Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cooking with Blood: Blood Sausage - Round I

The main event as far as cooking with blood is blood sausage.

Blood sausage is, as I have written before, pretty much what you would expect: pig's blood and fat, seasoned and stuffed into casings. The sausages are almost always flavoured with onions, and often contain a starch like oats or cornmeal or rice.

I have only come across blood sausage twice in Edmonton. My first taste was at Charcutaria Micaelense, but they have since stopped making their own and instead carry an inferior commercial substitute. More recently I have tried the blood sausage at Old Country Meats.

There are a few reasons we don't see it very often here. First: our timorous approach to eating. Second (and closely related to the first...): the hassle of obtaining pig's blood. I started asking at farmers' markets, only to find that the farmers themselves couldn't acquire their animals' blood from the abattoirs. Apparently health inspectors are worried about the wholesomeness of the blood after transport. Blood certainly needs to be used while very fresh; if left in the fridge for, say, a week, it will coagulate and develop the same sour odour as wet-aged meat. To my mind, this is a food quality issue, and not at all a food safety issue. Blood deteriorates rapidly, but that doesn't mean it's dangerous to sell or consume.

It's unfortunate that we don't cook with blood more often, as pigs are always bled after being stunned, and harvesting the blood is simply a matter of putting a bucket beneath the hanging animal, instead of letting it drip into the bleeding pit.

Kevin was my fellow charcutier on the first day I tried making blood sausage. He shot and edited some footage of the basic procedure, which goes like this:
  • sweat onions
  • cook backfat, either by poaching or sweating
  • combine onions, fat, blood, and any other flavours
  • heat mixture to thicken blood (optional, but apparently helps suspend onions and fat evenly throughout the volume of the casing)
  • funnel into casings
  • poach
  • chill
  • slice and fry


When searching blood sausage recipes online, it's obvious that few of them have actually been tested. They are all pretty much the same and completely lacking in details.

Our sausages tasted fantastic, but after poaching the blood-curd was very loose. It had a smooth texture, but the sausages tended to fall apart when slicing for pan-frying. The blood did not properly bind the ingredients like the apples and onions in the Ruhlman recipe.


My first guess would usually have been that the blood was undercooked and didn't fully coagulate, but my probe was above the recommended finishing temperature, and the juices ran pale brown instead of red.

My theory for the oatmeal sausage is that cooking the oatmeal before mixing it with the blood introduced too much moisture to the mixture and prevented a good, firm curd from forming. Next time around I'll cook the oatmeal in the blood, no water added.

As for the Ruhlman apple blood sausage recipe, I'm stumped. This is the first time I've had a problem working out of his book, Charcuterie. I wonder if the blood we used is somehow different than his. Ours had been frozen, for instance, though I have not heard of that affecting coagulation.

There are very few resources on making blood sausage, so this is something we'll have to fumble with until we get it right.

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