For those who are unfamiliar with it, the first encounter with black pudding is always a bit of a shock. As for me, my first time was in a London pub, late in September, where I had sought shelter after a twenty-minute dash under torrential rain in what was particularly cold weather for the time of year, even for the British capital. I spotted this intriguing name among the main courses and consequently ruled out the possibility of it being a dessert. Only later did I realize that the only ingredient mentioned was “pork”.
I ordered it, intuitively relying on the warming capacity of its calorie intake and, to cut a long story short, the first bite made my eyes shine and my taste buds explode, prompting me to eat four helpings. I am sure it will have the same effect on you, or maybe not, once I have explained that the traditional recipe for black pudding contemplates the use of… blood. Pig’s blood, mixed with grains, usually oats and barley.
The origins of Black pudding
Black pudding is a very simple dish, of ancient origin, so ancient in fact that it is mentioned by Homer in his Odyssey. We are talking about the eighth century Before Christ with Ulysses fighting for his bit of sausage filled with pig’s blood and fat. More precise documentary evidence dates back to the time of Henry VIII, known for his love of good food, who ranked black pudding as one of his favourite dishes.
In later years, the specialty fell into disgrace because its association with blood made it unpalatable to the devout. So much so that, in 1652, Thomas Barlow, the future bishop of Lincoln, banned it in his treaty titled “Trial of a Black Pudding”. Luckily, towards the mid-1700s it reappeared on food counters, even though, needless to say, the idea of eating a blood sausage has always been a bit off-putting, then and now.
Love it or hate it
Black pudding is a dish that knows no half measures. You either love it, or you detest it. But if you belong to the second category, avoid going through Lancashire, the county extending to the north of Liverpool and which comprises the splendid town of Blackpool. This is the undisputed homeland of this most remarkable sausage, and just to prove it, it is here that they hold the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship. A contest that dates back to the War of the Roses, with participants engaged in throwing sausages into breadbaskets positioned at a height of over seven meters. If you are interested, the competition is held every year in August or September.
If, on the other hand, you would like to try some black pudding but have no intention of visiting the area, you will find some excellent ones in Scotland, Ireland and, thanks to a consistent number of English emigrants, also in Canada and New Zealand. You can enjoy it cold, as it comes, or boiled, fried, grilled or heated up in the oven, alone or with eggs or scallops.
And if you really are a daredevil, remember that black pudding is one of the ingredients of a traditional English breakfast.
How to make black pudding at home
Would you like to make it for yourself? It is not easy to find pig’s blood, also because marketing is regulated by strict health regulations that change from nation to nation. Anyway, if you manage to get pig's blood, you need four cups of it, together with three spoonfuls of salt, one cup of oat flakes, two cups of diced lard, one cup of milk, one finely chopped onion, one spoonful of black pepper and one of pimento.
Heat the oven to 160°C and, while it is warming, put three cups of water onto boil into which you are going to pour the oat flakes until you have a typically creamy porridge. Filter the blood through a sieve and add the fat, onion, milk, pepper, pimento and salt.
Mix thoroughly, add the cooked oats and continue to stir. Pour the mixture into a greased oven dish and then bake it for about one hour. Leave to cool and then cut it into pieces and wrap in cellophane. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
No need to use a casing? Don’t worry. I won’t ask you to go that far. Your black pudding will already be perfect as it is.