Pigs-in-a-blanket are a very easy appetizer. For small kids, they can be a whole meal. Most people hate to admit they still like them.
The basic concept is pork wrapped in something. Some people’s mums, particularly in Western Pennsylvania, called cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and ground pork “pigs in a blanket.” Some people call breakfast sausages, cooked on their own, and then wrapped in cooked pancakes a pig in a blanket. Occasionally, a street vendor has been spotted selling something they call a “pig in a blanket”, which turns out to be a wiener wrapped in a flour tortilla. In New York City, it’s wieners in a crust.
In most people’s minds, though, it’s small sausages wrapped up in pastry. The sausages used are small breakfast or cocktail-sized sausages. Some versions use hot-dog wieners.
The truly energetic make a small amount of yeast-risen dough, like a plain bread dough, that they let rise once, then punch it down and roll it out to make the “blankets” from. Others make up a mix such as Bisquick, or make baking powder biscuit dough. You can also use pie crust dough. Mixing up your own dough allows you to add some grated cheese to it.
Many people, though, take the shortcut of using Pillsbury’s Refrigerated Crescent Roll dough as the dough. In fact, many people wouldn’t think Pigs-in-a-Blanket were authentic if they didn’t.
However you arrive at your dough, you then roll it out thinly (the Pillsbury’s is already rolled out for you), then cut it into rectangles, about 5 inches (12 ½ cm) by 2 ½ inches (6 cm.) If you are going to use cheese, it seems to work best with hot dog wieners. You cut cheese slices into about 5 strips per slice, make a slit about ¼ inch (½ cm) deep the length of the wiener, and insert a cheese slice into that slit. Other people like to be more generous with the cheese, and wrap an entire slice of processed cheese around the wiener. Processed cheese slices really do work best with this. Then, put the wiener or sausage on a rectangle of dough and wrap the dough around it.
You can seal the sausage in the dough completely, so that none of the meat shows, or have the two ends of the sausage or wiener peeking out. It is best to consider a complete seal if there is a lot of cheese involved that might leak out and burn.
Place them on a cookie sheet with the edges of dough facing down, so that you don’t have to pin it in place. They are cooked for about 15 minutes at 400 F / 200 C or until they brown and puff a bit. It is generally best to let them rest for a few minutes before serving, rather than serving them the second they come out of the oven, so that people don’t burn themselves on the meat within.
For children, they are served with ketchup and mustard (and a side salad, if you can get them to eat it.)
A step up on fanciness in some people’s books, making them for adults, is using all beef wieners, and mixing a little green relish into the ketchup, and a little honey into the mustard, and using the Pillsbury’s Cornbread dough (available only in America.)
You can make them with gourmet sausages. Cook the sausages on their own first, either in the toaster oven or on the grill outside, then cut them into 4 or 5 pieces, then wrap them up in the dough.
You can also cut wieners up into bite-sized pieces. You should get about 4 to 5 out of each wiener. Cut on the diagonal to add more visual interest. For the dough for these, roll out your crescent triangles a little thinner, then cut into 3, and that should be the right amount of dough for each bite-sized piece.
Pigs-in-a-blanket are not the same as cocktail wieners. Those are small wieners, served with no dough on them.
The British equivalent is sausage rolls.
See also: Pigs-In-A-Blanket Day
The oldest definition of Pigs-in-a-Blanket, dating back to the 1800s, was oysters, seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in a slice of bacon, pinned together with a toothpick, and grilled, broiled or fried until the bacon is cooked, then served hot on toast. This is the recipe given in 1882 by Maria Parola, co-founder of the Boston Cooking School, in her cookbook, “Miss Parola’s New Cookbook.” Mary J. Lincoln, the other co-founder of the Boston Cooking School, gave the same recipe in her “Boston Cook Book.” She also gave the French name of “Huîtres au Lit”, meaning “oysters in bed.” The odd thing about this was that the pig (e.g. the bacon) acted as the blanket, rather than being in a blanket. And, it makes them the exact same as “Angels on Horseback.”
They became popular in North America in the 1950s, as meat wrapped in dough.
