Blood pudding
Blood pudding
Years ago my children, myself and my parents visited The Sauder Village on butchering day. Traditionally, Butchering Day was one of the last events of the Sauder Village season. A hog is butchered, showing guests how meat goes from on the hoof to on the table.

Watching the process I remembered the time my Grandmother Pohlman came over to help Mom make blood pudding.

Blood pudding, a pretty common dish in most of northern Europe where it is known as black pudding, is said to be one of the oldest forms of sausage. Animals are generally bled at slaughter and as blood does not keep unless prepared in some way, making a pudding with it is one of the easiest ways to make sure it doesn‘t go to waste. While the majority of modern blood pudding recipes involve pork blood, years ago, sheep or cow blood was also used and one 15th century English recipe used the blood of a porpoise in a pudding eaten exclusively by the nobility.

Most traditional recipes involve stirring the fresh blood, adding fat and some form of rusk, a light, dry biscuit or piece of twice-baked bread, and seasoning before putting the mixture into a casing and boiling it. I remember Mom sewing the white cotton bags for the casings. Now modern commercially made puddings use synthetic cellulose skins. The relatively limited range of ingredients and use of oats or barley to thicken and absorb the blood is typical of blood pudding. Despite this, blood pudding recipes still show more regional variation across the country than other sausages with many butchers having their own individual versions. Breadcrumbs or flour are sometimes used to supplement the oats or barley, and the proportion and texture of the fat or suet used can also vary widely.

I enjoyed blood pudding and always looked forward to the fall when it was “in season.”

It wasn’t until I met Grandma Frances Martin that I became acquainted with head cheese and liver pudding. Even though the words “blood pudding” could be a little off-putting to some, it never bothered me but the words head cheese and liver pudding really made me squeamish.

Head cheese is a cold cut that originated in Europe. A version pickled with vinegar is known as souse. Head cheese is a meat jelly made with flesh from the head, yes real heads of a calf or pig, or less commonly, a sheep or cow. Historically, meat jellies were made of the cleaned head of the animal, which was simmered to produce stock, a peasant food made since the Middle Ages. The parts of the head used vary but the brain, eyes, and ears are usually removed. The tongue, and sometimes the feet and heart may be included. It can also be made from trimmings from pork and veal, adding gelatin to the stock as a binder.

I remember receiving some head cheese from Grandma Francie and after serving my husband (her grandson) a few slices, it was relegated to the freezer never to be seen again. I just recently read the recipe for it and I was ashamed for “freezing” it. A lot of hard work was done by Grandma to produce the “delicacy.”

Liver pudding is a type of all-meat sausage having no casing, it’s kind of like a very simple French country pate. Pork liver is the main meat in this pudding To make liver pudding you put the liver, ground pork, salt, pepper, allspice and onion in a food processor or meat grinder until the mixture is still slightly coarse. Then you make a sauce of melted butter and flour, add milk, stirring until smooth. Combine sauce, egg and meat mixture and stir. Put in mold with two bay leaves on top of mold and bake for an hour to an hour and a half.

Liver pudding should not be confused with the Southern favorite called liver mush, where cornmeal is added.

Hopefully I’ll obtain some blood pudding soon, but no head cheese or liver pudding thank you very much.