A Musk’s Newmarket Sausage is a seasoned pork sausage made using fresh, primal cuts from either the whole carcass, the shoulder or belly (no offal or by-products, mechanically recovered meat (MRM) or emulsified rind are permitted) and contain a selection of herbs and spices. They are a natural colour of the meat, deep pink-beige with a few flecks and have a dry and coarse texture with visible pieces of lean meat and fat, which give the sausage a slight bite when eaten. The taste is predominantly of pork and moderately seasoned from the herb and spice mix used in its production although the taste and colour may vary according to the butcher’s particular blend of seasoning. Traditional seasoning for Newmarket Sausages includes a blend of spices and which make up to no more than 3% the recipe.
In addition, natural flavourings of dried lemon as an antioxidant, sulphites as a preservative and sodium phosphate as a binding agent can also be added. The sausages must have a minimum meat content of 70% which includes a fat content of typically less than 20%. Musk’s use bread in all our non gluten free products. Newmarket Sausages are usually presented in lengths of about 10 to 15cm long, 2.5 to 3.5 cm in diameter, and are slightly curved in appearance. They are also produced as: a chipolata style sausage which is between 8-12cm long, a cocktail sausage (6cm) and a ‘jumbo’ (between 20-24cm). They are sold through retailers and delicatessens either in pre packed or loose from the counter.
In 2012 the EU granted the Newmarket Sausage PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. It joined the list of over 50 regional speciality products from all over the UK which enjoy a protected food name. A ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ (PGI) means the sausage can only be made in a defined area to strict specifications by members of the Newmarket Sausage Association (NSA)
The first reference to Newmarket and sausages dates specifically to 19th November 1618 when James I was visiting the area. He held a banquet to celebrate the 18th birthday of his son Charles (later King Charles I) described in a letter from the Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Charleton;
“The king brought a great chine of beef, the Marquis of Hamilton four pigs incircled (sic) with sausages, the Earl of Southampton two turkeys, another six partridges, and one a whole tray full of buttered eggs so all passed of pleasantly.” The Marquis of Hamilton, a Scottish nobleman would have obtained the sausages locally, there being no means of refrigeration in those days.”
Newmarket has been associated with horse racing since King James I organised the first race on the site which was run in 1622 and the Newmarket Sausage later became inextricably linked to the races. They were sold as a quick hot snack to eat at the races and in the various hostelries during the racing season. Race-goers also bought them to take home after the event. In 1849, Sylvanus describing a tour to the Newmarket area in Bentley’s miscellany (edited by Charles Dickens) stayed at the White Hart Inn, Newmarket where, after a visit to see the horses, he and his companions “returned to breakfast on Newmarket Sausages and water-cresses”.
Sausage production was inevitable in Newmarket given its location in Suffolk. The county had long been a major producer of good pork, the meat of the black Suffolk pig was prized as being sweet and tender. In the Newmarket area stable yards and local cottagers kept pigs which were allow to roam freely and graze on stable scraps and keep racing yards free of debris. The town had a dozen or so butchers in the late 19th and early 20th century, many breeding, fattening and slaughtering their own pigs to supply their own sausages as proofed in the censuses of 1881 and 1891.
Popularity of the sausages soared far and wide beyond the horseracing circles, and an extract from the Newmarket Local History Society’s chronicles records notes of a railway clerk spending 2 or 3 hours every race week booking parcels of the sausage on the race meeting trains during the busy horse-racing season, when railway communications became more frequent.
Modern stables no longer keep pigs but the East Anglia area of the UK, where Newmarket is situated, is a well-known for pig farming. This is due to the predominant arable/cereal farms concentrated in the area where the pigs are fed on the cereal by-products.
Newmarket Sausages soon became a popular snack with the horseracing fraternity, which included members of the Royal Family. The Sausages have been popular with the Royal Household since the beginning of the 20th Century.
During the racing season the demand for sausages was tremendous, Baily’s sporting magazine in 1860 reporting; “we heard on our arrival that every stall at Newmarket had its occupier, as every bedroom its tenant, and the sausage machines had never ceased working”. Sausages were also sold at the major markets and fairs in the town, Gardener in 1851 claiming that the November 8th Cattle Market, which was also a pleasure fair, was particularly noted for its sausages.
Although a dozen butchers were said to be operating in Newmarket in the early 20th Century each producing their own sausages, gradually the number of shops declined leaving just three producers of the Newmarket Sausage. Although the earliest reference to Newmarket and sausages is in 1618 (given above), a distinct type of sausage called the ‘Newmarket Sausage’ only appears in the literature in the mid 1800’s, the 1849 reference above being the earliest so far discovered.
More recently there have been numerous references to the Newmarket Sausage in cookbooks and guide books. They are described in the ‘Traditional Foods of Britain’, (Laura Mason with Catherine Brown, Prospect Books 1999) part of an inventory of the food products from all the regions of the European Union and Clarissa Dickson-Wright, in her latest book, recalls her earliest experience with Newmarket sausages.
The Newmarket Local History Society in its review of Newmarket history gives a full write-up to the local production of sausages, substantiating all that is claimed.