For a short time in the 1970s, Pillsbury sold them canned, ready to cooked in the chiller section. They were wiener pieces in dough, ready to bake. They weren’t a success, though. It could be that however easy they were to make, cheating on the normal 2 minute assembly was a step too far for the esteem of cooks. But to be fair, Pigs-in-a-Blanket had started falling out of fashion by then as well, too.
In 2006, a writer for the New York Times, Florence Fabricant, reckoned that she was seeing signs of their revival.
For the plural, most people probably want to write “pigs in a blanket”, realising that “in a blanket” is just the descriptor, but then, technically, that implies two or more sausages or wieners in a blanket, which isn’t the meaning meant at all. If the word is the entire phrase, “pig in a blanket”, then the plural is that with an “-s” on the end, “pig in a blankets.” But, “a blankets” sounds weird, even to the sloppiest English speaker. What is common is “pigs in blankets”. That’s the plural Nigella Lawson plumps for.
Literature and Lore
In 2004, a newspaper columnist in Illinois tried to pin down the meaning of “pig-in-a-blanket.”
“For the last 40 years I thought that I knew what a pig-in-a-blanket was. Now the foundations of my world are crumbling and I find myself shaken to the core of my being because, sadly, I was mistaken. Thanks to April’s holiday, [Ed: Pigs-In-A-Blanket Day] I have discovered that neither I (nor anyone else) is truly sure of that particular dish.
When I found out that April 24 was National Pigs-In-A-Blanket Day, I thought I would search out the very best recipe I could find and publish it so that everyone in Clinton County could celebrate by eating pigs-in-a-blanket on April 24.
I actually typed the words ‘Pigs-In-A-Blanket’ on my internet search engine and was taken to a site that specialized in PIAB recipes. WHAT AN EDUCATION.
(Although to be honest, some of them were called ‘pigs-in-THE-blanket’, I think it’s close enough to be counted as the same basic thing.) Unfortunately, when I started looking at the recipes, I found out there are as many recipes for PIAB as there are cooks and they range from ridiculously simple hot dogs [Ed: wieners] rolled in biscuit dough to the two-hour production combination of cabbage leaves and round steak.
Personally, whenever I told Hunk we were having PIAB, I meant I was going to slice some hotdogs and put American cheese in the split, then wrap them in crescent rolls and bake them until they were brown.
I did this the first time when I was about 13 years old when I learned it from my Home Economics teacher… So, I thought I knew what a PIAB was. Now, my world is coming apart at the seams, because nobody agrees!
I’ve known for years that Denny’s Restaurants offered something they called ‘PIAB’ but which was really just sausage links wrapped in pancakes.
Now I found out that NO ONE uses hot dogs, cheese and crescent rolls the way I do. (I think I’m gonna cry.)
The closest recipes to mind call for hotdogs wrapped with either biscuit dough or crescent rolls, but omit the cheese. Another recipe calls for crescent rolls with shredded cheese spread on them wrapped around sausage links. But I think the weirdest one I found was the one that didn’t even HAVE a ‘blanket’. It’s simply ground round, cheese, green pepper, pimento, bread crumbs, egg and milk. NO BLANKET! TELL ME HOW THAT CAN BE ANYTHING IN A BLANKET?
Of course, while blankets can consist of biscuit dough or crescent rolls, I never thought it could actually be a piece of vegetable matter (namely a cabbage leaf) but that is what several recipes called for. Most of those recipes insisted on boiling the stuff in tomato soup or tomato juice or stewed tomatoes. So that is REALLY going a distance from my idea of what a PIAB is. A lot of these recipes also call for raw rice, as well. Hmmm.
Also odd are the recipes that call for round steak as the meat… sometimes wrapped around other meat (bacon) and onions… sometimes rolled in flour and browned and then simmered in water for about two hours. Making the flour the ‘blanket’.
Then there are the ‘Smokie-style’ links wrapped in corn bread and the one with sausage or ground beef wrapped in pie crust.
The one that really piqued my interest, though, was the one that called for ‘three pounds of pigs-in-the-blanket meat’. Okay… so now, I ask, just what is PIAB meat? I give up…” — Fox, Joyce. April 24 — and just what IS a ‘pig-in-a-blanket’? Breese, Illinois: The Breese Journal. Thursday, 24 March 2004. Page 4A, col. 1.
Fabricant, Florence. The Kings of the Cocktail Hour Once Again. New York Times. 30 August 2006.