Sausage rolls are a hugely popular snack in the United Kingdom and around the Commonwealth, including Australia and Canada. One bakery chain in the UK, Greggs, sells around 2.5 million sausage rolls per week!
Seasoned pork sausage meat wrapped in a tube of flaky, buttery puff pastry, they can be served hot from the oven or served cold. They come in a range of sizes, from 4oz sausage rolls perfect for lunch, or mini 1.5oz sausage rolls ideal for parties and buffets.
Despite their huge popularity in Britain, the history of the sausage roll is uncertain. Wrapping meat in pastry dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, but the modern sausage roll is thought to have originated in 19th Century France.
They grew in popularity in London in the early 1800's as a cheap street food, and became known as a quintessentially British snack. They were originally made using shortcrust pastry, but today you will almost exclusively find them made with deliciously flaky puff pastry. Puff pastry was developed in the early 1600's in Spain, an adaptation of the Middle Eastern filo pastry used in baklava. It quickly spread across Europe, and became a staple in French baking by the 1650's.
More recently, in 2012 there was a huge outcry when the British government tried to introduce a "Pasty Tax" on hot takeaway food that included sausage rolls. The response from the British public was so negative that the government was forced to abandon this plan.
Sausage meat varies from region to region around the UK, with different spices and herbs used to flavor ground pork. Most commonly, sausage meat contains peppery seasonings, though some is flavored with more sage and thyme.
British sausages are not as meaty as European sausages like bratwurst, and they are usually bulked up with rusk or breadcrumbs. The minimum pork content for sausages to be legally called a "pork sausage" is just 42%!
Sausage roll meat in particular is usually seasoned with salt and pepper, often with parsley, sage, and nutmeg. More recently, a modern twist on the humble sausage roll includes adding fruit such as apples and pears, or even sweet chili peppers.
The combination of spiced ground pork and buttery pastry is delicious, and it's easy to see why the Brits love them so much!