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Black pudding

A magical dish from my childhood

Black pudding the Scandinavian way

Black pudding the Nordic way.

Once I stood in the grocery store struggling to hold my groceries, the black pudding fell down on the floor. As the pudding rolled away, nobody in the line offered to pick it up. I do not know if it was because of impoliteness, but right then it felt like I had broken a taboo. I wanted to eat black pudding.

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Before that day in the grocery store, it had been years since I had eaten black pudding. My mother had always made black pudding when I was a child, and I remember pudding filled with small chunks of kidney suet and raisins. My mother made one pudding with extra suet and one for me, rich with raisins. Sometimes she made blood pancakes too.

So when I was at home in the North this summer, I decided it was time to learn to make black pudding. We fried the pudding with butter and served it with syrup and a tall glass of milk. With the exception of suet (replaced by butter), the black pudding turned out just the way I remembered it. A magical dish from my childhood.

My grandparents were combined farmers and fishers, as most people were at the little island in the North of Norway. They had cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and a horse. All the cows had names. Hamborg. Rødlynn. Staselin. Løkkeros. The horses were named Blakken or Leisa. The dog’s name was Peik. The leader of the sheep herd was Silkedokka. My grandfather took care of the fodder on the farm. He ploughed the soil, sowed and harvested the fields. My grandmother took care of the daily needs of the animals and prepared the food after the slaughtering.

In May the sheep and lambs were sent out to graze. They were free to roam the woods, the mountains and the mire. In late September they were gathered home from pasture, and in late autumn they were slaughtered. They met their destiny at our farm, but my grandfather could not do it so he hired another man’s hands to do it.

The sheep intestines were taken to the sea and washed before they were left in brine. This was done to ensure the intestines were clean. Then they were filled with minced meat and served as cold cut. The heart and offal parts were turned into a sausage and eaten in a stew. Even the head was boiled and the cheek eaten on Fat Tuesday. From the blood my grandmother made black pudding.

My grandparent's house on a rainy night.

My grandparent’s house on a rainy night.

Black pudding is an ancient tradition all over the world. In France they call it boudin noir, in USA (Louisiana) boudin rouge, morcilla in Spain, sanguinaccio dolce in Italy, black pudding in Great Britain and blodpudding in Norway and Denmark. In Spain morcilla has traditionally been an essential part of the annual pig slaughter, La Matanza.

In Denmark black pudding was made in November and December as the amount of stored fodder for the farm animals decreased. Consequently blood pudding was eaten for Christmas. Even today the butcher at Kultorvet in Copenhagen (Slagteren ved Kultorvet) makes a great amount of blood sausage every late autumn with barley, raisins, cinnamon, cardamom and sugar. In Scandinavia black pudding is sweet and served with a sweet condiment. In Denmark it could be apple jam, but to me the condiment is syrup.

I have to admit it. When I looked at the tin, labeled food blood, I felt uncomfortable. I do understand people who cannot stand the thought of eating blood. It is a cultural barrier if you are not grown up with the tradition. But if you eat the filet, you might as well eat the blood. Black pudding is part of a sustainable approach to eating meat where everything from nose to tail is utilized.

Even though black pudding in many ways is natural food, it has become a marginal phenomena in our modern society. According to a Danish consumer survey black pudding along with offal, brussels sprouts and yellow peas top the list of least desired food. The survey also points out a gender and generation difference as men eat black pudding twice as often as women, and people over age 55 tend to eat it the most.

Black pudding is probably not a dish I will make often in my kitchen, but it is a dish I will always cherish because of the way it reminds me of childhood and the hard but sustainable life my grandparents lived.

Black pudding served with syrup and milk

Black pudding served with syrup and milk.

Black pudding the nordic way

This is my mother’s recipe. She always dilutes the blood with water and runs it through a strainer. This makes a soft and moist black pudding with lots of flavour from the different types of spices. Frozen blood can be bought from Norwegian stores, particularly in the countryside. My mother uses kavring, a kind of dried biscotti-like bread, but you can use stale bread or oats instead. Also, black pudding freezes well, so go ahead and make it.

1 litre blood
125 g / 4,4 oz stale bread (or oats)
150 g / 5,3 oz melted butter (or cubed suet)
300 ml water
200 g / 7 oz Lyle’s Golden Syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cloves
¾ tsp pepper
1 tsp allspice
75 g / 3 oz wholewheat flour
about 150 g / 6 oz flour
raisins (optional)

1. Run the blood through a strainer to remove lumps. Just to be on the safe side.
2. Crumble the bread with your hands.
3. Melt the butter and mix it with the blood, water, syrup, spices, flour and bread crumbs. Add as much raisins as you like. Leave to rest overnight.
4. The next day, put the oven on 200C/390F. Line a small baking tray or two loaf tins with parchment paper. Cover with tin foil and bake in a bain-marie (water bath) for about 1,5 hour.

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