Martha+Tom

Bangers and Mash for Saint Patrick’s Day — Pride or Betrayal?

As I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a Saint Patrick’s day post for this blog that wasn’t corned beef and cabbage — because I had to post something, right? — I kept coming back to bangers and mash. I’ve never been to the Emerald Isle, and while like many Americans I boast of substantial Irish heritage — real or imagined — unfortunately the recipes of the homeland did not make their way down the generations to me — I guess there are only so many ways to prepare blighted potato. Bereft of any reference from travel or tradition, I turned to the Internet.

It’s pretty easy to find recipes for bangers and mash with a search; after all, it’s just sausages with mashed potatoes and maybe some onion gravy. But my searches also revealed a disturbing truth: while there were cursory references to “Irish” bangers and mash, the dish was mostly called “British pub grub”. The British?! No! How could we celebrate Saint Patrick’s day eating the food of the hated oppressors, the colonizers? The blood of my ancestors boiled at these revelations as my blogger gut sank knowing I didn’t have a post for Saint Patrick’s day.

But further research and reflection calmed the rage and doubt. After all, many recipes did refer to the dish as a British and Irish favourite. Many authors seemed to suggest that the dish emerged some time around World War I — 1919 to be precise, which is when the first reference to sausage as bangers is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary. This also happens to be the year the Irish Republic declared its independence from those hated British, the year in which the Irish war for independence began. Could those recently invented bangers have been the thing that emboldened the Irish patriots to cast off the yoke of servitude?

Like most food origin stories, the 1919 creation of bangers and mash shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s useful from a linguistic perspective, representing the beginning of the use of the word bangers, heretofore a word for dynamite, to refer to sausages, but thinking culinarily, do you really think it took humans until the 20th century to realize that sausages and mashed potatoes are a delicious combination? More likely, this dish has been enjoyed anywhere people share a love for sausage and potatoes, and on that score Ireland certainly qualifies. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Bangers

There’s no canonical sausage for this dish; the spirit of it is to use whatever sausage is available locally that you like. In my research, Cumberland sausage often came up as popular in the British version of the dish. I found a recipe on the highly trustworthy sausagemaking.org from none other than forum user “sausagemaker” himself, who claimed to be Cumbrian. I was just excited to find a British sausage recipe with no sage in it.

Sausage:

  • 60% pork shoulder (346 g)
  • 15% pork belly (232 g)
  • 7.5% breadcrumbs (58 g)
  • 15% water (116 g)
  • 2.5% spice mixture (19 g)

Spice Mixture

  • 72% salt (13.9 g)
  • 13.5% black pepper (2.6 g)
  • 4.5% nutmeg (.9 g)
  • 4.5% mace (.9 g)
  • 4.5% coriander (.9 g)

Follow standard sausage-making procedure: dice the meats and freeze them for 30 minutes, then grind them once through the coarse plate. Mix in the spices and grind again. Mix in the rest of the sausage ingredients.

Cumberland sausage is unique in that it is not twisted into links, but rather is sold by the inch from a large coil. This makes for some fun times in the frying pan, let me tell you.

To cook the stuffed sausage, I first poached it for twenty minutes in 150ºF water (following this ridiculous recipe) before browning it in a skillet.

Mash

Boil a few russet potatoes in their skins. Pass through a ricer and fold in warm milk and butter until just smooth.

Onion Gravy

  • One large onion, sliced thin
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1.5 cups beef stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet and add the onion. Caramelize over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour. Gradually stir in the beef stock and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve the whole dish, nestle pieces of cooked sausage in a mound of mashed potatoes and spoon on a healthy portion of gravy.

4 comments | , , , , , , , , , ,

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4 comments on “Bangers and Mash for Saint Patrick’s Day — Pride or Betrayal?”

  1. Kevin 17 March, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Tom- If your great-great grandparents heard you speak of an ‘imagined’ Irish ancestry, they would be turning in their graves!! Embrace it!

  2. Nicole 18 March, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I am so glad I found this post. I just received a call from my butcher since they are making my bangers this morning when they get their special seasoning in. This is always a hit on our St. Patrick’s Day menu and people look forward to it. I am on 25% Irish, but this week I (and all my friends) are 100%!!

  3. Kevin Roache 28 May, 2011 at 4:42 am

    It is amazing to find Irish inflences that have spread accross the world and are still being employed. I believe everyone has a little Irish in them.

  4. Melissa from Hoboken :) 18 March, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Made this yesterday for St. Pat’s. We loved it. Pretty sure it will be a St. Patrick’s Day staple in our house. Thanks for sharing and we liked the history lesson.

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