Blood sausages have been made for thousands of years and every country has its own recipes. Different cultures and/or regions have their own versions of blood sausage. These recipes are generally variable takes on a similar theme. Whatever the name – Black pudding (UK, Ireland), Boudin noir (France), Blutwurst (Germany), Morcilla (Spain), Jelito (Czech), Kaszanka (Poland), or Mustamakkara (Finland), the main ingredients are as follows:
- Blood – either from pig, sheep, lamb, cow, or goose (each author believing their choice is preferred)
- Filler that varies with region (e.g., oatmeal, buckwheat, breadcrumbs, barley, or other grains);
- Onions and regional spices.
All of these are typically smashed together and stuffed into a sausage casing.
Looking at the above formulas it is obvious that the non-sliceable formula (with a filler) costs less to produce and this kind of blood sausage can be found all over the world. The addition of filler material makes it very economical and the number of recipes that can be created is only limited by the imagination of the sausage maker.
Blood sausages were originally made from inexpensive raw materials such as pork head meat, jowls, tongues, groins, skins, pork or veal lungs, pork liver, beef and lamb liver, pork snouts, beef and liver lips, udders, beef and lamb tripe, veal casings, pork stomachs, pork heart, boiled bone meat and of course blood. This way any part of the animal was utilized and a highly nutritional product was made. In times of war and other hard times when meat was scarce, fillers were added to increase the volume of the sausage. Generally speaking a blood sausage is composed of diced, cooked fat pork and finely ground cooked meat and gelatin producing materials, mixed with beef or pork blood. The whole is spiced and stuffed into a casing. Sometimes pork or lamb tongues are included, in which instance the product is known as tongue and blood sausage.
- Back fat is the best as it is hard and is less likely to smear. Fat from pork butt and jowl fat are also hard fats but belly fat (bacon) is soft. You can use any little fat pieces and fat trimmings. Sliceable blood sausage (without fillers) looks much nicer with visible pieces of white fat in it. To achieve this effect pork back fat should be cut into 4-5 mm (about 3/16”) cubes which should be blanched briefly (5 min) in hot water (90º-95º C, 194º-203º F). This seals the surface of fat cubes and prevents blood from entering and discoloring it.
- Skins are a very important ingredient as they contain a lot of collagen which will turn into gelatin during heat treatment. During subsequent cooling this gelatin will become gel and that will create a better texture of the sausage. In sliceable blood sausages that are usually consumed cold, this will positively contribute to the sliceability of the sausage. In non-sliceable sausages (with fillers and consumed hot) this will add firmness to the sausage. Don’t discard skin when trimming pork butts and freeze it for later use in head cheeses, blood or liver sausages.
Many countries have their own traditionally used fillers that are added to a sausage mass:
- England and Ireland - rusk, barley, rice, potatoes, flour, oatmeal.
- Poland - buckwheat groats, barley, bread crumbs, rice, semolina.
- Spain - milk, rice, eggs, cheese, almonds, pimentos, parsley, apples.
- Sweden - rye meal, raisins.
- Argentina - wheat gluten (seitan), corn flour, flour.
Filler material such as rice, barley or buckwheat groats must be pre-cooked. Groats can be found in supermarkets but they have been factory processed and are ill suited for making blood sausages. The real natural groats can be ordered from online distributors such as the Sausage Maker or Bulk Foods. Oatmeal is normally soaked overnight. The addition of filler material makes a sausage very economical. With such variety of filler materials, different meats that can be selected, and spices that can be chosen, it is hardly surprising to see the huge number of recipes floating around. And as we often repeat, it is not the recipe that makes a great sausage, but the way you make it.
Blood from any animal including poultry can be used for making blood sausage although pig and cow bloods are most often used. Pig blood has a nicer, lighter color than blood from cattle which is much darker, commonly brown and sometimes almost black. This can be attributed to the age of the animal at the time of slaughter, the pigs are much younger. Due to its high water content (85%) blood is a highly perishable product attracting bacteria and must be immediately collected and cooled quickly to about 37°F (3°C) and stored for up to 2 days at about 32°F (0°C) or in a refrigerator. Then it must be processed. To extend its life, blood can be frozen. Beef blood can be very dark red or almost black in color and was traditionally used in England. The amount of blood in a sausage can vary from 5%-60% and the more blood, the darker the sausage.
Sliceable blood sausages which are often eaten cold will contain less than 10% blood and will be much lighter in color than non-sliceable sausages (30% - 60% of blood) which will be darker. If an excessive amount of blood is added to a sliceable sausage, solid chunks of meats will have a tendency to sink down and accumulate in one area of the sausage. Blood sausages with filler material don’t face this problem as the filler material acts like a sponge and more blood can be added making the sausage darker.
