Black pudding, boudin or morcilla – it’s all different yet somehow all the same. We’ve travelled all over the world to sample the finest examples and here are some interesting little snippets we’ve picked up along the way.
Although Stornoway has a special place among Scottish black puddings (known as marag dubh in Gaelic), the dish has always been made across the country. Particular claims for regional excellence could also be made for Speyside, the Borders and the far north. The inexorable advance of supermarkets has accounted for many traditional butcher shops but it continues to be made to long-held family recipes. Variations are largely defined by the particular blend of herbs and spices used by individual butchers but almost all use oatmeal as filler. Innovators such as Cameron Skinner of Kippen are experimenting with reduced fat black puddings, endeavouring to combine the fabulous taste with a healthier option. Despite that, the infamous yet irresistible deep-fried black pudding supper remains a stable of Scottish chip shops.
Monks are generally credited with bringing black pudding into England and it was popular across the country from the middle ages. In later years, much of its popularity was to be found in the north of the country, most notably Bury in Lancashire but also across the Pennines in Yorkshire. Dudley in the Black Country is also regarded as a hotbed of black pudding making. Most English black puddings are characterised by the inclusion of oatmeal, onions and herbs, notably pennyroyal, and it is this that separates it from European versions, particularly the far creamier French variety. It was for many years consigned to being part of a traditional fry-up but it is at last being seen as worth far more than that.
It is thought that the Moors brought black pudding to France in the 8th century although there are bas-reliefs at Narbonne and Bordeaux that suggest the charcuterie tradition, including black pudding goes back 2000 years. Either way, given the plentiful and cheap nature of the basic ingredients it has always been hugely popular, particularly with the poor. The classic boudin is known as boudin natur or Boudin de Paris and contains just one third blood, one third onions and one third back fat. It is often served grilled or fried and accompanied with potatoes, apples or an apple compote. However regional variations flourish all over France and boudin can be found with just about any added ingredients. The most common of these are probably apples and chestnuts.
An international black pudding festival has been held in the town of Mortagne-au-Perche every year since 1963. The most prestigious celebration of boudin the world, it attracts entrants from black pudding makers across France and the rest of the world. The festival is run by Le Confreries des Chevaliers du Goute Boudin – the brotherhood of the knights of black pudding tasters.
Here are some regional boudin variations from across France:
- Lyon: contains raw onions marinated in brandy and herbs
- Auvergne: contains milk
- Poitou: prepared without fat but with cooked spinach, cream, semolina and eggs
- Normandy: apples
- Brittany: prunes
- Flanders: raisins
- Auvergne: chestnuts
- Strasbourg: smoked with pork rind and bread soaked in milk
There are many variants of Spanish morcilla but the best known and most widespread is murcilla de Burgos. Burgos is a city in north-eastern Spain in the Castile. Murcilla de Burgos classically contains pork blood and fat, rice, onions, and salt. Elsewhere murcilla basically falls into two types, one de arroz (rice) and the other de cebolla (onion). Murcilla de cebolla is found in Albacete and in La Mancha. Using onions instead of rice completely changes the texture. It is claimed that this is the original morcilla and rice was introduced in them to reduce costs (rice expands while onion reduces thus needing more raw material). Despite in being more commonly made elsewhere, it is still claimed that the best morcilla de cebolla also comes from Burgos.
In some regions, squash is used instead of rice, which completely changes the texture and flavour of the morcilla. Other varieties introduce breadcrumbs, pine nuts and almonds, and vary the proportions of the other ingredients or flavorings. Other common seasonings are cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, oregano and particularly pimento. There is even a sweet morcilla from Galicia in the northwestern region, which is fried and served most commonly as a dessert.
In November in the Andalucia region of southern Spain, pig-killing fiestas celebrate the annual cull for getting in the winter stash of morcillas, hams and sausages. Morcilla is a key part of the ritual of la matanza (the slaughter) and is usually made on the first of the three days of the fiesta.
Finnish black pudding, mustamakkara, is a local speciality of the city of Tampere, the capital of the Western Lake district and the country’s third largest city. It contains pork, pig blood, crushed rye and flour. The tradition in Tampere is to buy mustamakkara hot and freshly made at market stalls. The black pudding is baked then delivered directly to the stalls in styrofoam boxes. The most popular markets are Tammelantori and Laukontori or the indoor Kauppahalli. When buying mustamakkara, it is customary to specify the amount of money to spend instead of weight, length or number of pieces.
Like other places in Scandinavia, it is traditionally eaten with lingonberry jam and milk.
The three major producers of mustamakkara are Taploa, Savupojat and Teivon Liha. As anywhere else there are heathens who do not appreciate the delicacy that is mustamakkara and among many Finns not native to Tampere, mustamakkara is considered both strange looking and strange tasting and is truly appreciated only by few. Mustamakkara is known to have been eaten in Finland as early as the 16th century and was generally cooked over a small fire, in a hot cauldron or in an oven. The most popular time of the year to eat is December
The principal ingredient of Guyanese black pudding is cooked rice. This is seasoned with herbs and although these may vary according to family recipes, they usually include thyme and basil (known in Guyana as married man pork). Other ingredients are likely to include grated coconut, cinnamon, celery and sugar. The Guyanese use cow’s blood rather than pigs. It is usually cut into chunks and served as an appetiser, accompanied by hot sauce, notably souse, a local relish made from cucumber, sweet peppers, onion and parsley. It is a dish traditionally bought from street corner vendors on Saturday nights, just as it is on other Caribbean islands, including Barbados, Trinidad and Antigua.
