting to hear the comments of the other judges and whether they agreed with you, or not, about the merits of the particular sausage.  Judging the merits of a sausage is largely a matter of taste and what was good was that the judges tastes did seem to differ, some loved a particular sausage, others didn’t find it so appealing.

I found the breakfast sausages the most difficult to judge.  There were ten sausages in this category and there wasn’t a great deal of difference in a lot of them, some had been over seasoned, some weren’t quite the texture that you want in a sausage and one was judged by everyone to be ‘not a good sausage’. The winner of this category was Wenlock Edge Farm’s Proper Pork Sausage, which whilst it is indeed a good sausage, wasn’t my favourite, but it scored top marks with one of the judges and highly with the rest – as I say judging a sausage is a matter of taste. Highly commended was Shepley’s Pork Sausage and commended in this category was Maynard’s Farmhouse Pork Sausage.

The speciality sausage competition was very interesting as there were some very different sausages including Old Spot, Honey and Mustard Sausage; Pork, Cranberry and Sage; chilli flavoured sausages, beef sausage and venison sausage.  So this was definitely a matter of taste and depends on whether you like your sausage messed with or if you prefer a proper pork sausage.   There were some very tasty sausages in there and some which may be an acquired taste. Again Wenlock Farm won the day with their Wenlock Farm Pork, Bacon and Leek sausage.  Highly commended was Ludlow Food Centre’s Spanish Hot Spot ,which I will definitely stop off for next time I am passing as I think it would be a lovely sausage in a sausage hot-pot, (there’s a tongue twister for you, a Spanish Hot Spot Sausage Hot-pot).  Commended in this category was Moor Farm Shop’s Gloucester Old Spot Pork, Honey and Mustard sausage, which I thought was a very tasty sausage indeed if you want something a bit different.

So, well done to Wenlock Edge Farm, their winning sausages will now be judged at the Grand Final of the West Midland’s Sizzle Off at the Aga Shop in the Mailbox in Birmingham next Thursday.  I hope they make Shropshire proud.

I really enjoyed taking part in the judging process. I had a great morning and I now know which sausages I need to track down in the future.  However, I must admit that my local butcher is very hard to beat and had he entered his breakfast sausage that would have been the winner for me.

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