03 February, 2010

Unspeakable Banner Sausage

Banner Sausage. It's been on my Grail List for some time now, and last weekend I finally had the chance to try it out. Put up in 10½-ounce cans distributed by Pinnacle Foods Corporation (the owner of the Armour Star brand) this stuff is more reminiscent of scrapple than of sausage, and it is nearly impossible to find in supermarkets in my area - I finally gave up and ordered it online. I'm not sure it was worth the effort.

The "Serving Suggestion" photo on the outside of the can shows several nicely browned sausage patties lined up on the edge of a plate of sunny-side-up eggs. The picture left me completely unprepared for what I actually found when I popped the top off of the tin.


The stuff wouldn't come out of the can on it's own. I had to slip a knife between the can and the...um...?meat and give the can a couple of really hard shakes. Even then, it only edged out an inch or so and then stopped. Finally, I punched a hole in the bottom of the can to let some air in behind the sausage, and that seemed to do the trick. With the vacuum well and truly broken, the contents of the can plopped onto my cutting board.

Wet, vaguely pink, kind of grainy. It wobbled when I tapped the cutting board. This was like no other sausage I had ever seen. I doubted I'd be able to get this stuff to fry up as attractively as the patties depicted on the label.

The label says that there are "about five" servings in the can, so I decided to put the cylinder on its side and separate it into five slices. The Banner Sausage had other ideas, however. It was so wet and "loose" that I just couldn't get five slices out of it, and had to settle with four. I preheated a non-stick frying pan while I was slicing the sausage, and by the time I was done it was ready. The patties went in and immediately started sizzling. Shortly after that, they started to release an odd sort of water/grease mixture that evaporated from the pan and left behind a golden brown crust.

I gave the patties a few minutes to brown on the bottom, but it was impossible to get a spatula under them - it was like trying to flip a puddle. I decided that the best thing to do would be to turn the fire way down to low and just let them brown out on the bottom and hope that some of the moisture would evaporate out of them.

They finally got to a point where I figured they would be solid enough to turn. I got the spatula under them and discovered that, although they had cooked to a golden brown crust underneath, they were still loose and very, very wet above. The hell with it, I flipped them over anyway, and each of the patties landed in the pan with an ugly splat. The uncooked parts oozed out from under the brown crusts, and more liquid seeped out.

Now, I'm going to pause for a moment here to talk about the ingredient list on the back of the can. It goes a long way towards explaining why Banner Sausage cooks up the way it does.

Partially Defatted Pork Fatty Tissue, Beef Tripe, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Water, Wheat Flour, Salt. Less than 2%: Vinegar, Natural Flavoring, Sodium Nitrate.

I've always wondered what "partially defatted fatty tissue" was. Maybe it's an udder or something that's been boiled down to render out some of the grease.

Anyway. After another ten minutes or so of gentle frying, the patties had firmed up enough to lift out of the frying pan and onto the breakfast plates. They looked interesting: glossy brown crusts, almost plastic-like, surrounding heated but still wet, pink, grainy interiors. The "patties" didn't like being cut, but they were okay with being "scooped." Trouble is, fork pressure just ripped the crust off the wet part.

As truly awful as this stuff looked, I have to admit that it didn't actually smell all that bad as it cooked. A bit "tripey," I guess, but not nearly as offensive as when I cooked up a batch of pickled tripe for a friend. I guess the best way to describe it would be that it smelled like really, really cheap sausage.

Flavorwise, it wasn't horrible either. Again, "tripey," vaguely sausage-like, but most of all salty. I really don't think that slicing Banner Sausage into patties and frying it is the way to go with this stuff, despite the label photo. Maybe I should have followed the recipe on the back of the can for Sausage 'N Eggs: "Heat sausage; add slightly beaten eggs and continue heating, stirring occasionally, until eggs are set. Season to taste." On second thought, scrambled eggs shot through with veins of greasy wet kinda-meat doesn't sound all that much more appetizing than what I actually ate.
.

23 comments:

Michael said...

My report from Sept. 2001 - you will note that the ingredients are somewhat changed but the total experience appears to be the same:
Banner Sausage: cereal added: with natural juices.
Ingredients: beef tripe, pork stomachs, partially
defatted beef fatty tissue, beef heart meat, wheat
flour, water, salt. Less than 2 percent: vinegar,
natural flavorings, sodium nitrite.