The putog dubh has always been a favourite delicacy in Ireland ever since monks first brought it with them across the Irish Sea. It was traditionally made by farmer’s wives and the recipes and methods were cherished by them long before they were passed on to butchers shops. The black pudding would be made on the small farms of rural Ireland, the natural place given that they had a ready supply of the ingredients, and sold to boost modest household incomes. Ireland also has drisheen, a delicacy using lamb’s blood to make the pudding. Cork-style has no cereal while Kerry-style has cereal and sautéed onions in Irish creamery butter. It is baked in an oven like meat loaf rather than boiled.
Blutwurst is very popular across Germany where there are significant regional variations. Most commonly, it is made from pork rind, pork blood and fat but different fillers are used across the country, the most popular being barley. In the Rhineland, blutwurst is traditionally made from horse meat and served fried. In Berlin, you will find a dish called Tome Oma (Dead Grandma) – this consists of hot blutwurst mixed with liverwurst and potatoes. Another variation is Zungenwurst, which is blutwurst mixed with pieces of pickled ox’s tongue and Beutelwurst which is pressed in a linen or paper bag. Thüringer Rotwurst enjoys PGI (protected geographical indication) status but contains only a small amount of blood which is used for colouring purposes.
Taking its name from sange, the Romanian word for blood, the sangerete black puddings are quite different from those in western Europe. They are made from shoulder butt pork meat, pork blood and filler such as pre-boiled rice seasoned with pepper, garlic and basil. There are many regional variants, but the most common are the sangerete from Transylvania, an area with a great historical association with blood and legend.
In Portuguese cuisine there are many varieties of black pudding, ranging from some similar to the Spanish morcilla, known in Portuguese as morcela, to some done only with blood (known as chouriço de sangue). Morcela can be found in various regions of Portugal but among those well-known for the quality of their black pudding are Guarda, the Azores and Portalegre. Similar to Spain, spices added often include cumin and cloves. It is often used as a supplement to the Portuguese stew feijoada.
- morcela achouriçada which has pork offal and fat
- morcela dolce, a sweet black pudding seasoned with pimento
- morcela de arroz, made with rice
- morcela farinha (with flour)
Chouriço de sangue is typical of the Alentego region. It is a clear, grey colour because it is made using a large part of the casing. It is made with minced fat, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
Vedarai is the national dish of Lithuania made of baked pork casings with different mixtures. The two most popular sorts of vedarai filling are mashed potatoes and blood (kraujiniai). Vedarai are served with a sauce of cracklings as a side dish. The family pig is slaughtered, the blood is first stored and later used to fill its guts, which are then fried or grilled. The final product looks a lot like a sausage, except it is of course made from blood.
For Lithuanians, a pig is a pig. They don’t bother with euphemisms like pork.
Here’s a recipe for kraujiniai vedarai with barley groats.
1kg barley groats
2 onions, finely chopped
large pork casings
Fry bacon, add sour cream, heat gently.
Scald groats with boiling water and let soak for two hours. Drain water and add blood to groats. Mix well. Add fried bacon with onions, pepper and salt. Blend all ingredients.
Wash casings and stuff with barley groat mixture. Tie sausage ends and place in greased baking dish. Prick sausages with needle to prevent sausages from bursting open. Bake in preheated oven at 350F/180C, for about 2 hours, until sausages are well browned.
When sausages are done, cut into serving pieces, place on serving platter and cover with sauce and serve for lunch.
The reindeer is a vital resource for the Sami people and they traditionally eat every part of their most abundant food source except the skin and antlers, which of course have other uses. They smoke it, stew it, salt it and make it into pate. Reindeer sausages are a perennial favourite and reindeer salami is stuffed in a natural casing made from its own intestines. Its liver is as rich and mild as calves. Its tongue slow-cooks to a melting tenderness which is so soft a straw pushes easily through it. Its milk is so thick, creamy and sweet it’s eaten on its own for tea.
Perhaps of all though, its blood makes reindeer black pudding stuffed into the animal’s intestines. This is eaten either with lingonberry jam or with potatoes, soft, sticky bread and a drink of broth.
It also makes a kind of black-pudding called ‘blood bread’. Here’s a recipe for that.
420g of whole wheat flour
710ml boiling water
20g shortening, melted
1g ground cloves
1g ground allspice
34g compressed fresh yeast
945ml reindeer blood
610g medium rye flour
550g bread flour
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the whole wheat flour and boiling water until smooth. Stir in melted shortening, salt, cloves, allspice and yeast. Mix in blood until well blended, then stir in rye flour and bread flour one cup at a time, and stir until dough no longer sticks to the spoon or the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. When dough has doubled, stir down, and spoon dough into six 9×5 inch loaf pans. Let rise until dough is doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease the tops of the loaves. Bake loaves for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until tops are browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.