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To get the most bang out of the season's bangers, we asked GT's state editors to give us their picks of the best local snags. Our fearless tasting team then got them all in the one place at the one time to try them and come up with the list you see before you.
We were looking for great sausages that cooked beautifully on the barbecue every time, offering up lip-smackingly good eating. Scores of sausages from across the nation were air-freighted to a single well-seasoned Melbourne backyard barbecue to be grilled and tested by a team with more than 50 years of sausage-making and tasting experience between us - namely: GT wine editor Max Allen (who has suggested drinks to pair with each), food educator Allan Campion and sausage aficionado Adrian Kortus, and this writer.
The team sought out sausages made without commercial spice mix, using good-quality meat rather than offcuts, and which were stuffed into natural animal casings.
The sausages were cooked on a hot clean grill for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their girth. We turned each several times and cooked them until the skin was well browned all over and the internal temperature was above 70C. This slower cooking allowed the large chunks of pork back-fat, essential to many traditional sausages, to render out their deliciousness. On the advice of many a sausage-cooking expert, the sausages weren't pricked. A pierced sausage can become drier and less flavourful once the fat and tasty juices drain out of the holes.
It's important to note that the sausages were rested before they were served. Resting for just a few minutes allows the heat to dissipate a little and the juices to settle back into the meat - something especially important for the more coarsely ground snags.
Over the course of the taste test, the team was consistently drawn to sausages with greater girth, which offered more balanced flavour than thinner sausages. Our feeling was that the salt and spices in thinner sausages tended to concentrate around the skin as they cooked.
Finally, the tasters ate the sausages without accompaniment because - as any school fundraiser or Bunnings regular will tell you - a bit of bread and sauce will improve the flavour of almost any snag.
THE TOP 10
Sicilian sausage, Andrew's Choice
Made by Andrew Vourvahakis, these Sicilian-style sausages were a standout winner in our tasting, with a superb mix of coarse pork shoulder and finer-cut back-fat hand-mixed with pan-roasted and crushed fennel seeds, white pepper, salt and a surprise hit of fresh basil. $18.95/kg; 24 Anderson St, Yarraville, (03) 9687 2419
Wine suggestion Gutsy, southern Italian-style red such as nero d'Avola.
Salsiccia con Finocchio, R & A Selected
These fat and stubby pork sausages are hand-mixed, hand-tied, seasoned with a generous amount of salt and studded with fennel seeds and a touch of chilli. Traditionally they'd be fried to make the base for a pasta sauce, but they're just as brilliant on the grill. $13.99/kg; 785 Nicholson St, Carlton North, (03) 9380 1357
Wine suggestion Savoury, medium-bodied red sangiovese.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Toulouse sausage, Victor Churchill
This is a lovely meaty sausage with a superb matrix of coarse and fine pork pieces with perfectly integrated fat. It cooks to reveal a concentrated and developed porky aroma based on a simple but sturdy foundation of salt, pepper and garlic. A grown-up sausage for meat-lovers made by charcutier Romeo Baudouin. $31.99/kg; 132 Queen St, Woollahra, (02) 9328 0402
Wine suggestion Spicy red shiraz Mataro blend.
Provincial french Pork sausage, Wrights the
A fat, beautifully pale sausage made with minced pork from pure-bred Berkshire pigs with the judicious addition of a little white wine, ground white pepper and nutmeg plus a lovely backnote of truffle. This is affordable luxury. $14.95/kg; 73 Burrows Rd, Alexandria, (02) 9557 0066
Wine suggestion Earthy, perfumed pinot noir.
sausage, Hudson Meats
Made by Colin Holt, a chef-turned-butcher who worked with Damien Pignolet, this sweet sausage is greater than the sum of its parts - namely free-range duck and pork with fresh coriander, spring onion, dried chilli, and hoisin and Chinese barbecue sauces. $34.95/kg; shops in Surry Hills, Cammeray, Mosman and Lane Cove, (02) 9358 0000
Drink suggestion Fruity, sweetish pear cider.
Calabrese sausage, Heinz Butcher Shop
Flemming Jakobsen is a Danish-born butcher who remodelled a spicy Calabrese sausage into a family-friendly snag by dropping the chilli and adding double-minced beef to the traditional pork. With judicious use of fennel and black pepper, it's a mild and subtle sausage with a lovely smooth mouthfeel. $16.90/kg; 611 Stanley St, Woolloongabba, (07) 3391 3530
Wine suggestion Aged Hunter Valley sémillon.
Italian-Style Pork Sausage, Marino Meat & Food Store
This is a beautiful thin sausage with pearls of white fat embedded in chunks of ruby-coloured pork. It cooks beautifully on the grill, crisping up to a bronze skin and a juicy filling laced with the scantest hint of nutmeg plus a little salt and fine white pepper. It's made by the Marino family, third-generation butchers originally from Abruzzo. $12.99/kg; Adelaide Central Market, 52 Gouger St, Adelaide, (08) 8231 2565
Wine suggestion Slinky, supple Italian-style red such as Montepulciano.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Grain-Free Beef sausage, Griffith Butchery
Butcher Richard Odell staunchly believes in pasture-fed beef, the flavour that dominates this traditional beef banger. This juicy specimen is made completely without cereal binders in a single-mince process with ice that keeps the beef fat cold so it doesn't separate from the meat when it's stuffed into the sausages, which means it doesn't ooze out when cooked. $13.97/kg; 10 Barker St, Griffith, (02) 6295 9781
Wine suggestion Claret-style blend of cabernet and merlot.
Wagyu and Caramelised Onion sausage, Wursthaus
Made with minced wagyu beef from cattle grazed on Robbins Island off the north-west coast of Tasmania, these are rich and unctuous sausages with a sweet undercurrent of caramelised onion, and gentle double whacks of horseradish and mustard. $16.90/kg; shops in Launceston, Hobart and Cambridge, (03) 6248 5552
Drink suggestion Wheat beer from Munich.
Calabrese sausage, Mondo butchers
Vince Garreffa was born in a village "on the very end of the toe of Italy" and learned butchery skills at his father's side. His Calabrese snag is a big fat red sausage, hand-mixed and hand-tied with red string. It has a lovely fennel flavour, a nice little kick of chilli and a back note of fresh garlic. $16.90/kg; 824 Beaufort St, Inglewood, (08) 9371 6350
Wine suggestion Full-flavoured deep pink rosé.
DRINK SUGGESTIONS MAX ALLEN VIDEOGRAPHY BYRON KEANE
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