Butcher Boy ( Extra Bits - Swags)
After a few weeks of hard graft every Saturday, Micky took me aside and told me he had a “special” job for me.
“Ok Joe you’ve been here a while now and me and Roy think it’s time we gave you some extra responsibility.”
I was chuffed, little old me, only fourteen and being given a “special “job to do.
“Yeh sure Micky, what is it?”
“The most important job in the shop, a job that we all do, but have decided that the job is now yours.”
I could see Roy out of the corner of my eye; he was standing by one of the butcher blocks and was trying not to laugh.
“Hold on a minute Micky, is this a wind up?”
Roy then came over, still smaning.
“Joe, we are entrusting this “special” job to you, do it well every Saturday and there will be an extra pound in your wages.”
Roy had said the magic words “extra pound” now I was definitely up for it.
“Ok, so what is it?”
They both looked at each other and then said one word in unison.
Now Swags is the slang word that all Butchers use for sausages.
They both cracked up laughing. I didn’t see what was funny; I already put the sausages on silver trays every Saturday for the window display.
“I don’t get it, what’s so funny, I already do the sausages”
Roy calmed himself and then said very slowly.
“Yes Joe and you do a very good job, but from now on we want you to make the little fuckers”
I was in shock, make the sausages? The sausage machine was the biggest piece of machinery in the shop, it weighed a ton, it was almost as tall as I was. But the thought of the extra pound was overwhelming!
“I’m up for it, just show me what to do and I’ll make the best sausages ever”
Now Roy had a saying, he must have said it to me fifty times during the first six weeks, so much so that it had become a standing joke, as soon as he started to say it, me and Micky would finish it off for him.
“Ok, I’ll show you once, I’ll even show you twice, but…”
Me and Micky finished his sentence together.
“I’ll never show you three times!”
Roy and Micky then set about boning some pig heads and pork bellies until they had a large bowl full of pork.
“Ok Joe, every week me and Micky will give you this amount of meat in this bowl. The bowl was actually a plastic baby’s bath, what you need to do is put this lot through the mincer.
Now that I could do, from day one I had been making mincemeat for the window display, so the large industrial mincer held no fear for me. I put the pork into the big tray on top of the mincer and fed it through the machine back into the baby’s bath. I now had minced pork.
Roy and Micky looked pleased; Roy gave me a pat on the back.
“Well done son, part one completed, now for the secret ingredients.”
In the large walk in fridge we kept a sack of rusk, like a dried breadcrumb, inside the sack was a pint sized metal tankard.
“Ok, you need to add four jugs of rusk to the minced pork.”
That was easy; I quickly put the rusk with the pork.
“Roy then went and got four packets of Paxo stuffing from the window display.
“Ok, now add these to the mix.”
I’d always wondered why we kept so much Paxo stuffing in the shop; there were cases of it everywhere yet we only seemed to sell a few packets every week.
I did as I was told.
Roy then pulled out a large brown box from under one of the cooked meat counters. Inside the box were small white sachets. The only words on these packets were “Oriental Spices”.
“You need to add one and a half of these into the mix and then four jugs of cold water.”
This was easy so far; I did it and stood back.
The smell of the spices was not unpleasant but did have the effect of making your eyes water.
“Now mix the whole lot up with your hands until it’s all even.”
This was harder than it looked and took a good ten minutes. I then had a very strange looking, but lovely smelling, swag mix.
“Right, put that back into the fridge and let it firm up for thirty minutes then put the whole thing through the mincer again, when you’ve done that then the fun begins.”
We all went about our normal jobs for the next half hour; I removed the mixture from the fridge and put it back through the mincer. It didn’t go through as quickly or as easily as fresh meat did, but eventually it was done.
“Ok Roy I’m ready”
Roy came over and told me to push the Sausage machine into the middle of the cutting room. Luckily it was on casters but it was still very heavy. It was about five feet high and looked like a tall and lumpy chimney with a funnel coming out of it about halfway down and a large handle on one side; in fact it looked like something off of Doctor Who.
Roy showed me how to unscrew the top and then told me to put as much of the sausage mixture as I could into the chimney part of the machine. I did it by hand and it took about twenty large handfuls. I screwed the top back on.
“Ok now for the skins”
Roy went into the fridge and brought out a plastic container about twelve inches square, he took off the lid. Inside swimming in salt water were pig’s intestines; they looked like thick pieces of pure white string.
“Now take one of these and slide it over the funnel.”
I did it. I was amazed at how long one of these things was it seemed to take forever, it was about twelve feet long, but concertinaed up on the funnel to about ten inches.
“Now turn the handle and the mix will come out of the funnel, as it does, feed the skin onto it, once you get started the skin will automatically grip the mix. I turned the handle, within a few seconds the mix came out of the funnel.
I continued feeding the skin onto the mix with one hand while the other turned the handle.
Roy watched me until all twelve feet of skin was full of sausage meat.
“Now comes the good bit, tying them into perfect size sausages, go and get a sausage from the window display.”
I went and took one from the window, returned and gave it to Roy.
“See the size of this?, Every sausage you make has to be this size, if they are that means there will be eight to the pound, that’s what people want, no more no less.”
Roy then picked up the long length of sausage from the bowl, his hands moved like lightening, twisting and turning and suddenly he was holding four feet of sausages, all perfect size and in bunches of three. He had suddenly become a magician.
“Ok, put another skin on and make another load, then it’s your turn to do the tying.”
I did as I was told and within five minutes there was another twelve foot sausage in the bowl. Roy took his time and showed me how to tie them, I made a mess of the first few but in just a few minutes I had it. I was making sausages!
“Right, you’ve got it now, finish off this load and then wash the machine down with boiling water, from now on this will be your job every Saturday, as soon as the window is in get to work on the swags”
I realised the reason that Micky and Roy gave me the job was that they both hated it. It was messy and time consuming, but for some strange reason I loved it.
From then on there was no stopping me, I became obsessed with them, I suggested new flavours to Roy, he never said no just told me to get on with it.
After two months I was making, Pork, Spicy Pork, Beef and Horseradish, Pork and Cider, Pork and Apple, Chilly Beef, in fact anything I could think of. I even tried Pork and Orange which was a complete disaster as not only was the taste vile but I'd forgotten about the pips!
The recipe basically remained the same, meat, rusk, paxo, but then I would add, chilli flakes or Cider instead of water, natural ground horseradish, if I wanted to buy anything I would ask Roy and he would give me the money out of the till. We soon became well known for our sausages in East London.
Just after my fifteenth birthday, I arrived at the shop one Saturday morning to find an envelope on one of the blocks with my name on it. I opened it, inside was a certificate and a ten pound note.
The Certificate read, The Annual Smithfield Sausage Competition. R Marshall Family Butchers, fourth place.
I was confused; I looked up at Roy and shrugged my shoulders.
“What’s this then?”
Roy had a huge smile on his face.
“I took some of your Sausages up to Smithfield for the annual competition, it’s a big thing in the Butchery game, this year over four hundred shops entered, and you, you little bastard came fucking fourth!”
He and Micky started clapping their hands and cheering, I was chuffed, didn’t know what to say.
“The tenner’s yours, that’s from me, now let’s get to work we’re running late”
Roy walked away and got on with cutting up some lambs for the window.
I felt like a celebrity and I was ten quid richer, god I loved making those swags.