Just beside the Market Hall in Abergavenny (the main venue for the Abergavenny Food Festival), Market Street hosts Rawlings butchers where the Sausages are amazing! That’s not just me saying so, the sausages win awards in all the major trade shows and Taste Awards and have been crowned Welsh Champion Sausages. The shop is full of certificates, cups and Rosettes, whilst posters show the coverage that Rawlings have had on TV including a visit from the Hairy Bikers on their Food Tour of Great Britain.
Paul Bishop established the shop in 1976 and has gone from strength to strength, garnering a solid core of local shoppers and also providing some of the better catering companies with top quality sausages.
Some of this success is down to the craftsmanship which goes into each and every sausage and some due to the sourcing of really food meat with which to work. The Pork is all free range and it shows in the taste, Beef again is locally sourced, much of it travelling only 6 miles from farm to slab.
Though sausages are what makes Rawlings a destination butcher there is a terrific range of dry cured bacon which can be bought in slabs or as rashers. Unlike many butchers you are asked how you would like the rashers cut, not just thick or thin but machine or hand cut. I always opt for the hand cut, unless I am buying a slab to do myself, as you get a thicker rasher which truly represents the quality Pork used. The dry cured Gammon is also an award winner.
Of course in a real craft butcher shop you would expect even the less well known cuts to be used and Faggots are always available. These are subtle, there is a good balance between meaty and offaly tastes, you taste the liver but it is part of an overall mix not the dominant flavour. I like to cook them simply, diced onion, potato and carrot is sweated and then a good chicken stock added – chicken stock has an affinity with Pork- and the resultant sauce seasoned before chopped parsley is added.
The faggots re brought up to room temperature before being placed in a casserole and the stock added. Placed in an oven at 160c the faggots are cooked for 30-40 minutes and then served simply in a bowl with fresh crusty bread on the side to mop up the sauce at the end.
But back to the sausages.
It is easy to see why they are award winning. Plump and meaty (you only get 6 to the kilo!) the sausages cook perfectly, retaining a firm but yielding texture and with the kind of “snap” that only a good sausage can have.
A long slow fry brought them to perfection and they ate well.
Apart from the award winning “Old Fashioned”, a coarse cut sausage, several other varieties are made, all on site and all to a high standard. Traditional Farmhouse is a smoother sausage to a similar recipe whilst the Cumberland are made to a 180 year old recipe. Welsh tradition is reflected in the Lamb Apricot and Rosemary, a sausage that could be an alternative Sunday Lunch!, and the Pork and Leek. Lamb is also represented in both Mint and Moroccan varieties
Garlic and Herb Sausages and the Italian Connection are more continental blends whilst the Orleans Smokey combines pork, peppers garlic and chilli and a smokey flavour that might just come from smoked paprika.
Welsh Pride is reflected in three great sausages, Celtic Pride, the spicy Welsh Dragon and the Grand Slam Banger. This latter sausage formed part of my dinner on that historic day when Wales won their third Grand Slam.
It was also St Patrick’s Day and I had been sorely tempted to breakfast on the Beef and Guinness though I managed to resist that temptation, saving it for another day.
There’s also a range of game sausages including Venison and Red Wine and Herbs. Mixed Game, Red Wine and Herbs, Wild Boar and Apricot Cognac and several sausages based on Chicken and Duck.
I haven’t tried them all but I will be returning to Rawlings and will be trying more of these amazing sausages.
Another butcher who truly deserves to be seen as Local and Great.
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