Superquinn sausages: Butcher recalls invention of popular pork product
The late Feargal Quinn ‘used to come around every Christmas and shake hands’
Holding the sausage of the year award in the 1980s are Feargal Quinn and butcher Maurice Hobbs. Jimmy Canavan is third from left on the second row.
They say nobody wants to know how the sausage gets made, but in the early 1980s, a team of butchers in Superquinn Northside created one of the classic Irish products - the Superquinn sausage.
Even today, after Superquinns around the country were replaced by SuperValu, it retains its original name and is sold with a Superquinn logo on it.
Jimmy Canavan , the butchery manager in the store that originated the recipe, recalls the early days of the sausage which became so renowed for the supermarket chain, whose founder Feargal Quinn died on Thursday aged 82.
“We had the butchery department in Superquinn Northside, which was a huge business. They loved meat in that area, we would have done over 40 cattle a week,” he remembers.
“We had a little space down the back, like a little square. I remember yapping to [Pat Kelly, the manager], and I said we would go for a little pork section.”
The butchery team needed something to put in the pork section, so they brought in an expert called Mr Flood, a master sausagemaker who came in as a consultant.
The team, including butchers Maurice Hobbs and Mark Byrne, travelled to the North to look at machinery. Flood made a few batches of sausages, and then Hobbs took over. “It spread from there,” said Mr Canavan, who actually knew very little about sausage making originally, which would have been left to a tradesman called a baconhand. “It was actually fascinating to see the sausages being made,” he recalls.
A few years later, Quinn was with the team when they won sausage of the year.
Working as a butcher in Superquinn carried a certain significance, remembers Mr Canavan. “It was fabulous. If you were a Superquinn butcher you were paid a lot more, a bonus every month, a canteen. You were a different class of butcher. Not every Tom, Dick or Harry would get into Superquinn.”
The owner, he remembers, was a prominent figure on the floor. He would come every few months to “do the figures” himself. “We used to dread it, we’d be under pressure to get the counter up by nine and he was a stickler for detail.”
He remembered Quinn as a thoughtful boss. “He used to come around every Christmas and shake hands, he’d come around to all the different counters, go to everyone in the shop and wish them a happy Christmas… he was very interested in everything.”
For more than 30 years it was made in-store by Superquinn butchers and sold fresh to shoppers. When Mr Quinn sold the brand in 2005 the sausage began being made by the Larry Goodman-owned ABP Meats.
Speaking about the sausage in 2013, Quinn said: “We thought of price, health and taste. We said we’ll go for taste because nobody who is into healthy eating goes for sausages anyway.”
He was inspired by a supermarket in Nuremberg in Germany which built a sausage factory next door and had long queues out the door every morning.
Quinn recalled that Superquinn sausages were “by far the dearest sausage”, but rather than acting as a deterrent to shoppers, they were an assurance of quality.
“Every time we added an extra penny on to them, they sold more,” he said. Superquinn sausages were made in store and were an immediate success.
Sausages are made from pork, pork fat, rusk (a form of hardened bread) and seasoning, most notably salt, pepper, mace and nutmeg. It is the seasoning that frequently differentiates one sausage from another and it is what lies behind Superquinn’s much vaunted “secret recipe”.