Blood coagulates (forms solids) easily and is stirred frequently when collected during the slaughter. Mixing blood and adding about 5% salt (re-adjust recipe for salt content) will result in a stabilized blood. It must used within 1-2 days and should be cold when it is mixed with other ingredients. Before use it must be stirred again and filtered through a cheese cloth, otherwise the sausage may contain lumps of blood. If collecting blood during the slaughter of the pig keep on mixing it well otherwise it will coagulate. Blood is a great food for bacteria and it should be cooled down quickly and placed in a refrigerator. It is advisable to process blood no later than on the second day. If the refrigerator is capable of maintaining temperatures of 1º C (33º F) the blood may be kept for 2-4 days. Adding salt or nitrite is not effective in extending blood’s shelf life but blood can be frozen for later use. In time blood plasma separates from the blood and water accumulates on top and the blood must be stirred before use.
Blood Salting (Curing)
Blood is a very perishable product and has to be refrigerated. In the past blood was preserved by adding 5 kg of salt to 100 kg of blood and mixed well together. Such preserved blood was stored up to 48 hours at 4-6°C (39-42°F). Today an anticoagulation agent will be immediately added to freshly collected blood which would be stored below 3°C (37°F) for up to 48 hours.
Commercial producers add anticoagulation chemicals like trisodium citrate to prevent the coagulation of blood. A good idea is to filter blood through a fine sieve or cheese cloth before use to eliminate larger condensed particles which may be visible in a sliced sausage.
It is not easy to get blood in a metropolitan area. The best advice is to talk to the local butcher or a sausage maker. They make blood sausages and order frozen blood for themselves.
Salt, Spices and Other Ingredients
Blood sausages are perishable products and contain a large amount of water (blood). Adding salt will have little effect on the preservation of the product and salt is used mainly as a flavoring ingredient between 1.5 and 2.2%. Like in most other sausages 1.8% of salt will agree with most people. Blood sausages like highly aromatic spices such as: pepper, thyme, marjoram, caraway, pimento, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and coriander. For a milder taste onions are frequently fried in fat until glassy and then added to the mixture. Often apples, pine nuts, chestnuts, raisins and cream are added. Fresh onions are commonly added to blood sausages but they can impart a sourly taste to the product. For a milder taste onions are fried in oil first until they become glassy looking and of light yellow color.
- Cooking. Blood sausage, head cheese and liver sausage belong to a special group of sausages. What makes them different is that meats and fillers are pre-cooked before being minced, mixed and stuffed. The fat is not cooked but only scalded and diced into cubes. The blood is not cooked.
- Grinding. Except fat, all other pre-cooked meats are cooled, ground through 1/8” (3 mm) plate and mixed together.
- Mixing. Diced fat, blood, salt, and spices are added and everything is mixed together.
- Stuffing. The blood sausage mass is much softer than the mixture for regular sausages. It is not stuffed with a stuffer but ladled into the casing through any suitable funnel. Traditionally blood sausages were stuffed into beef bungs or hog middles but any natural or synthetic casings will do. Prick any visible air pockets with a needle otherwise the sausages will swim up to the surface during cooking.
- Cooking. The sausages are cooked in water for about 1 hour at 176-180° F (80-82° C). If they raise to the surface, remove air pockets with a needle.
- Cooling. Chill in cold water, wipe off the moisture and store in a refrigerator.
If a smoked flavor is desired, add sodium nitrite (Cure #1) during mixing. Mix, stuff and cook the sausage, then follow with smoking. A simpler solution is to add liquid smoke during mixing. Cool and refrigerate. In a blood sausage the blood is boiled so the sausage is already cooked and needs only to be reheated. Fried blood changes its color to dark brown - black. In some countries, for example in England, black colorants like Black PN or Brilliant Black (E151) were added but these are no longer permitted in the EU.
Composition of some known blood sausages:
- Black pudding - UK, pigs blood, pork fat and cereal (oatmeal and or barley).
- Boudin Noir - France, pigs blood, pork fat, breadcrumbs.
- Blutworst - Germany, pigs blood, diced bacon and lungs, barley.
- Drisheen - Ireland, sheep blood, oatmeal or breadcrumbs.
- Kaszanka - Poland, pigs blood, lungs, liver, buckwheat grouts.
- Morcilla - Spain, pigs blood, pork fat, long grain rice.
- Navajo Indian - USA, sheep blood, cornmeal.
White Blood Sausage
A white blood sausage is made from pork without blood. Many countries have their own versions:
- England - White Pudding - diced pork, oats or bread, suet, sugar, onions, cinnamon.
- France - Boudin Blanc - pork, milk, parsley, rice, pepper, onions. Boudin blanc de Rethel carries PGI certificate and must be made without filler material. Pork meat, fresh whole eggs and milk.
- USA - Boudin Blanc, Cajun Style - pork meat, pork liver, rice, onions, parsley, garlic, pepper.
- Poland - White Blood Sausage-pork meat, pork liver, rice, onions, marjoram.
