You either love blood puddings and sausages, or you hate them.
I’ve yet to find anybody who’s simply ambivalent.
Sitting on the fence just doesn’t seem to apply here.
There are many different versions of blood sausage – the traditional British black pudding contains oats to thicken it, the Spanish Morcella has rice, and this French boudin noir dispenses with all such frivolities and just sticks to the main event.
It’s a hardcore blood sausage. Yes, there’s a bit of apple in there, but chopped up so finely that it gets lost in the mix.
The French don’t want to detract from the blood, you see.
Now, a little more about blood, pig’s blood to be precise.
It’s very, very unlikely that you’ll be able to get hold of any fresh blood, unless you run an abattoir or keep your own pigs. In some parts (or all parts, I’m not sure…) of the US, the sale of pig’s blood is illegal. I’m not sure I understand quite why, but it is. In other places, it’s just very hard to get hold of.
The best course of action is to use dried blood, which is actually a very good product, and used as the base of most commercial black pudding and blood sausage anyway. Dried blood just needs reconstituting with water (six parts water to one part blood, or five to one if you’re feeling particularly ghoulish and want a slightly thicker mix).
For a French boudin, use water, but for a British black pudding, beer would be good.
Proper beer, mind.
If the first ingredient sourcing problem you had was blood, the second will be fat.
Most butchers will be a little reluctant to sell pork back fat on its own. It’s simple, really…the back fat wraps around many of the pig’s prime cuts and does a very fine job of protecting and basting the meat as it roasts.
And then there’s the small matter of crackling…
You might get lucky, and find a butcher with a bit to spare, but you’ll have to ask around. I had to ring half a dozen butchers before finding one that would give me any back fat at all, and even then, I had to drive for twenty minutes to pick it up.
Don’t feel sorry for me, though, that bloke’s pork pies were amazing.
OK, so you’ve got back fat.
You need hog casings now.
Hog casings are a kind of thick sausage skin made from cow intestines. You’ll be able to find them online.
The hog casings, about three metres of them, need soaking in water and rinsing thoroughly to remove the salt they’re preserved in. The rinsing is easier if the casings are cut into sixty centimetre lengths first.
So, everything’s set. The rest of the things you need are fairly common or garden…
Chop 900g of onions finely and sauté in a generous chunk of butter in a big frying pan until they start to go translucent.
Cut 900g of pork back fat into small dice – the smaller the better, and certainly no bigger than 5mm square. This is laborious and, frankly, boring.
Add the fat to the pan and continue to cook until the fat starts to run slightly.
In another pan, cook three Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into dice about the same size as the fat in more butter until they start to soften, then add a good splash of Calvados or Cognac.
You could let the alcohol evaporate in the pan, but why do that when you can set fire to it and amaze the kids with a small explosion?
Mix the apples and onions together and chill in the fridge.
In a big bowl, combine 250ml of double cream with two eggs and slowly whisk in a litre of reconstituted pig’s blood.
Time to get some flavour into the mixture…
Stir 30g of salt, 6g of white pepper, 6g of chopped chervil and 6g of chopped chives into the blood. Also add 4g of pâté spice (this is a spice mix made up of a teaspoon each of ground cloves, nutmeg, ginger and coriander, two of cinnamon and a tablespoon of white pepper).
Mix the chilled apple, onion and fat mixture into the blood and then fry a small amount of the mix and taste it to check seasoning. It will probably need more salt.
Now to fill the hog casings.
This is tricky, and it’s best done over a large roasting tin to catch any slips.
Take one of the 60cm lengths of hog casing and tie a knot at one end. Pull the other end over the neck of a wide-ish funnel…you may need to adjust a cheap funnel with a saw until the opening is about two or three centimetres wide, and ladle the blood in, tying the end off with string.
Draw both ends of the sausage together and tie them, so that you’ve got a horseshoe type shape.
Poach the sausages in barely bubbling water for half an hour to forty minutes until they’re cooked through and firm. Prick each sausage with a pin after ten minutes or so to stop them splitting and do not, under any circumstances, let the water get too hot.
The boudin are ready when they ooze dirty brown juices, not blood, when stabbed with a pin.
Cool the boudin on a wire rack, then store in the fridge.
Boudin noir doesn’t keep well, so eat it quickly…just warm through in the oven for ten minutes to heat, or slice and fry as you would a normal black pudding.
These boudin noir are looser and softer than a British black pudding – they’re authentically French and worth a try…if you’re brave enough.
This recipe is from the brilliant Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman.