If you’re getting ahead on your festive food prep this year, popping some pigs in blankets in the freezer is an easy one to tick off the list.
The mini pork packages are a much-loved addition to many a festive spread, so make sure you’re all set with our guide on how to make the ultimate pigs in blankets at home.
We asked David Linders, of the British Meat Processors Association, for his top tips on how to prepare – and freeze – your own pigs in blankets to help take some of the angst out of catering this Christmas.
It can also be cheaper – we’ve compared the cost of DIY pigs to pre-prepared ones and found there are savings to be made.
Finally, if you don’t want the hassle, we’ve got tips on buying pre-prepared pigs now to freeze for Christmas – and for those who are gluten-free, vegan or veggie.
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How to make the ultimate pigs in blankets at home
1. Buy the best sausages for pigs in blankets
First things first, you’ll want the right size and style of sausage for optimum results.
If possible, use high-quality chipolata sausages that have a high meat content – ideally around 75% meat or above.
David says: ‘This is because not only will they have the taste and succulence you need but the higher the meat content, the more likely they are to be made with natural sausage casings rather than synthetic or collagen ones.’
Natural sausage casings, which are made from the intestines of animals including sheep and pigs, have the strength to withstand the next stage of prep for your pigs in blankets.
If you can’t get hold of this type, choose cheaper chipolatas or any other thin pork sausages.
If you prefer to use thicker ones – or can’t get hold of anything else – remember when you come to cook them to cook for longer and on a lower heat.
For those avoiding gluten, quite a lot of sausages are gluten-free these days, but check the packaging before you buy to make sure.
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2. Twist the chipolatas then cut to size
The sausages used in pigs in blankets are short – around half the size of an average chipolata – so they are perfectly bite-sized.
To achieve this effect, separate your chipolatas (if they’re not already loose) then take one and twist both halves in the opposite direction before cutting at the new position on the casing string.
David says: ‘This is why natural casings are best: they won’t burst or split as you twist and cut to create the smaller sausages.’
Alternatively, you may be able to get hold of uncooked cocktail sausages, which is effectively what you’re making when you split the chipolatas in two.
Prick each sausage with a fork or a cocktail stick to ensure they don’t burst when cooked.
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3. Wrap the sausages in bacon
David says: ‘Rindless streaky bacon is best or you won’t be able to easily wrap it around the sausages. You can use smoked, unsmoked or maple cured, depending on your preference.’
Lay the bacon out on a board, cut it across the middle and stretch it slightly (but not so that it’s too thin) before wrapping each half around each small sausage. You can then freeze the pigs in this state until you need them (more tips on doing this properly below).
If you’re struggling to keep them together you can use a cocktail stick to pin the bacon down.
4. Add honey just before cooking for a sticky glaze
Before cooking, David suggests splashing a dollop of runny honey onto each sausage and letting it drizzle down the sides to create a moreish sticky glaze once they’re cooked.
Squeezy honey bottles make this job easier.
Defrost frozen pigs in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking. It’s worth making a note of the pack instructions when you make your pigs so you’ve got guidance on temperature and time, but as a general rule they take 35-40 minutes.
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Can you freeze pigs in blankets?
Yes, you can, whether they’re raw or cooked leftovers.
You can also freeze fresh pre-prepared ones from the shops (check pack instructions) or buy ready-frozen pigs in blankets.
If freezing homemade pigs, Helen White, household food waste special advisor for WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), recommends ‘open freezing’ them laid out on a tray first (there’s usually a slim shelf at the top of your freezer for this purpose), and then transferring them to an airtight container so they don’t all clump together.
Other freezing and defrosting tips:
- Label and date the container – so you know what’s in there and when you froze them
- Defrost them in the fridge – this is the safest way. If this isn’t possible, microwave on the defrost setting directly before cooking
- Use within 3 to 6 months – the freezer acts as a pause button – food won’t deteriorate and most bacteria cannot grow in it, as long as you use it within this time frame
Leftover pigs in blankets can be also frozen, even if they were frozen raw before.
Helen says: ‘Your freezer is your friend – twice – on this one, but only reheat previously cooked pigs in blankets once after defrosting.’
Is it cheaper to make or buy pigs in blankets?
It can be cheaper to make your own, but only just, and you might find pre-prepped options on offer which can bring the price down.
We compared the cost per unit at two different supermarkets and found slight savings could be made, so it’s worth shopping around if you can and checking how the costs measure up.
Tesco Finest homemade vs ready-made pigs in blankets
- Tesco Finest pigs in blankets, 10 for £2.50 (25p each)
- Tesco Finest chipolatas, 12 (makes 24 cocktail sausages) for £2.60, and Tesco Finest chestnut smoked streaky bacon, 16 slices for £2.50 = 24 pigs in blankets for £5.10 (21p each) and four rashers of bacon spare
Sainsbury’s homemade vs ready-made pigs in blankets
- Sainsbury’s Butcher’s Choice pigs in blankets, 12 for £3 (25p each)
- Sainsbury’s Butcher’s Choice chipolatas,12 (makes 24 cocktail sausages) for £1.50, and Sainsbury’s smoked streaky bacon rashers, 14 for £2 = 24 pigs in blankets for £3.50 (15p each), with two rashers of bacon left over
Making your own pigs in blankets also gives you the chance to experiment with alternative ingredients.
BBC Good Food suggests twists including adding a sage leaf to the parcel or swapping the sausage for chestnut and butternut squash, while Jamie Oliver suggests using a bit of Worcester sauce in addition to honey.
Where to buy ready-made pigs in blankets
If you’d rather just pick up a pack and pop it in the freezer, it’s worth shopping around as availability varies.
Some stores have already started stocking fresh pigs in blankets, while others only have frozen options available at the moment, or some options available to order for Christmas.
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Vegan and veggie pigs in blankets
While a potential scarcity of porky pigs in blankets is the main thing hitting the headlines, you may be wanting to get ahead on your vegan or vegetarian christmas prep too.
If you want something that looks close to the real thing, you can opt to use vegan sausages and bacon and follow a similar method to the one outlined above. Check individual packs for freezing advice though, as some say they aren’t suitable for freezing.
Check out the findings from our 2020 taste test of pork and vegan pigs in blankets, as when we tasted a selection of supermarket offerings we weren’t exactly wowed by the fake bacon, which tended to go a bit dry when cooked.
Another option is to go for ‘pigs in duvets’ aka vegan sausages wrapped in vegan pastry – again see story above. These might be a bit bulky for your main dinner plate though.
Where to buy vegan and veggie pigs in blankets in the shops
It’s a similar story for ready-made vegan and veggie options – most haven’t hit the shops yet.
We’d expect most major supermarkets to stock them nearer to Christmas, or have them available to order, and you can get a feel for options in our 2020 taste test (link above).
If you don’t want to wait, then give making your own a go.
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