Column: Getting silly about sausages in Harpenden

AUTUMN leaves, bonfires, dark nights – this is the perfect time of year for hearty, filling cookery. It’s British Sausage Week this week, and I am sure many of you have been eating bangers at your firework parties.

Did you know the UK produces more than 470 varieties of sausage and we eat over 850 million meals containing sausages each year? I’m not surprised as we eat them most weeks in this house and I doubt we are alone.

Every independent butcher makes his or her own sausages, and it is a chance for them to demonstrate their creativity and tastebuds. If you tend to buy your sausages from a supermarket, I encourage you to try your local butcher at least this week and support our independents. You usually get a higher meat content and fresher product than in the supermarket sausages, and they are often made with locally sourced pork, so I hope you notice the difference.

We are very lucky to have some excellent local butchers, which sadly, cannot be said of every town in the country. I have been wanting to write about the butchers shop in Southdown, Harpenden, for ages.

Locals will know that Peter Russell retired in the summer, after running the shop for 28 years. Peter was a well-loved local shopkeeper, who had many loyal customers. When Peter retired, he said goodbye with a barbecue (what else!) for his customers, family, and other local shopkeepers. Apparently he is on a cruise at present, taking a well overdue holiday! Peter handed over the business to Karl Jelley who used to run the shop at the north end of Harpenden. It has worked out perfectly for Karl, who had a thriving business already, but the leaseholder wanted to sell the shop, and so he had to move. Karl has now been in the Southdown premises for three months, and has been able to grow his business and now has two full-time members of staff, Lewis and Ross. Happily, many of Peter’s customers have stayed with Jelley’s, and many of the customers from north Harpenden have come over too.

Karl is originally from New Zealand and is well-known for selling interesting sausages including boerewors and Wellington chipolatas as part of his range of 15 varieties. Guinness sausages are a bestseller, and he is launching a new sausage “The Southdown” to celebrate sausage week, and as a hello to his new customers. The recipe was a secret at the time of going to press.

Independent butchers usually have a better range of meats than the supermarkets; when I popped in a customer was buying oxtail, and Karl was getting ready for the game season, with orders of rabbit, pheasants, venison, and partridges. Jelley’s also supply hog roasts for parties and weddings, and I really recommend the black bacon cooked with molasses and treacle; it makes the most perfect bacon sandwich.

Most Read

The shop is larger than Karl’s old premises, so he has been able to extend his range of cheeses and cooked meats too. Karl’s wife Donna was asked to supply a cheese wedding cake, so this is now available to other customers too! You can also pick up jars of farm-made lemon curd, duck fat, and goosefat, which make perfect roast potatoes. Karl was keen to point out that his goosefat comes from British geese, rather than French, which is what most supermarkets sell – quite right too! Apparently the lemon curd is so good that customers come in and buy three or four jars at a time for tarts and cakes.

It is terrific to hear about one business doing so well for so many years, and a new one taking over with such success. We are lucky to have a local shop where the staff know their customers, and care about what they do. What a good excuse to go and buy sausages for tea.

For more local foodie news: