The gloves are off and the frying pans are out. Norfolk’s butchers are warming up for another busy Battle of the Bangers for this weekend’s food and drink festival celebrations. Victoria Leggett met the competitors.

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Tried and tested family recipes, rare breed pork – and a little character assassination.

The butchers fighting it out at this year’s Battle of the Bangers all have their own methods when it comes to winning over the hungry judges.

And, with four-time champions Archers taking on a new role this time, this weekend’s competition at one of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival’s most popular events is wide open.

Each year between 3,000 and 4,000 people make their way across Millennium Plain, outside the Forum in Norwich, to play their part as judges in the Battle of the Bangers.

The flagship event of the Norwich festival weekend, it gives Norfolk butchers a chance to raise their profile while giving hungry shoppers in the city a bit of a treat.

Sarah de Chair, event organiser and board member for the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, in association with Norfolk County Council, says: “I think this is one of the most exciting events for the festival. It’s free for the public and it’s a really nice thing to get involved with.”

For 2012, the contest has introduced a new rule which sees the previous year’s winner become a judge for the sponsor’s choice award – which is in addition to the public’s chosen winner.

They are also given a stand at the popular Norfolk Producers Fair, which returns to The Forum this Saturday, and sees thousands of shoppers browsing the dozens of local food and drink producers.

It means four-times winner Archer’s Butchers, of Plumstead Road in Norwich, will not contest the title this year but will take part in a blind taste test.

The Battle of the Bangers kicks off at 9.30am on Saturday with the public vote carrying on until 3pm. The winner will be announced from the steps of The Forum at 4pm.

The Norfolk Producers Fair and City Farm will also be at The Forum as part of the Norwich weekend of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival from 9.30am to 5pm.

Brambles Farm, Briston.

Catering manager Maria Veary will battle it out on behalf of Martin Holden’s farm which rears its own rare-breed pigs.

Taking part for the second time, after winning the sponsors’ choice award in 2011, Brambles Farm hopes its sausages will win over the crowds and spread the word about the business.

Maria says: “What we’re trying to promote is the idea of going back to basics. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get proper meat.”

The farm knows how much the Battle of the Bangers can help a new business. It is now selling sausages under its own Brambles Farm label, supplying a number of businesses and soon hopes to complete on a big contract.

Bowers Butchers, Gaywood, near King’s Lynn.

Richard Bowers, whose family business has been running since 1932, is new to the competition and is hoping for a fun-filled day. Richard will be using his family’s tried and tested recipe, which he describes as a “really traditional Norfolk sausage”.

Bradwell Butchery, near Great Yarmouth.

The 25-year-old business will be making its third appearance in the Battle of the Bangers having come in second place when it last entered in 2010.

Andrew Edmonds, who set up the ever-growing business in 1986, says: “It’s quite a giggle really. Hard work, but a really enjoyable day.

“There’s a friendly competitiveness among the butchers. It’s great to get the feedback from the customers straight away.”

Andrew, who sources all his meat from East Anglia, says: “I will probably bring a Norfolk Mardler sausage this year. It’s a recipe produced by me and it’s a really nice flavoured sausage,” he adds.

The Fruit Pig Company, Emneth.

Established in 2009, The Fruit Pig Company prides itself on its rare breed animals and this year will be the third time Matthew Cockin has taken part. As well as being a “thoroughly enjoyable day”, he says it has led to more customers and a higher profile in the county.

Because of that, he intends to make the most of this year’s battle.

“Cheating, I think that’s the way to do it,” he jokes. “Gas bottles will be removed, lines will be cut.”

Of course, he also hopes his sausages, using meat from their Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, will win over plenty of judges.

Frank Spurgeon, Brooke.

Frank Spurgeon butchers, which was started by Anthony Spurgeon’s grandfather in 1924, will always be a threat to the other Battle of the Bangers competitors.

The business, which is based in Brooke but also has shops at Unthank Road, in Norwich, Harleston, and Long Stratton, has taken part three times before and has walked away with both the public and judge’s vote.

Anthony says the butchers should prepare themselves for a tough – but fun – day.

“It keeps me busy on the barbecue,” he says. “I just keep going. You have to set yourself up and just keep cooking all day.”

Anthony will keep to the traditional Spurgeon’s sausage recipe, using shoulder and belly pork, with his grandfather’s own mix of spices.

South Green Park Farm Shop, Mattishall.

The second newcomer for 2012, South Green Park has only had a butchery running for the past year and a half.

James Smith, who hopes the battle will help to raise the profile of the business in the Norwich area, says all the farm shop’s meat is locally sourced – including pigs from Blythburgh.

James hopes his background will give him an edge over some of the other butchers when it comes to preparing the perfect sausage.

“I’m a trained chef as well, so I have got some idea of what it’s going to be like to be catering on a large scale,” he says.

Tasty Tavern Meats, Smallburgh.

Tasty Tavern Meats rears its own rare breed pigs – Gloucester Old Spot, British Lop and British Saddleback – on its farm at Smallburgh.

Run by Roger Human, who began the business in 1991, and Andrew Hudson, Tavern Tasty Meats believe their ability to offer full-traceability on all their meat, as well as a guarantee that it will not have travelled very many miles to reach their shops, is a big attraction for customers.

The growing business is already a well-known name at the county’s farmers’ markets and farm shops and has recently launched an online shop.

The business is working hard to raise the profile of traditional British rare breeds of pig, beef and lamb.

To head back to our Norfolk Food Festival 2012 page, see the link at the top-right of this page.

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