This is a dark time for British sausage. Thanks to a number of complicated, non-food-related reasons - most of which revolve around our insane plan to leave the EU - there is a very real risk that our Christmas dinners will have to be served sans bacon-wrapped pork product. It’s a truth that’s too terrifying to comprehend.
Understandably, this long, sausage-shaped shadow is not filling hungry diners with festive cheer. But, in the midst of mid-winter gloom, a champion has emerged to show the people that pigs in blankets aren’t dead and buried just yet. Armed only with a truckload of pork mince and over 400 rashers of bacon, this warrior has proven that, when the going gets tough, the stuffing gets going. Nduja feel lucky, pork?
As part of the opening celebrations at Taste of London: Winter Food Festival, renowned meat merchant and captain of Team England Butchery Simon “The Butch” Taylor set about constructing a meaty monolith in tribute to the humble pig in blanket. Dubbed “The Notorious P.I.B”, this massive log would be both a potential record-breaker and a middle finger to anyone who doubted the dish’s importance to a traditional Christmas dinner. Needless to say, we had to give it a try.
Upon arrival at the festival, the air was thick with the waft of smoking sausage. The monster lay in the middle of massive, smouldering fire pit outside of the main entrance, tended to by two tired and anxious-looking sausage handlers. Weighing a little over 40kgs, measuring 2.1 metres in length and wrapped in over 10 metres of bacon, the end result would, as best we can tell, be a world record - provided they could carry it off the fire.
As Simon would later explain to a salivating audience, the sausage itself was actually made up of three separate sausage meat mixes. Traditional pork sausage mince was stuffed inside a more robust venison and lardo layer, before the whole thing was capped with a third coat of turkey, rosemary and cranberry and an impressive bacon weave. It looked and smelled as spectacular as it sounds.
As part of the opening ceremony for the renowned winter festival, the Notorious P.I.B would be carved and served to around 300 lucky diners, who had been hovering around the communal firepit like zombies from Night of the Living Dead. Fighting our way to the front of the queue was no mean feat.
Watch The P.I.B Arrive at the festival:
As befitted a beast of such enormous proportions, the sausage entered to a bellowing welcome from Biggy Small’s 2000 smash-hit single “Notorious B.I.G”, blasted at full volume over Tabacco Dock’s extensive speaker system. It was carried with the reverence of a papal coffin, resting on a bed of sage and kale. Heads that had been previously buried in something delicious turned suddenly to pay homage. Hundreds of hungry punters drew breath. The service was about to begin.
As soon as Simon, who was wearing a flat cap and black gloves and doing his best impression of Salt Bae’s Peaky Blinders-obsessed cousin, started slicing, pandemonium ensued. Grabbing hands and flying sausage soon filled the air as plastic plates laden with pig and bacon were passed from side to side. Each serving was accompanied with a dollop of spiced cranberry sauce and a wooden fork for scoffing. Before long, what felt like the entire festival was tucking in.
The P.I.B itself was, unsurprisingly, delicious. The eight-hour cook had given the meat a consistency closer to pork fillet than sausage mince, helping it keep its shape during slicing. The bacon, burned black in some places, added a smoky bitterness that was beautifully complemented by the cranberry sauce. It was no wonder that it took less than 10 minutes for the entire 40-kilo masterpiece to be dispatched by the chomping mob.
As a seasonal special, it’s easy to take pigs in blankets for granted. Given that we only get to enjoy them once a year, you could be forgiven for forgetting them altogether. But, as Taste of London have successfully proved, if you put pork in the hands of a master, pigs in blankets can rival any festive centrepiece. Make the most of them while they’re here. You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.