As you might expect at Westaway Sausages we produce all shapes, sizes, and recipes of sausage.
To help us we call sausages by their characteristics, this can be the type of casing, the weight, or the recipe.
By using a single number like a 4, or an 8 or a 12, we can quickly understand the size and potential application.
The number relates to the number of sausages in a lb (454g). A 4 will weigh 4 ounces (113.5g) there 16 ounces to a lb, so a 4 is typically a single portion such as a hot dog. An 8 will be half this weight so two on a plate for a breakfast looks good, a 12 is just under 40g – but is likely to be thinner, and so we can use another idiom that relates to the calibre of the sausage.
For example, a chipolata is a thin sausage, with a diameter from ¾ to 1 inch or 18mm to 25mm, a sausage would be larger from say 28mm up to 34mm, any larger could be called a pudding from 38mm up to 45 mm or more.
Sausages have been filled into the collagen layer that forms part of animal intestines since Roman times. As you get different sizes of animals, so you get different sizes of casing. A chipolata is generally from a sheep but could be from an extra narrow hog, or pig intestine. A sausage is from a pig, whereas a pudding is generally from an ox. Cows have more than one stomach and as such the intestines are different. The principal intestines used are runners and middles. A runner will give a ring of pudding, a middle will give a straight stick,
In 1961 the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson whilst making sutures out animal collagen set up a separate Development and Research Organisation with the acronym of Devro to create edible sausage casing that was not derived from animal intestines. A 1973 advertisement cited Devro as “figuring out a better way to make sausages after 3,000 years of trying”.
Collagen is typically derived from the hides, bones, and tendons of animals, but can be derived from poultry or fish. After extensive processing it is extruded into diameters typically from 21mm to 32mm.
This uniform casing is generally cheaper to use than animal or natural casings. It is less expensive, and easier and quicker to run.
As sausage makers look to improve productivity and reduce costs so many are considering using an alginate casing. The sausages run continuously through a tank containing a seaweed powder-based solution. This gives a similar string of sausages.
Personally, I believe there is more work to be done on the alginate base, but it has potential. At Westaways we struggle to get a sausage coated in alginate to look good on a plate, however we cook it – BBQ, air fry, pan fry or bake the alginate burns and crystalises and does not appear as wholesome as the other forms of casing.
Food inflation and the price of pork reaching unprecedented levels has meant we need to be creative with our sizing and our costings. So, it is all to play with.
For us there is golden rule, we must avoid food waste at all costs. Animals have been killed in the process of making our sausages, we must respect and value this, so please buy sensibly, plan how you are going to store and use the food you buy, and how you might avoid it going to waste.
However, with the almost infinite variety of sausage sizes that are available, you can be creative in the sizes and the cost on the plate, please see this example above.
What ever size you choose, enjoy your sausages!
With best wishes from us all at Westaways.