Thursday, September 09, 2010

Snags and Bangers.

I had a mind today to find out why sausages are called ‘bangers’ (in England) and ‘snags’ (in Australia). The story of ‘bangers’ turns out not to be terribly interesting, so someone needs to invent a good myth pretty soon. It is assumed that ‘banger’ relates to the noise made by a bursting sausage, and the nick-name dates to the first or second decade of the twentieth century.

As for the word ‘snag’, the first reference to it use for ‘sausage’ given by the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1941, which seems very recent to me. There appear to be no theories for this usage of the word, so I have been forced to invent some myself this very day.

The word ‘snag’ can also mean:

- ‘a short protuberance or knob’, usually one left after pruning (perhaps indicating the shape of a sausage?),
- an underwater tree branch or similar, which acts as a hazard to fishermen and sailors (perhaps suggesting the rather risky, hidden contents of the sausage)
- an obstacle or impediment (to good nutrition?)
- the common snail, in the old Sussex dialect, a slug in the West Kent dialect, and a snake in other dialects. I strongly suspect this has no connection to sausages, but place it here to excite your suggestions.
- ‘A Sensitive New Age Guy’. Perhaps SNAGS eschew snags?
- and, apparently, according to one not-very-reliable-looking source, it can also be a dialect word for 'a morsel, a light meal' (the source does not specify which dialect). Which might possibly be relevant, if you believe that sausages constitute a ‘light’ meal.

The lack of conclusions did not prevent me from rediscovering ‘the sausage roll’, which has certainly not featured in this blog before. Sausage rolls are almost as important to the nutrition status of the Average Australian as are meat pies, so they are deserving of some comment.

The sausage roll seems to have come onto the world scene around about the time of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London’s Crystal Palace (in 1851). I am sure that sausage rolls existed before that date - although I have found very little to support that opinion - but it is certain that a total of 28, 046 were consumed by visitors to the exhibition during the five and a half months of its life. If I had ninety-nine lives I could possibly remove a number of things from my ‘to research more fully list’, but my definitive history of the sausage roll ends right here. Over to one of you to complete it, if you will.

The recipe for today is, of course, for sausage rolls, and it comes from one of my favourite Victorian era cookbooks - Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, published in the 1870’s.

Sausage Rolls.
Take half a sausage cut lengthwise for each roll. Enclose the half in pastry six inches square and an eighth of an inch thick. Pinch the edges securely, and then bake the roll on a baking sheet in a well-heated oven. They may be served hot or cold. Or take equal weights of cold dressed chicken and tongue, or cold roast veal and ham. Mince the meat finely, and season well with salt, cayenne, and powdered sweet herbs. The latter may be omitted if liked. Press the mince together, and enclose it in puff paste, or good pastry that is large enough to contain it. Bake in a well-heated oven. These rolls are especially adapted for pic-nic parties. Time to bake, half an hour for fresh meat, fifteen minutes for cooked meat.

Quotation for the Day.

A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.
Sir A.P. Herbert


Judy said...

Sausage roll = pigs in the blanket. Maybe!?

Unknown said...

Nope, a sausage roll is more of a meal than an appetiser... they're usually served with tomato sauce, too, because the meat inside them is generally pretty average. Miniature pies, pasties (nope, not pastries, but pasties!) and sausage rolls are a staple food at kids' birthday parties and cheap work functions!

Sharlene T. said...

Kind of a precursor to the hot dog, eh wot... I love meat pies and finger foods for sightseeing... gonna try these, for a Thanksgiving dish and see what the folks say... there's no way to add condiments, except on the outside and that could be messy... love it, love it, love it... come visit when you can...

The Old Foodie said...

Hi everyone - sausage rolls are pretty much the same as pigs in blankets, I guess; and dipped in tomato sauce is definitely the way to go with a 'good' sausage roll - messy, but good. Puff pastry is best,no question.

Unknown said...

I ate a lot of sausage rolls as a kid, simply because I hated the meat pies. They certainly never come in shortcrust pastry, only puff. And, for those in the know, the sauce is added by taking a sauce bottle with a pointed tip (generally the reusable sort that you see at takeaway stands), pushing it through the pastry and into the sausage, and squeezing a generous amount in. Revolting, I know, but it's practical! ;)

Tuppence said...

My (English) Mother-in-law told me that during World War II, the sausages contained very little meat and were instead, filled with cereals soaked in water. The sausage casings were also quite thick.
When heat was applied to them, the contents expanded and the sausages would burst open with a loud "bang" and quite often jump out of the pan and fly across the room. As a child, her job was to hover over the pan, ready with the lid to slam down on the pan to prevent them from escaping as food was in short supply and very precious.

Pombull said...

I just read on another forum that snags stands for skin nuts and guys which is all that is left of the beast when slaughtered. Aussies are far less complicated than the British.