All right, tripe, tripe, and fat, my kind of food, what
could be bad? So I said, it's time for sausage gravy.
...
The sausage, on the other hand: an adventure. It
came out of the can wet and pink, rather vomitous-
looking, with a strong smell of tripe. I fried up a
small patty just to see what it would do, and it
refused to stay patty-shaped but rather oozed around
a bit forming a tough brown crust on the bottom; the
crust tasted like tripe; the pink liquidy insides
tasted sort of like tripe but also sort of canned hash.
Not by any stretch of the imagination resembling any
kind of sausage, unless there is a kind of andouillettes
that are uglier than the ones that I have already tried.

Dave said...

It amazes me that Armour Star/Dial/Pinnacle managed to take an already filthy-cheap food and make it more cheap (and more filthy.)

I've actually read threads on survivalist message boards where people say that Banner Sausage is so bad they wouldn't even put it on the ration shelves of their Shit Hits The Fan Shelter.

Hell of an product slogan: Banner Sausage. Not Even Good Enough For The Apocalypse.

Eating The Road said...

Well that begs the question of who is buying it then? If it's that horrible why do they continue to make it...I guess the obvious answer is that it's the cheapest way to dispose of the those "ingredients".

Jenny said...

Yuck. It looks fecal.

bagel of everything said...

I found your blog from a google search for Banner Sausage reviews...and have spent the last 2 days reading nearly every entry. Almost makes me wanna re-open my old blog. Well done!

Growing up, this stuff was a real treat. I'd nearly forgotten about it until my husband brought some home for the novelty of it. I was thrilled.

It tastes just as yummy as I remember.

Don't bother with making slices, it's not do-able. And stop thinking of it as traditional breakfast sausage. It's a whole different thing.

Cook it up in a small saucepan on low heat for 15 minutes or so -- until it gets all brown and sort of dry. It's great spread on toast, even better poured over biscuits. Like sausage gravy, without all that pesky gravy getting in the way.

Dave said...

Bagel of everything: I figured halfway through my experiment that Banner Sausage shouldn't be fried as patties. It baffles me why they would show that as a "serving suggestion," but even pictures of cans from the 1960's show the same photo, so Armour's been doing it for a long time.

When I give Banner Sausage another try, though, I'll follow your suggestion and cook a lot more of the moisture out of it. When it comes right down to it, the flavor wasn't that bad, it was mostly the texture I objected to.

And, thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

It's much better if you add a bit of flour to the sausage. You can stiffen up enough to make patties but it's much bettter if you just add a little and leave it a bit loose.

NCgirl said...

I grew up in North Carolina on Banner Sausage - we called it "squishy sausage" for obvious reasons. Not sure why they suggest the patty thing becuase it's just not doable. I put mine in a small pan and cook it over medium/medium-high heat until most of the water is cooked out. It's great on toast by my favorite is mixed in with grits. Can't find it in the store unless I'm back home in NC - Texas doesn't have it so my sister orders cases for us. Hope you try it again and have a better experience! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave! I ran into this review while trying to find where I can buy it for my parents. Now I won't bother ordering myself a can of it to try. They absolutely rave about this sausage... Maybe it is just associated with memories from their youth. I am saving this site to read your other blogs. :)

unified said...

The current form of Banner Sausage is a disgusting residue of its former self. The ingredients in 2001, and prior, made a more pleasant product. I used to use it straight from the can and onto grits.

Since they changed the ingredients, however, it is so nasty that you can imagine each ingredient from the first spoonful. I only wish there was something out there similar to the original ingredients.

Anna said...

I've grown up eating this type of sausage, it was one of our favorite things to have as a kid. We always referred to it as "bulk sausage". I'm not sure as to why they use that picture of patties on the front either. I would highly recommend giving it another try though. My best advice for cooking it is to just put it in a pot, break it up with a fork so it heats easier, and just let it basically liquefy. We always eat it with a spoon. You can try it with scrambled eggs added in, but usually we just eat it as a side on our breakfast plates. If you don't want to risk trying Banner Sausage again, try Beverly's Bulk Sausage. It looks and is cooked the same way as I mentioned, but I prefer it over Banner's. Try it with some toast sometime. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog after reminiscing about Banner and Beverly Bulk Sausage that I ate as a child. I always felt the "serving suggestion" was a bit misleading as well. I would just mix the goop with eggs and then top with ketchup if I felt like having haute cuisine.

