BUTCHERS faced off in a battle of the bangers to find the finest sausage in Cheshire and North Wales.
Judges faced the enviable task of sampling 26 meaty treats including some weird and wonderful flavours such as black pudding and bacon, and beef and horseradish.
The contest was held at the NoWFOOD Centre at the University of Chester and included two categories – plain, which can only be seasoned with salt and pepper, and flavoured.
Four plain sausages and three flavoured ones have now been put through to the grand final, which will be judged at the Taste Cheshire Awards on Wednesday, April 19.
The best plain pork sausage finalists were: Cottom Foods of Widnes; Hawarden Estate Farm Shop Hawarden; David Joinson, Chester; and Ernest W Edge & Son, Handbridge.
Flavoured sausage finalists were: Cottom Foods of Widnes for their old English sausage; R F Burrows, Tarporley for their caramelised onion sausage and Pen y Lan Pork for their pork and chilli sausage.
A panel of 11 judges was led by chairman Briony Wilson and included four-time winner Steve Vaughan of Vaughans Butchers and including Izzy Grey of We Love Cheshire, sausage expert Michael Muter, Now Food Centre’s Jeff George and Chester Fields owner Mark Jarvis.
Briony told the Leader: “The standard of sausage was so high that in the plain category we had to put through four instead of the usual three!
“They are all judged on their appearance, texture and taste, so for example they will be marked down if there are any air bubbles in the raw sausage. It’s a tough competition!”
Dee 106.3 breakfast presenter and eight-time judge Gavin Matthews said being on the panel was a tough job but one he looked forward to each year.
“Every year we seem to get more entries and more quality sausages being made by our butchers. Making the decision harder each year with the ever improving fabulously high standard. I can’t wait to see who becomes our festival sausage champion.”
The final seven sausages will now compete for the title of Sausage of the Festival with the first 40 people who attend the Cheshire Food Drink and Lifestyle Festival on Sunday, April 16, at 11am in the main demo kitchen having the chance to taste and vote for their favourite in each category.
Once the two division winners have been chosen Steve Vaughan, of Pennyfford Butchers in Flintshire, will then choose the Sausage of the Festival and this butcher will go on to represent Cheshire in the National Champion of Champions contest in October.
Festival organiser Stephen Wundke thanked the NoWFOOD Centre for providing “outstanding” facilities to allow all the sausages to be cooked in the optimum conditions.
He said: “We have gone to a lot of effort to ensure maximum transparency in this competition with blind voting and a large number of judges to cover all pallets and the Now Food Centre have the best kitchens anywhere in the North-West that allowed us to use ovens that provide a ‘fry pan’ cook, evenly to all sausages, ensuring the ultimate flavour was sealed in each sausage. It was something very special to see and taste.
“Now the public can help us find our overall winner at this year’s festival and who knows, maybe we will end up with a national champion again just like Steve Vaughan.”
l THE Chester Food Drink and Lifestyle Festival takes place from April 15 to 17 over Easter. For more information or to find out how to buy tickets, which cost £6 online with children under-12 free, visit www.chesterfoodanddrink.co.uk