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What is Blood Pudding?

Blood pudding.
Oats are the main binding grain in blood pudding.
Blood pudding typically contains raisins or currants.
Currants are often added to blood pudding, or blood sausage, in Ireland and Scotland.
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  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
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  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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Blood pudding, also sometimes known as “black pudding,” is a type of sausage made with animal blood. It is well known in many parts of the world in the context of a traditional Irish or Scottish breakfast, though there are many different variations. Most cultures have some version of blood sausage in their culinary heritage, though the ingredients, taste, and ultimate use can vary a lot from place to place. All that a sausage really needs to qualify is animal blood and some sort of grain, usually oats, wheat, or rice. Casings are common, but not required; dried fruits and other spices are also frequently included. A lot depends of the culture of the cook and what sorts of ingredients are readily available.

Basic Concept

Despite its name, blood pudding is not really a true “pudding” at all. Most food scholars believe that it gets this name from the grains that are almost always included to absorb the blood that binds everything together, as in some sense cooks are making a thick pudding that solidifies and congeals within the sausage casing. People who are unfamiliar with the dish or not used to consuming animal blood often find this description somewhat off-putting, and the sausage can sometimes take some getting used to. Those who have grown up eating it or who live in cultures where it is commonly made often consider it a delicacy.

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Nearly every culture that eats meat has at least one form of blood sausage within its repertoire of traditional recipes. In large part this owes to the industriousness of most butchers. Once meat has been divided into edible portions, there is usually a lot of blood leftover. Blood contains a lot of helpful minerals, particularly iron, and can be very nutritious; on its own, though, it is not usually very appetizing. Combining it with sausage fillings and cooking it into a meat-like mass of its own can be a very economical way of making use of it.

Popularity in the UK and Ireland

One very common use for blood pudding is as part of a traditional Irish or Scottish breakfast. A “traditional” breakfast usually includes the sausage along with beans, toast, mushroom, and some sort of cooked egg; grilled tomatoes and bacon or sliced ham are also usually on the plate.

Irish and Scottish blood sausage almost always centers on pig’s blood, and is usually encased in pig intestine, too. It usually includes oats as the primary binding grain, and raisins or currants are common additions. Many cooks will also incorporate spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to give the sausage a sweet flavor that complements many of the more savory elements of the breakfast plate. Cooks in England make something similar, though the spices and additions are often slightly more understated. Black sausage isn’t always part of an English breakfast, but it is often on pub menus or available as a snack in many restaurants and taverns.

Other European Variations

Most European countries have their own version of this sausage. Some, like the German Blutwurst or the Spanish morcilla, are decidedly savory and may be stuffed with other cured meats, onions, or potato as well as blood and grain. Others are intended to be sweet. Cooks in many of the Nordic countries add apples or sweet lingonberries to their sausage mixtures, for example, and the pudding is served alongside sweeter dishes like applesauce or fruit reductions in many places.

A lot depends on local custom and the sorts of ingredients that are readily available. The blood of almost any kind of animal can be used; livestock like sheep, goat, and cow are the most common, but duck and chicken can be used, too. Similarly, oats are the most common filler ingredient, but barley, rice, or corn are also found in some places.

Asian Examples

Most of the blood sausages made by traditional Asian chefs do not have casings, which tends to make them slightly lumpier and more free-form than those that have been stuffed into animal intestines. Cooks in nearly every region, from the tropical climates of Southeast Asia to the frigid steppes of Northern China, have some sort of recipe for this dish. Most incorporate rice, but some are little more than blood and spices cooked into a solid mass. “Pig’s blood cake,” a type of blood pudding made with, not surprisingly, pig’s blood and rice, is a popular street food in Taiwan, and is usually served rolled in peanuts and served on a skewer; in Vietnam, the pudding goes by the name doi huyet and typically includes cilantro, green onions, and cumin alongside aromatic shrimp paste. It is common as a snack on its own or served on top of noodles.

Consumption in the Americas and Africa

In the United States and Canada, blood sausages tend to be the most popular in areas that have strong connections to immigrant groups. The European settlers who colonized much of the Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada left a legacy of German-like blutwurst, for instance, and Italian-style variations are common in many parts of New York. Cajun cooks in Louisiana often make their own rendition, playing on a recipe originally brought by French settlers but adapted to local ingredients and tastes.

Most of the sausages found in Central and South America are variations on the Spanish morcilla, usually incorporating local produce and livestock. Cooks in the Caribbean are known for spicy blood sausages that are often served fried up with local vegetables; sweet potatoes and plantains may also factor into the stuffing. People in most parts of Africa also eat blood pudding, though again with twists and tweaks based on what is available. The dish is generally very economical, and can act as something of a “catch all” for stray ingredients or foodstuffs.

