It is no surprise that meat constitutes a significant part of the Cumbrian produce - the climate and geography of the region lends itself better to breeding animals than to growing crops. The most famous of the meat products may well be the traditional Cumbrian sausage, easy to recognise because, unlike other British sausages, it is not linked, but long and coiled. It is always made from rough-cut pork and contains 80% meat. The other ingredients include a blend of herbs, spices and seasonings, with most butchers having their own secret recipe, some dating back over a hundred years.
Like so many Cumbrian specialities, such as Grasmere Ginger Bread and Cumberland Rum Nicky, it makes use of all the spices that started arriving in Whitehaven in the 18th century, when the town was the third most important shipping port in the country. In fact, local sausages were considerably spicier a hundred years ago than they are today.
Quality Cumberland sausages are a delicious local speciality and well worth seeking out. Places like Cranston's Cumbrian Food Hall in Penrith offers authentic and award-winning sausages. Higginson's Butchers in Grange-over-Sands has won the prestigious Smithfield Gold Award on two occasions, 1996, 2002. They now sell the sausage traditionally, in one long coil or thinner, separate sausages ideal for the BBQ
In recent years, a number of food producers have started mass-producing what they call Cumberland sausage, sometimes with as little as 45% meat content. The makers of the genuine article have responded by seeking to give the Traditional Cumberland sausage protected status under the PGI (Protection of Geographical Indication) in European legislation. If they are successful it will mean that sausages cannot be sold as Traditional Cumberland sausages unless they meet the criteria for meat content, ingredients, production process and place of origin. Other products which currently are protected this way include Parma ham, Normandy cheeses, Stilton cheese, Scotch beef and Jersey Royal Potatoes.