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Monday, December 19, 2016

Banner Brand Sausage, Breakfast Of Appalachian Champions

Recently, I strayed into a post about Spam on a Facebook group I follow called Appalachian Mountain Folk.  That post generated a lengthy and interactive string of comments from dozens of members of the group.  I commented that as much as I love Spam for breakfast I love Banner Brand Sausage better.  That naturally generated a plethora of comments about Banner Brand Sausage from people who both loved it and hated it.  I am betting that this post will do the same.  Banner Brand Sausage is made by Pinnacle Foods Corporation in Cherry Hill, NJ.  They also own Armour which makes things like potted meat, vienna sausage, and other canned meat products.  But neither the Pinnacle Foods or Armour websites even mention Banner Brand Sausage.  

When I was growing up in a country store, we sold a ton of Banner Brand Sausage and also ate it regularly in our own home.  Banner Brand Sausage is a canned meat product which is sold under the misnomer of sausage.  But it never takes the traditional shape and consistency of sausage as most of us know sausage. It comes out of the pop top can in a gelatinous round cake and quickly liquefies under heat.  No matter how long or how hot you cook it the liquid state remains unless you burn it to a dried out crisp.  The photographic serving suggestion on the can shows sunny side up eggs residing on a plate beside some sausage patties.  Rest assured that Banner Brand sausage never suffered the embarrassment of becoming a patty.  The printed serving suggestion on the can which is labeled "Sausage 'N Eggs" tells you to "Heat sausage; add slightly beaten eggs, and continue heating, stirring occasionally until eggs are set.  Season to taste."  I suppose some people actually eat Banner Brand Sausage this way and I did get a few comments on the Appalachian Mountain Folk group to that effect.  But in our house when I was a child, and in my house today more than fifty years later, we cook it simply by putting that aforementioned gelatinous mass in a skillet, heating it until it liquefies, and simmering it until the consistency and color suit our taste.  It is also appropriate here to say that the "season to taste" suggestion never came from a regular fan of Banner Brand Sausage.  It is spiced with a variety of seasonings at the factory which are more than sufficient to make it down the hatch with glee and a bit of warm, spicy zest.  Some novices will say that it is actually a bit hot in seasoning.  I love it just as it is.  But the real piece 'de resistance of the meal comes when you plate it with the other elements of a Hicks family breakfast.  I like to fry two sunny side up eggs in a separate skillet, heat a can of store bought cream gravy, and bake biscuits.  I place two open faced biscuits on the plate, throw the eggs on next, top that with the Banner Brand Sausage, and then hide it all under the gravy.  That, my friends, is breakfast for an Appalachian champion who intends to go to the log woods, the cow barn, the hay field, or a mule breaking where they will be expected to work until the sun is over the yardarm before eating another bite.  That breakfast will stick to your ribs all day long no matter how hard you work. 

Naturally, every time I mention Banner Brand Sausage some neophyte wants to know what it is made from.  Here is the ingredients list verbatim from the can: "Partially defatted pork fatty tissue, beef tripe, mechanically separated chicken, water, wheat flour, salt, less than 2% vinegar, natural flavorings, sodium nitrite."  Of course, every person who ever read the can wants to know exactly what "Partially defatted pork fatty tissue" is.  I am not sure myself and I have eaten many cases of Banner Brand Sausage in my time.  But I figure that if you have ever been present at even one Appalachian hog killing you have seen the fatty innards of a large hog.  Now just imagine that somebody took part of that out to eat instead of making lard with it.  God, I love to eat that stuff!!!  If you ever eat it, you will too!  It grows on you!  

Getting back to the post on the Appalachian Mountain Folk group, there were numerous comments which were pretty evenly split into two categories, those who love it and those who hate it.  But more interestingly, the comments seemed to be concentrated among a group of people primarily from Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western North Carolina.  This region seems to be the area where Banner Brand Sausage has been most commonly eaten.  The whole Facebook group thing and my own very fond memories of many warm mountain mornings eating Banner Brand Sausage led me to do some Google research and I found more than one or two comments and full posts about this delicacy.  I found one post on a blog called Dave's Cupboard which had the title Unspeakable Banner Brand Sausage.  In general, I like Dave's blog a lot but he is dead wrong on this one.  Dave is a man who has and will try anything purported to be edible but I have to assume, based on his post about Banner Brand Sausage, that he is sometimes a finicky eater.  I also found a post called "Canned Meat Review" on a blog called "The Ultimate Answer To Kings" which had this highly negative review: 

"All I can say about Banner canned sausage is Oh. Dear. God. This is the worst canned food product I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried canned corn beef hash. I’ve tried canned menudo. I’ve seen (but never tried) canned haggis. None of those things are as horrible as Banner canned sausage, which (guessing here) consists of 99.736% recycled fat, some wheat, and a homeopathic dose of …never mind, let me just go ahead and print the ingredients:" 
Once again, I suspect that this writer is also sometimes known to kick his feet, throw food off the tray of his high chair, and scream "No, mommy!" at the top of his lungs.  I also found a You Tube video under the title of "Ewwwwm, They Call That Food: Banner Sausage Commentary". I have no idea how three people as spoiled and uncultured as these can still consider themselves to be qualified to critique food.  Actually, I just realized that the person frying the sausage in the You Tube video is wearing a South Carolina Gamecocks shirt.  How could we expect anyone who isn't a Kentucky Wildcats supporter to know anything about food or basketball?   

I also found an online recipe which calls for bacon grease to be added to fry it in after it has been mixed with flour and an egg.  Rest assured that Banner Brand Sausage does not ever need bacon grease or any other form of grease to be added.  The partially defatted pork fatty tissue will guarantee you that it will never stick to your skillet.  

I am certain that those of you who know and love Banner Brand Sausage have appreciated this post about one of our favorite foods.  I am also certain that many of you who have never had it might have stopped in the middle of this post and run whimpering from the room.  But if you have any sense of culinary adventure whatever, go to your local southern grocery store or the internet, buy a couple of cans and try Banner Brand Sausage.  You will thank me for it after you wipe your mouth and rub your belly. 

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