The Cumberland sausage has received a sizzling honour in the shape of a European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Confirmed on 18 March by the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the PGI is a badge of recognition from Europe that authentic Cumberland sausages are produced only in Cumbria. The seal puts the Cumberland on equal footing with the Cornish pasty and the Neapolitan pizza, both of which have been certified for genuine recipes, regional links and bona-fide production methods.
Speaking on behalf of Defra, which had supported the delicacy’s PGI application, food minister Jim Paice said: ‘We’re justly proud of British food, and I’m delighted to welcome traditional Cumberland sausage as the first of our many fine sausages to win protected status. This should be a significant boost to Cumbrian producers, who will now be able to prove that their product is the real thing. It’s also a boost to consumers who can have confidence in where their sausages come from.’
Paice added that the PGI stood as a ‘tribute’ to the perseverance of Cumberland Sausage Association chief John Anderson, who passed away last year. The association’s new head, Peter Gott, said: ‘This is a great milestone for the county and a well-deserved place in England’s food history for a truly sensational food product.’
A traditional Cumberland sausage is sold as a long coil, rather than a string of equal-sized sausages. Its high level of seasoning derives from its enormous popularity among peoples of Africa and the Americas, who traded heavily with Cumbrian food purveyors in the 18th Century. Under the terms of the PGI, authentic Cumberland sausages must contain at least 80% pork meat and have a minimum thickness of 20mm.
Although the sausage is thought to have originated from German miners who had settled in Cumbria in the 16th Century, the PGI application called upon the expert testimony of food historian Ivan Day to vouch for the recipe’s regional ties. ‘Traditional Cumberland Sausage is the signature dish of Cumbria and Lakeland,’ he said. ‘It is completely grounded in this region and is identified with Cumbria in the same way that pasties are with Cornwall and haggis is with Scotland. In fact, it could be called “the chieftain of the sausage race”. Its very high meat content, rough-cut texture and high seasoning make it one of the truly great pork products of Great Britain. Nearly all Cumbrian butchers proudly make this distinctive local product, passing on the recipe from father to son over many generations.’
Classic dish from North West of England follows Neapolitan pizza and Cornish pasty into the EU canon of protected foods