Advertisement

The best supermarket pigs in blankets, tried and tested

'Turkey can be a dull meat, but everybody loves bacon and sausages'
'Turkey can be a dull meat, but everybody loves bacon and sausages'

Pigs in blankets – a great Christmas lunch tradition. At least, they are now. But go back a few decades and there is no mention of them. According to food historian Neil Buttery, “they didn’t appear on tables until the 1990s…rather like the Ploughman’s Lunch, they are a creation of the food industry.”

There are recipes that predate that but these are the American version, allegedly first popularised by Betty Crocker, and involve sausages wrapped, sausage-roll style, in dough (often a croissant type) or pastry. This is what Tom Waits sings about in his 1974 classic The Ghosts of Saturday Night, the “pigs in a blanket sixty-nine cents” sold by street hawkers alongside eggs, hash browns and cigarettes.

British pigs in blankets seem to have evolved differently. “In the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a habit of serving rolled bacon that had been roasted in the oven as a garnish, and some liked to serve sausages alongside their roasts, but never the bacon wrapped around a sausage,” says Buttery.

Pigs in blankets: a great Christmas lunch tradition
Pigs in blankets: a great Christmas lunch tradition - getty

A quick perusal of Mrs Beeton does indeed reveal plenty of advice to serve plain sausages with turkey. The original Delia’s Cookery Course, first published in 1978, has sausage meat in the stuffing and bacon laid over the breast of the turkey, but no pigs in blankets in her Christmas dinner. Even Delia Smith’s Christmas, the bible of the season since its publication in 1990, makes only a passing mention of sausage and bacon rolls, threaded onto skewers. Prue Leith’s Cookery Bible, published in 1991, suggests a garnish of a chipolata wrapped in bacon. Neither of them use the name “pigs in blankets”.

Wikipedia says the first published recipe was in 1957, but this seems to refer to the American version. Mind you, the same Wikipedia article names Yorkshire pudding as a British Christmas tradition, which (while most of us are happy to tuck into Yorkshires at any time of year) is nonsense, so I think we can discount it.

My Scottish pals tell me that they’ve long enjoyed a “kilted sausage” (no-one I spoke to could recall the “kilted soldiers” that Wikipedia refers to) which is indeed a sausage wrapped in bacon. But a friend’s mother, herself a butcher’s daughter, told me they were made with beef sausage – although this may be simply that until relatively recently, pork sausage was unusual in Scotland. Scottish food expert Sue Lawrence reckons kilted sausages appeared in the middle of the last century, as there is no reference in 18th or 19th century cookbooks.

Pigs in blankets are well entrenched as a modern Christmas tradition
Pigs in blankets are well entrenched as a modern Christmas tradition - Cogent-Marketing

Not that it matters: pigs in blankets are well entrenched as a modern tradition. Turkey can be a dull meat, and everybody loves bacon and sausages. It makes good sense to add them to the dinner plate, especially as they are excellent value.

They aren’t hard to make yourself. The sausage used to be a chipolata, back in the old days of the 1990s, but now seems to have shrunk to a cocktail size, perhaps so they can be used as canapés. Allocate half a rasher of streaky for a chipolata, a quarter for a cocktail sausage, and use the back of a knife to stretch the bacon out lengthways on a chopping board, before wrapping it around the sausage. This stretching will help the bacon stick, and avoid messy unwrapping in the oven – although several of the ready made pigs I tried (25 in all) did come unfurled as they cooked.

Will it be cheaper? I took my top scoring pigs in blankets and recreated them. Using Tesco Finest cocktail sausages (£3.25) and its Finest streaky bacon, the bill at the checkout is £6.75 for ingredients for 18 pigs (including seven rashers to spare). The actual cost for ten pigs is £2.90 - a saving of 35p or more than 10 per cent on the price of its Finest Pigs in Blankets (£3.25). The only difference I could see is that while all the pork is British, only the Tesco Finest bacon (not the bacon on the ready made pigs in blankets) has any welfare information, as it is outdoor bred. I’m hoping that next year they can do better.

As for the concept’s short and confused history, perhaps it doesn’t matter. As Buttery says, “Everything has to be invented at some point, and pigs in blankets are absolutely delicious.” I’m even considering adding a Yorkshire pudding too this year.


The taste test

a
a

Tesco 12 Pigs in Blankets

£3 for 240g (£1.25/100g)

These have a slightly off flavour. Although they are neat-looking, they taste slightly rank, which is a shame. You wouldn’t want to bite into this on Christmas Day.

0 stars

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Chipolatas Wrapped in Bacon

£3.50 for 260g (£1.35/100g)

This is what I call proper pigs in blankets as there’s plenty of bacon. But the flavour is off and the fat is rancid – seriously unpleasant.

0 stars

Sainsbury’s Butcher’s Choice British Pork & British Bacon Pigs in Blankets

£3.25 for 260g (£1.25/100g)

Gosh, these are awful. The bacon stays on but it does look a bit tatty and has that flavour like it’s been left uncovered in the fridge for too long. The sausage is really processed and the taste is rancid.

0 stars

Iceland 12 Pigs in Blankets

£3.00 for 252g (£1.19/100g)

Although it’s coming loose, the bacon looks good, however, the sausage looks raw and rather depressing. The flavour matches its appearance – it doesn’t taste right, instead rank and not very fresh.