Instructions for Making Blood Sausage with Buckwheat Groats or Barley
Many people will buy an entire pig and will share the costs of production. By doing this they have access to meats that a person living in a city will not be able to obtain. In a large American city a person will buy meats from a local supermarket and the following meats are always available: pork butt, pork picnic, pork liver, pork hocks, tongues, back fat is harder to obtain and much softer bacon will have to be substituted. In a non-sliceable blood sausage meat selection is of lesser importance, after all a large part of the sausage is a filler.
- Meats should be washed in cold running water.
- Cook meats in hot water at 85º-90º C (185º-194º F) until soft. Don't cook liver which acts as an emulsifier-read more about liver in Liver Sausages.
- Pork skin requires a longer cooking time and a separate pot should be used. It should be cooked at 85º-90º C (185º -194º F) and when properly cooked it should hold its shape but you should be able to put your finger through it.
- Place precooked meats on a flat service to cool down. In sliceable blood sausages it is a good idea to wash all meats with hot water (80º -90º C, 176º -194º F) to remove any small pieces of fat or meat that might adhere to chunks of meat. This will largely improve the looks of a sliced sausage.
- Save meat stock for further use.
Note it is much easier to remove skin from tongues befor cooking. Also if tongues are to be cured the skin should be removed first as it will act as a barrier preventing salt and nitrite diffusuion.
To remove pork tongue skin place the tongue for 3-5 minutes in 70 C (158 F) water. The greyish skin on the tongue is easily removed. To remove beef tongue skin place the tongue for 5 minutes in 80-90 C (176-194 F) water. The outer layer on the surface of the tongue will be easy to remove.
- Contrary to the established methods for typical sausage manufacturing, meats used in blood sausages are normally cut with a knife into visible cubes. This can be easily noticed in sliceable blood sausages where meats, broth (meat stock) and fats are held together by emulsified skins.
- When making non-sliceable blood sausages grind meats with a smaller plate (5-6 mm, 1/4") or according to the recipe. The size of the plate is basically up to you, some people like to feel and taste individual pieces of meat in a sausage and a larger plate (8 mm, 3/8") will be used.
- Previously cooked skins should be minced with 2-3 mm (1/8") plate. It is a good idea to further emulsify skins in a food processor adding about 20-30% of hot broth (in relation to the weight of skins).
- Ground meats are evenly spread on the bottom of the mixing tub.
Although barley (kasza jęczmienna, Polish) or buckwheat groats (kasza gryczana, Polish) may be cooked in water, it is common knowledge that the final product will be of much higher quality if the material will be cooked in broth (from cooking meats) instead. Many people like to mix barley and buckwheat together (half and half). For each 1 kg of filler material 1.5 - 2 kg (2 liters) of broth is needed. Using more than double the amount of broth in relation to the weight of barley will make your filler material overcooked, soft and smeary which will affect texture, sliceability and looks of the sausage.
- Skim off the excess fat from the meat stock surface and bring the broth to a boil.
- Start slowly adding groats continuously stirring the mixture. After adding groats You may have to increase temperature to bring the mixture to a slow boil. Meat broth should be absorbed by the groats. The total time will be about 30-40 min and the filler material should be soft and loose, exactly like a properly boiled rice.
- Switch off the heat source and cover the pot. Let it sit for 1 hour. This allows for total absorption of broth by the groats. Undercooking filler material carries the danger of sausages bursting open when cooked in water, especially when casings were stuffed too firm. Until the process is perfected it is advisable to make sure that groats are cooked until soft even if that requires cooking them for 1 hour. It should be noted that buckwheat groats cook faster than barley and two should be cooked in separate vessels.
Hot groats, straight from the pot are spread evenly on top of the meat, without mixing. Then blood is poured over groats (right part of the photo above). The meats or groats should be warm but not hotter than 60º C (140º F) otherwise blood protein will start cooking and blood will not mix well with other ingredients.
Everything is mixed well together and ready for stuffing. Before stuffing all of the meat mass a test should be made: a small trial sausage should be made and cooked and then tested. Bear in mind that in a hot product the flavor of salt and spices seems more intense than in the same product that is eaten cold.
If sample sausages were acceptable and no more salt, pepper or other spices are needed we can proceed with stuffing sausage mass into casings. The sausage mass should be warm as this helps immensely when stuffing. The hog casings should be filled firmly but not tight and form into 12 - 15 cm (6 inch) links. During hot water cooking casings will lose some of its elasticity and filler material such as groats, rice or bread crumbs may swell and expand. It is practiced to freeze stuffed sausage (uncooked) in a freezer and then at the later date de-thawing and cooking them in a hot water.
The picture above depicts liver sausages being cooked in hot water. The sausages are immersed into boiling water and the temperature will immediately drop lower. The cooking process will last about 30 minutes at 80º C (176º F). A rule of thumb says that at 80º-85º C (176º-185º F) about 15 minutes is needed for each 1 centimeter of the diameter of the sausage. Internal sausage temperature should reach 68º-70º C (154º-158º F).