Lorne sausage is one of Scotland’s best loved breakfast foods. Fraser Wright discovers its surprisingly rich history and provides a recipe to make your own

Lorne sausage, the vivid pink beef sausage, usually sandwiched inside a morning roll is a firm Scottish favourite. The cheapest of the lot are made of mystery meat, and lots of fat, so they will be exactly half the size they are to begin with after frying.

Brown sauce or ketchup is indispensable for these cheaper versions, whose flavour can leave much to be desired. The best ones are made with the finest Scottish beef, they are well spiced, fatty and dense.

The Scottish love for Lorne sausage is no new thing. On 5th May 1917 The Scotsman reported in an article on the economies the military were making with regards to the army’s diet. One of the breakfast items soldiers were given was Lorne sausage, served with gravy, made from collecting meat rations.

Other items on the menu were tea, bread and butter, liver and bacon, kippers, bacon and eggs, rissoles and gravy, and black pudding. In the past, Scottish immigrants have taken Lorne sausage with them wherever they go too.

Australia has its ‘steakette’, North America has its sausage patties, all which bear an uncanny resemblance to the original.

Lorne sausage is unique to Scotland and it is no coincidence Scotland’s favourite sausage is made from beef rather than pork. Historically beef, as well as lamb, has been more popular in Scotland.

Recipes in old Scottish cookery books show us beef sausages have a long tradition in Scotland. Christian Isobel Johnstone’s The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826) gives two recipes for beef sausage.

One is for ‘Smoked Scotch Sausages’ (made with salted beef) and the other is simply called ‘Common Beef sausages’ – this recipe is virtually identical to the modern Lorne sausage, expect it is stuffed into an ox gut rather than shaped in a tin.

Lorne sausage is really a butcher’s product. The first butcher to make it, or call it Lorne sausage we do not know. However, it is likely the sausage as we know it today was developed in the late 19th century. During this time many advancements were made in metallurgy. This meant metal tins used for baking and shaping food became cheap to produce and so became readily available. It is cheaper and more convenient to shape a sausage in a tin rather than a natural animal casing.

Besides that, in the second half of the 19th century fresh beef became more readily available too, with refrigerated beef being imported from America.

Tommy Lorne

The name ‘Lorne’ sausage causes a bit of contention as we can’t be sure as to where Scotland’s favourite sausage got its name. Although Scots typically refer to it as a square sausage, or sliced sausage, or sausage slice, or square slice, or even flat sausage. The common and popular theory is that it was named after Glasgow comedian Tommy Lorne. He was supposed to have made jokes about the quality of the sausages and likened them to doormats. You find this story everywhere – on butcher’s websites, articles on Scottish food, as well as in books on the history of Scottish food! To some, the name has now become inextricably linked with the Scottish comedian.

As romantic as this bit of Scottish food mythology is, there is no evidence to back it up. In fact the evidence there is proves quite the contrary. There are butcher’s advertisements in the Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs as early as 1896 listing ‘Lorne Sausages, 6d’. Tommy Lorne was only born in 1890 and Lorne sausage was clearly already in common usage, so we can scrap that theory. It is interesting to note that along with Lorne sausage, other items listed in the advertisement were for just plain ‘sausages’, ‘steak sausages’ as well as ‘pork sausages’.

This news regarding Tommy Lorne, I am afraid, will be received with much dismay by the association of Scottish Craft Butchers, as it is the Tommy Lorne theory by which they are campaigning to gain PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) status for Lorne sausage. This being the same status carried by such fine and famous foods as Parma ham, Melton Mowbray Pies, Stornoway Black Pudding, and Arbroath smokies.

Other theories

It is surprising they haven’t backed the only other theory – that Lorne sausage is named after the ancient district Lorne. Sadly, I could not find any evidence to prove it was named after this now extinct region (which is now part of Arygll and Bute), however, it makes sense when you consider all the other famous Scottish foods which are named after their town or area of origin. Think of Arbroath Smokies, Dundee Marmalade, Isle of Mull Cheddar, Ayrshire bacon and Stornoway Black Pudding.

The only other plausible theory I can present is that Lorne sausage could have been named after the Marquess of Lorne. Marquess of Lorne is the courtesy title given to the son of the Duke of Argyll. The Marquess of Lorne was famous in the 19th century for marrying Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. The marriage was a major royal event in 1871. The Marquess was a well known figure being a member of parliament as well as Governor General of Canada.

With it being the 19th century, and by his social standing, the Marquess of Lorne had a lot of things named after him. Lorne became a common forename in Canada. There are also several towns called Lorne in Canada, as well as a lake and another town in Victoria, Australia. A popular make of shoe in Britain was also named after him!

The practise of naming foods after famous people, especially aristocrats, was very common in this period so it is possible an enterprising butcher named his sausage after the Marquess, think of Battenburg cake, Victoria Sponge. To have a beef sausage named after you is perhaps not the most flattering; perhaps the butcher thought it would give the sausage an air of refinement. Either that, the butcher had a very dry sense of humour by likening the texture to a Lorne shoe!

Just in case you are tempted to make your own Lorne sausage there is a recipe below, which is based on a butcher’s. For Lorne Sausage, the fat content is high, what is called in the trade ‘beef trim (70/30 VL)’, i.e. 70 per cent of the meat is ‘visual lean’ and the rest fat. Some even use a ratio of 60/40 VL. This is the closest I can get to the butcher’s style, without the addition of preservatives.

Recipe for Homemade Lorne Sausage

The square sliced sausage could be outlawed under proposals to legislate on what foods we can buy


• 750g minced beef (30% fat)

• 150g pinhead rusk (You could just use breadcrumbs, which would make a nice sausage, however a butcher would use rusk)

• 200g chilled water

• 2 tsp salt

• 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

• 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

• 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper


Mix all the spices and salt with the meat in a large bowl. Work in the water to make a sticky mixture. Now work in the rusk until all is thoroughly incorporated.

Pack the mixture tightly into a 23cm x 8cm loaf tin lined with clingfilm. Leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours to set. When the sausage has set take it out of the tin and cut it into 1cm slices. Fry or cook under the grill for 4 – 6 minutes.

• See more of Fraser’s recipes at www.redbookrecipes.com/

• Main picture from www.westcoastfoods.co.uk

Like this see also:

A history of the Selkirk Bannock, including a recipe for making your own

• The great slice vs. square sausage debate – where do you stand?

Traditional Scottish recipe: Potato Scones


About The Author

Fraser Wright

Fraser is originally from Glasgow and lives in a wee flat in Edinburgh. He writes the food blog www.redbookrecipes.com and wants to put Scotland on the map as a place for good food.

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