About a year ago I happened to have one can laying around. For some inexplicable reason, I ate it cold, directly out of the can... Maybe it was the 18 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

You may want to try a can of Rose's Pork Brains (with milk gravy) next. It's serving suggetion is a honest representation.

Dave said...

@Anonymous - I have tried Rose Pork Brains with Milk Gravy - see this entry and made "brain fritters" out of them. They were pretty good.

Amy T said...

I always wondered about the patties they have on the can. We have never done it that way. We put it in a pan, break a couple of eggs over and cook til done (though I admit I am still unsure how long it should take, but I cook it for a while just in case). It is great in grits, which is how we usually eat it. But, it makes a fair sandwhich with some mustard on it.

Whenever we go home to NC we make sure to grab a few cans or if family visits they bring us some. Def give it another try but use the eggs and just scramble it around til done :)

Rms25o said...

The best way to eat Banner or Beverly sausage is to cook in saucepan and add egg to the mix. Then when done mixes with rice. Season to taste with pepper and salt.

Spec_Sun said...

I'm about to try it for the first time as I purchased it from a local Wal-Mart recently. It looks similar to Beverly Sausage, which I have eaten for most of my life. Similar to Banner Sausage, Beverly Sausage is very difficult to find because it isn't available throughout the year on a regular basis in my area. Whenever I purchase it, I do so in mass bunches at the store.

I will try this soon, and if it is anything like Beverly, then it must be awesome!

Great review!

Jea said...

Never tried or heard of Banner Sausage until I saw it at my friends house and he fixed some for me.... Yuck! Not my cup of tea,but He has several cans and I wounder if anyone has ever tried it mixed with ground chuck in meatloaf. I have used other sausage in my meat loaf before and it turned out great. Just wondering:)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! When I was growing up my mother would buy a can and scramble eggs in this and boiled rice. With a big pat of butter and salt and pepper this was so yummy. If you can get past the look and don't read the ingrediants is is awesome!

Harold Cogar said...

I like to put it in a kettle,add about a can or can and a half of water to it,bring to a boil and eat with biscuits. My MOM made sausage gravy out of it and that was good for many of a breakfast, along with biscuits.
Mom's way of doing it was to use one can of sausage,add 1 and 1/2 cups of water,bring to a boil, dissolve 1/4 cup of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of cold water and 2 tablespoons of canned milk, then stir into the boiling sausage and water,then stir till it thickens.Makes for some mighty fine eating.

Trumpetpraise said...

I grew up eating this stuff, and my dad cooked it in a great way. He cooked plain, white rice with a bit of a soupy consistency. Then he emptied a can of Banner sausage in our iron skillet until heated through on medium heat (about 5 minutes). He scrambled up some eggs, and served all of it on a plate - either together or separately. It was delicious.

I've never heard of anyone trying to cook this stuff into patties like fresh sausage before! :)

Monuel Melvin said...

First of all I have been looking for Banner sausage every since I left Fayetteville, NC. How it is explained first on this webpage I have never eaten it like that. You do not fry like a normal sausage, I know the label on the can is confusing. You place it in a sauce pan and let it fry down or melt down (however you choose to say it). That is how you prepare it. Or once it has melted down add eggs to it. Let eggs fry with it as it melts down. That is how we prepared Banner sausage.

silver said...

I grow up on banner sausage too, my mom slice the sausage and dip the slices in a beaten egg with a little water and roll in flour then fry the sausage, it aways good. As a matter of fact, I am going to fry some now.

Aaron Hornbuckle said...

You're not eating it right. The best way to eat banner sausage is to plop it in the ban ans stir it as it heats. It makes somewhat of a soup. Before you start the banner, start your grits! When the banner and grits are done, mix them together, add some butter, maybe some scrambled eggs to grits as well and you'll have a southern delicacy!