The Sanguine Sausage

Published 28 February 2017   

Love it or loathe it, black pudding has finally claimed its rightful place at gourmet tables, as well as being the new buzz in healthy eating …

Written by: RACHEL LOVE

Black pudding is a type of sausage, except unlike normal sausages, it is made with blood, usually from a pig. Now, if that makes you squeamish, it’s worth remembering that lots of meat is processed from unorthodox parts of animals, although of course the dark colour of black pudding makes it a tad ominous. But to be fair, for as long as men have kept animals to feed their bellies, they have made a form of black pudding, and it was first created as a way to use up a plentiful by-product, making it an economical and ethical choice in that respect.

To make it, you must cook blood mixed with a filler, such as oatmeal, as well as onions, lard, seasonings and spices, until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. It is then packed into casing and much later it can be served boiled, fried or grilled and cut into rounds, or crumbled into small pieces. In Great Britain, it is an essential ingredient of the full English breakfast. As well as traditional British black pudding, similar blood sausages are served across the world – French ‘boudin noir’ and Spanish ‘morcilla’, both being well-known examples. It is believed that the dish was first introduced to Europe by the Romans who brought it with them as they conquered land after land, leaving a legacy of straight roads and black puddings. Another popular theory holds that it was the Moors of North Africa who followed the Romans into many parts of Europe and introduced them to the pleasures of the blood sausage, the ingredients of which were so readily available to them.

Made for paupers, black pudding was deemed fit for princes, and was always present at the sumptuous breakfast banquets held by King Henry VIII at Hampton Court. Nevertheless, it is a dish that has suffered for its humble origins…

In the 17th century, the consumption of black pudding was a highly controversial subject and a ferocious theological debate raged around it, with many Christian scholars, Methodists in particular, believing that nobody should eat it at all. In the “Trial of a Black-Pudding”, written in 1652, Thomas Barlow, a future bishop of Lincoln, asserted that God had specifically forbidden blood eating among the Hebrews. Barlow claimed that black pudding was a violation of both Jewish law and the Christian exemptions as dispensed by the Apostles.

Until recently, chefs and food critics in our modern world were all guilty of looking down their gastronomic noses at black pudding. In Britain, they dismissed it as being fit only for a fry-up and thus deprived diners of a singularly delicious dish. Black pudding became a guilty pleasure, a behind-closed-doors experience, surreptitiously stuck between two slices of bread.

Nowadays, however, things have changed and black pudding once again proudly graces royal tables, served up by some of the biggest names in international cuisine and paired with classical gourmet delights such as foie gras, scallops, quail and pheasant. Furthermore, loaded with protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, the practically-carb-free pud has been hailed as a ‘superfood’. At last, it is getting the recognition it deserves.

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