0 stars

M&S 16 Pigs in Blankets

£5.50 for 380g at Ocado (£1.45/100g)

Well-coloured but the meat doesn’t taste fresh – almost too porky. There’s a slightly rancid flavour to the fat. Not very festive.

Morrisons Pigs in Blankets

£2.99 for 289g (£1.03/100g)

The bacon goes very dark in cooking and has fallen off one of them. But it is nice and crisp. The sausage itself is very bland with a lot of filler and breadcrumbs.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Truffle Flavoured Pigs in Blankets

£4 for 210g (£1.90/100g)

Appearance-wise they look quite nea. However, they have an artificial and slightly plastic flavour. The truffle is also artificial, which is the 2,4-dithiapentane that’s present in almost all “truffle flavour products.”

Sainsbury’s 12 Pigs in Blankets

£3.00 for 240g (£1.25/100g)

These are some stubby little pigs in blankets. The bacon doesn’t look very loved but it stays on and is lovely and crisp. The sausage on the other hand is of service-station quality – bland and rubbery.

Tesco 12 Cosy British Pigs in Blankets

£2.50 for 222g (£1.12/100g)

Bit messy as the bacon has just about stayed on but it’s got a really good flavour to it. This is one of the few that I’m getting bacon flavour from instead of the sausage, which itself is mild and rather processed.

Lidl Partytime Pigs in Blankets

£1.99 or 240g (83p/100g)

Fairly neat little pigs with a good colour, and they stay wrapped. They’re a touch rubbery and taste cheap, although a nice porky flavour does come through.

Morrisons The Best 10 Pigs in Blankets

£3.25 for 210g (£1.55/100g)

These look fairly tidy. The sausage is herby and quite salty but the bacon is very bland. Dull.

Aldi Specially Selected Caramelised Onion Chipolatas Wrapped in Bacon

£2.39 for 247g (97p/100g)

You can see the herbs in the sausage and can tell the ingredients are of good quality, but it’s really sweet. If you like ultra-sweet American-style main dishes (think marshmallows on sweet potatoes) then you will find these fine. Overall, these are too much for my palate – you taste sugar before pork!

Aldi Ashfields Pigs in Blankets

£1.99 for 222g (90p/100g)

The kind of pigs in blankets you’d find on a carvery. They’re carefully wrapped but the sausage doesn’t look great  – it’s got a mild porky flavour that tastes a bit processed.

Waitrose 16 British Pork Pigs in Blankets

£5.25 for 264g (£1.99/100g)

They’re a bit bean on the bacon with these ones and one came unwrapped which is a bit sad. The sausage is very soft and has a good herb flavour but it overwhelms the bacon like a stuffing sausage.

Lidl Deluxe British Pigs in Blankets

£3.49 for 300g (£1.16/100g)

These bouncy little cocktail sausages have come unwrapped, revealing a texture that’s quite processed. The flavour is completely fine, ordinary even, and you can taste the bacon.

Co-op Irresistible 12 Smoky & Succulent Posh Pigs in Blankets

£3.50 for 240g (£1.46/100g)

They don’t look super tidy but they’re ok. There’s a good balance between the bacon and sausage flavour. The sausage has a decent texture and it’s quite salty.

Aldi Specially Selected Pigs in Blankets

£2.39 for 210g (£1.14/100g)

A decent option. They’re a bit bouncy and pretty solid as well as slightly rubbery. There’s a lot more sausage than bacon.

Morrissons 12 Pigs in Blankets

£2.50 for 210g (£1.19/100g)

Messy and they’ve become unwrapped which defeat the point of pig in a blanket. However, they taste nice  – the bacon has got some smoke and sweetness to it but the sausage is a bit rubbery.

Iceland Luxury 12 Pigs in Blankets

£3.50 for 252g (£1.39/100g)

These are a bit bigger than most (almost half chipolata) and look a bit tatty. The bacon does look like it has crisped and there’s a very sweet and herby flavour with a nice sticky chew. However, the sausage is really leaden and notably porky. Overall, they’re quite elegant and a good all-rounder.

Waitrose No.1 Pork Chipolatas in Air Dried Bacon

£5 for 258g (£1.94/100g)

These are strictly for sage lovers! It’s really strong – maybe a bit too sagey and slightly soapy. However, the sausage is very nice and so is the bacon, although it does come a bit unwrapped.

Asda Extra Special 10 Pigs in Blankets

£3 for 210g (£1.43/100g)

There’s a slightly rubbery texture and they don’t exactly taste posh but no one should complain about these. There’s a nice streaky bacon which has quite a lot of fat – usually you can just taste the sausage.

The Jolly Hog Pigs in Blankets with Black Treacle Streaky Bacon

£4 for 210g at Sainsbury’s (£1.90/100g)

I like the look of these. There are lots of visible herbs (which come through in the flavour, too) and the bacon stayed on. I liked the texture of the sausage but there’s only a little bit of bacon flavour.

Asda Scrummy 12 Pigs in Blankets

£2.40 for 222g (£1.08/100g)

Fairly well wrapped and nice in colour. I like the texture of the sausage as it’s not too smooth, but looks-wise it’s quite skinny and unremarkable. This one is for real bacon lovers, instead.

Tesco Finest 10 Pigs in Blankets

£3.25 for 210g (£1.55/100g)

These are lovely. They’re fairly neat and look quite loved. They’re nicely porky and quite heavily seasoned with a nice pepperiness. The bacon is thin so the sausage comes through more. Really good.