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Links to the Old Country
A Flowery Branch man has introduced his familys traditional British sausage to the US
Mike Balson of Balson Butchers in Flowery Branch holds some of his RJ Balson & Son sausages. The Balson family is the oldest family butcher in England. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Mike Balson explains why the English call sausages "bangers."

Mike Balson, who descends from a long line of English butchers, has finally brought the family sausage recipe to the States.

"I grew up in the butcher shop and as far as I can remember I was making sausages," Balson said. "My dad taught me when I was about 5 years old and in those days you had to make them by hand."

Balson, who works for Angel Food Ministries, decided to sell the "bangers" in the U.S. as a part of the organization's ministry and from there started an online store in May 2008.

"What we do (at Angel Food Ministries) is start up churches with a food ministry," Balson said. "One day I was looking at the sausages and they just didn't look very good and I said we could do our English sausages. We got the authentic recipe, we got permission from my brother who runs the butcher shop in England."

Balson also made a career out of playing professional soccer in England, South Africa and the United States. He brought his family to Atlanta in 1979 to play for a professional soccer team called the Atlanta Chiefs, owned by Ted Turner.

Since then he has been a coach, an official and has been inducted in the United Soccer League and Officials Hall of Fame.

In December, RJ Balson & Son, who claim to be England's oldest family butchers, made 500,000 pounds of sausages for Angel Food Ministries. Now Mike and his son Oliver Balson, a professor at the University of Arkansas, are focusing on their Web-based business.

The U.S. branch of RJ Balson & Son sells three different flavors of sausages. But the English butcher shop, which is based in Bridport, England, has original and exotic type sausages.

"They do things like ostrich there ... boar, rabbit," Balson said of the shop, which has been in business since the 1500s. "The most popular is still the authentic English pork sausage."

Balson added that there is a big difference in sausages Americans eat compared to English sausages, starting with the taste.

"What you get here is a bratwurst - the sausage is much coarser," he said. "Also in England they call them English bangers. In the old days when they started to cook them, the casings would pop because it is too hot ... so they would pop and they would call them bangers."

Sonny Hartsock, owner of Across the Pond on the downtown Gainesville square, said he likes the British sausages more than what you would find in the U.S.

"The American is typically more spicy, has more sage and the English sausages are not as spicy ... different spices," he said.

Spices typically used in English bangers are ginger, salt, pepper, mace, sage and garlic, according to Oliver Balson.

"Traditional bangers are going to be much milder than an American sausage and so the most notable differences are the mildness of flavor," he said. "The biggest difference is the texture in the rusk ... American sausages are going to come across much denser and chewier and the texture is what everybody gets interested in."

The bangers come fully cooked, and RJ Balson & Son customers can choose from three flavors of the sausages: Honey Pork, Garlic & Herb and Tomato & Basil.

"The garlic and herb is a new one," said Mike Balson, who added that the Honey Pork is the most popular. "I believe all of our flavors are great because we look at the health side of things. We don't put a lot of salt or sodium. The Tomato & Basil, Americans love this sausage because it has a little more spice."

Locally, Chateau Elan in Braselton will feature the RJ Balson & Son sausages beginning Thursday at Paddy's Irish Pub on the resort property.

The sausages are produced by Cher-Make Sausage Co. based in Wisconsin.

"We met with a couple of them (sausage companies)," Oliver said. "We felt the most comfortable that those guys were going to be really true to the recipes we wanted to follow ... we wanted to be as authentic as we could to our recipes."

The sausages are sold by the pound on, which is five sausage links per pound.

"We have just extended the cooler life from two days to four days," said Oliver, who boasts no shipping fees. "This gives us the option of using ground shipping to anywhere in the country."

Mike Balson said his favorite way to prepare the bangers is to brown them, but there are other famous recipes they can be used with such as Bangers and Mash.

"Everybody recognizes Bangers and Mash," he said. "You have Bangers and Mash with gravy in the middle and it's really good."

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