British Classic #2: Black Pudding

There can be no middle ground with Black Pudding, the Holy Grail of our sausage repertoire here in Blighty. It is a something of fascination to many outside of these shores that we eat so many of the squiggly, alien-shaped organs and glands of our farm animals, but rather than Viking-imbued bloodlust, it is simply down to our ancestors stubborn refusal to discard any part of an animal we have slaughtered. Black Pudding illustrates this attitude perfectly…not to mention deliciously.

Okay, let’s come clean. It’s blood. Lots of blood. If you eat black pudding, There. Will. Be. Blood. A combination of pig and ox blood is thickened with oats, diced pork fat, pearl barley and usually cereal or rusk. This is then piped into casing as per any other variety of sausage. These are then boiled and allowed to cool. When required, the pudding is most commonly sliced then fried or grilled until crisp. No Full English Breakfast (and an episode on that will come, rest assured) would be complete without it, yet more often than not the common reaction to the idea of Black Pudding is…..”Urgh! I’m not eating that.” Pervading modern squeamishness equates the creation of these sausages as something monstrous, an anachronism in today’s ethically minded, caring approach to meat. Well, bollocks to that. I freely admit that a butcher’s kitchen awash with blood and rusk(no exaggeration – according to Andy, my butcher, it takes around 90 litres of blood to make a decent batch. That’s at least a Shining lift-full) isn’t as appealing as, say, artisan salted caramels or other 21st century wonders but to ignore it is a travesty. According to WordPress, I’ve got to 274 words and I haven’t talked about how it tastes yet. Nothing shows the strength of feeling on either side of the BP fence better than that.

So how does it taste? Well, to paraphrase actor Troy Mcclure, “Slow down Jimmy. You just asked a mouthful.” How Black Pudding tastes depends totally upon the skill of the maker – both practically AND with the choice of seasonings – coupled with the quality of the ingredients. I’ve eaten the best and worst of BP and I must say that if the only reference point I had was the poor stuff, well, I wouldn’t like it either! At it’s worst, it is dry and sour, with an abundence of salt and pepper to mask the scarcity of pig and over-reliance on cereals. But at it’s best…delicately spiced, soft with a light crumbliness and a deeply comforting feel in the mouth and on the tastebuds. It has no strong flavour to dominate, so those put off by comparisons to things like liver or kidney are really, really missing something special. Blood is a by-product of pork production, so to use it is to show respect for the animal that gave it’s life. We don’t just do it to freak out the tourists. We do it because it’s really good. But don’t just take our word for it. Ask the Spanish or Latin Americans, who have their own beloved morcilla, or the respective blood sausage recipes of France(the world famous boudin noir), Germany, Romania, Iceland, Sweden and many more around the globe. Our own BP does not have one definitive recipe. Indeed, the finest have recipes as secret as that of Coca-Cola et al, guarded and passed down under high security. We have national competitions, as well as fierce rivalry between regions and counties concerning whose pud is superior. We like doing the infighting thing, you’ll see more examples as the weeks go on…

My personal favourite? I suppose I’m breaking my own rules here as the nation I choose, namely the Republic of Ireland, is not part of Great Britain, but I’m sure they won’t mind. The Black Pudding mecca is to be found in the town of Clonakilty, West County Cork. A beautiful place to start with, it now supplies most top restaurants and home cooks in the know with the finest BP I have ever tasted. It’s also the country that gave us the sibling White Pudding (can you guess what they took out to make it White Pudding? Correct.) which is darn fine eatin’, too. But were I to recommend anything, it would to be to find your local independent butcher and buy a homemade, local example.It will either be in small pebbles, loops or huge shiny torpedoes, the likes of which you would expect to find more suited to a shagpile carpet in the San Fernando Valley. That shape is the one commonly found in supermarkets. I generally wouldn’t touch the stuff in most supermarkets with a barge-pole, and I put down a lot of  the personal dislikes of BP to bad supermarket examples. They just can’t resist filling them with rubbish, you see.

Fried to perfect crispness, it is a thing of wonder. And not just as part of a fry-up. Black Pudding and the sweet/sharp notes of apples get along very well, and Black Pudding with scallops is not just a pretentious restaurant gimmick. It’s genuinely delicious. In this country it has become something of a garnish for trendy chefs and sometimes suffers for it, but I have used it to great effect in a number of varied dishes, and I’m pretty sure I shall never get tired of it. So I shall close this second entry with a plea to apprehensive visitors and squeamish natives alike: PLEASE GIVE IT A CHANCE! It’s really rather good.

Thanks and see you next time,


Coming soon: #3: The Lardy Cake

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7 Comments on “British Classic #2: Black Pudding”

  1. cartbozman Says:

    I wholeheartedly concur!
    Levely stuff indeed.

    Are you going to do one on haggis too? Thats another misunderstood marvel of cuisine 🙂

    • croosh Says:

      I’m open to any suggestion, Boz. I’ve got as far as the next three, and ‘cos you’re just about my favourite podcster right now, I’ll let you in on them. Lardy Cake, then the Oxo cube, then Jacob’s Cream Crackers. After that, I may well do the chieftain o’ the puddin’ race!

  2. Mary Says:

    I wasted 20+ years of my life being squeamish about Black Pudding. I’m now making up for lost time. Living close to Bury is a bonus. (Who needs Clonakilty????)

  3. weathereye Says:

    As much as I admire your writing and your humour, there is no way I would take this particular plunge. Meat scares me in general … this takes it to a whole new level ..

  4. Scott Redman Says:

    What a wonderful article Casey. We have nothing like this that I know of in the states. I would give it a try, but as you mentioned, only one that’s been created by someone that knows what they’re doing. Until then, I’ll take your word for it.

    I must draw the line at live octopus though, like Sydney did. It ain’t happening.

    Keep up the great articles,


  5. Marius Says:

    Sounds delish, actually. I wonder if it’s possible to get here in the states?

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