Nutritional Information and Concerns

In general, blood pudding is a good source of iron, protein, and vitamin B12. Depending on how it has been prepared, though, it may not always qualify as a health food. When it is stuffed with animal fat or other meaty tissues, as is common, it may be very high in calories. Eating blood is not usually considered dangerous or harmful so long as it has been cooked completely; underdone or partially raw pudding might contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness, though.

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Discuss this Article

anon354385
Post 21

Speaking as a Newfoundlander of mixed Irish and Scottish ancestry, I've eaten blood pudding for as long as I remember, and everybody in my immediate family loves it. It's a very common food here.

Upon moving to Ontario in my teens, I was surprised to learn that not only were people disgusted by the notion of blood in the sausage, it was nearly impossible to find. That stunk, because it's one of my favorite dishes.

Living back on the island now, and have befriended and old feller who makes the stuff himself. Much better than store bought.

anon343992
Post 20

I wish I could say I've tried it, but I don't believe I have even as a kid. I suppose I'll know I've had it when there is some sort of grain or potato inside the sausage. I'll have to keep an eye out for it when I shop.

truman12
Post 19
I had blood pudding for the first time when I studied abroad in Scotland. I wanted to get as much as I could out of the experience so I made it a point to try all the local foods.

I was game for trying haggis and some of the more exotic British foods but I was always kind of put off by blood pudding. But I was in my final week there and they were serving it at this pub and I decided to just go for it.

I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either and it was not as gruesome as I had imagined. In the end I was glad that I could cross it off my list.

anon289771
Post 18

I love blood pudding, light on spices. Also not very fond of too much filler. I was born in the center of Canada when times were very hard. My mother raised chickens to supplement our food.

When she would kill a chicken for dinner, she would fry the blood, like scrambling an egg, in a little butter or chicken fat and I was the one who had the honor of eating it. Oh, that was so very good -- my favorite food. I still remember how delicious it was and hope to have it at least one more time before I die. Unfortunately, in the USA, that's not likely to happen.

anon272530
Post 17

If you didn't know what it was when you tried it, as I did, you would forever crave it and not not be able to find it, and go mad. I loved it.

anon155123
Post 16

Not all blood puddings contain raisins or any type of fruit. However, here in Newfoundland, people here eat it a lot. I like it, but besides me and my late father, we were the only ones in the family who actually cared for it. I especially loved homemade blood pudding that my uncle used to make. He would put fatback pork and onions in it.

anon102961
Post 15

The 'juice' in steak is not actually blood. Blood goes bad quickly so all of it is drained out in the slaughtering process. The juice you see from a steak is actually a fluid called sarcoplasm.

anon83787
Post 14

I was so opposed to it when I heard the name and what it was however, I have since tried it and love it!

anon63088
Post 13

this black pudding is the best. we ate it for breakfast in scotland.

anon61256
Post 12

I think this is disgusting!

anon41190
Post 11

If you are interested, there are many stores in Massachusetts that sell it. I grew up eating blood pudding and never realized that most parts of the country have no clue, or the few areas that do have it, it's usually a Spanish/Mexican form that is extremely spicy.

BTW, for those that are thinking of it as tasting like blood, think of it this way, does a steak taste like blood? It, too has blood in it. In a steak, we call it juice.

anon40016
Post 8

Our traditional dish in Slovenia is "krvavica" or blood sausage. It is made of pork blood, grease, rice (optional), buckwheat and tiny cooked pieces of meat from pig's head. It is boiled first and then roasted in the oven. It's served with pickled cabbage and corn porridge with roasted ham.

anon28471
Post 7

"Black pudding" is also called "rice pudding" in Antigua, which is a small island in the caribbean, colonized by the British. Rice is the main filling, cow blood is also used.

Mdf

Tsu
Post 5

If I ever find this black pudding, I definitely want to try it.

cynthia387
Post 4

Black pudding is a vital ingredient of a cooked breakfast but can be used in many other ways. It works well with fish, fruit, lamb and pork. Blood pudding is one of the great delicacies of Acadian cuisine.

-cynthia jacquline, newfoundland drug rehab

anon15120
Post 3

its actually quite good, being from newfoundland we have a very thick irish influence, and blood pudding is quite common breakfast item here, don't knock it until u try it! its no worse than a steak medium rare.

anon13021
Post 2

While I myself do not find the blood particularly tasty by itself, I do think that it adds a certain flavor that can not be duplicated by way of spice nor seasoning. The blood after all, is as natural and important as any other part of an animal.

knittingpro
Post 1

I know that it is cultural, but I just can't get behind the idea of eating blood. No thanks.

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