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A Guide to Blood Sausages of the World

Eight sanguine specimens.

By Chris Ying February 23, 2016

Blood sausage is the purest distillation of sausage philosophy: Take the least obviously usable part of the animal—the blood—and make something delicious by stuffing it into the animal’s intestines. Add some cheap filler—rice, breadcrumbs, onions, other organ meats—and you’ve got something far greater than the sum of its humble parts. Basically every place that has ever been concerned with stretching their food supply has produced some form of blood sausage. (This explains why there is no blood sausage native to the Hamptons or Laguna Beach or Richard Branson’s private island.) What follows is only a small selection of what’s out there, chosen to give you an idea of the many splendors of blood sausage.

This is excerpted from The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meats, Lucky Peach’s new single-subject cookbook and reference guide for anyone interested in sausages, on sale now! 

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Black Pudding

Where: UK
Meat: pork blood and fat
Preparation: baked or boiled, then sliced and pan-fried
Served: as part of a full English breakfast

Attention UK blood sausage marketing team: You were on the right track in swapping blood for black, but you missed the mark in designating your national boudin noir as a “pudding.” Why not black “cake,” seeing as a pan-fried slice of this classic breakfast side looks like nothing so much as a perfect round of moist chocolate cake? Nobody wants to dip their spoon into cold jiggly blood pudding. 

But seriously, folks, both the words boudin and pudding derive from the Latin botellus, meaning “sausage.” Black pudding is a dense blend of oatmeal, spices, pork fat, and blood (usually reconstituted from dried powder these days). Some makers still add the traditional and very British-sounding pennyroyal, an astringent mint-like herb, but otherwise, that’s it. The texture ranges from spongy to crumbly, and the flavor is decidedly milder and less ferrous than one might expect. The best, gentlest introduction to the sausage might be at breakfast, where it very often appears as part of the classic fry-up. Black pudding is most appreciated in the Midlands and northern England, with Bury, in Lancashire, granted unofficial black-pudding-capital status. At the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, held the second week of September in Ramsbottom, people come from all over the countryside to try knocking Yorkshire puddings off a twenty-foot scaffold by underhand tossing black puddings (it has something to do with a historical beef between Yorkshire and Lancashire—probably best not to ask). One pound sterling gets you three tries.

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Boudin Noir

Where: France
Meat: pork blood
Preparation: poached, grilled, or sliced and pan-fried
Served: as is, or in innumerable configurations

In the beginning, there was boudin. Before sausage was sausage, cooks mixed blood from a freshly killed pig with onions and fat, stuffed it into intestines, and boiled it—because what else are you going to do with all that blood and intestines? Add some cereal (rice or oatmeal) to the mix, and you had cheap, filling, delicious sustenance. Boudin (later known as boudin noir, or black pudding, or blood sausage, to distinguish it from blood-free versions) remains popular and abundant throughout Europe but probably reaches its pinnacle in France, where cooks enhance their boudin noir (as is their wont) with a healthy addition of cream and butter.

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Kiszka

Where: Poland (and other parts of Eastern Europe)
Meat: pork, usually, but also beef and sometimes just chicken fat and flour
Preparation: poached, grilled, pan-fried, or unleashed from its casing and cooked with onions
Served: as is; or with rye bread, horseradish, and pickles

Kiszka means “guts” in Polish, which is apropos, as liver, heart, kidneys, and pancreas could all be contained within this sausage. The offal is rounded out with skin, fat, and blood, and flavored with less visceral stuff like onions and marjoram; like most blood-filled sausages, kiszka also usually contains a grain like buckwheat or barley. International variations on kiszka can be found around Eastern Europe, including beef ones and kishke—an Ashkenazi Jewish version filled with flour or matzo meal and schmaltz, usually served drenched in gravy—but classical kiszka (or kaszanka, same thing) is a full-on celebration of pig. You’ll spot it on homey-restaurant menus throughout Poland (usually in the company of rye bread, horseradish, and dill pickles).

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Morcilla

Where: Spain and wherever Spanish explorers made land
Meat: pork
Preparation: boiled, grilled, fried, pan-fried
Served: as is; with numerous masa-based vehicles (tortillas, gorditas, arepas); in sandwiches

Morcilla is a Spanish-style blood sausage, a mix of pork fat and blood, rice, and onion, plus whatever flourishes are specific to the regions where it’s found, of which there are a great many. Morcilla (or sometimes moronga) has left its bloody impression on most of Latin America and the Caribbean. In Argentina, you can find it grilled, split down the middle, and nestled in a roll for a variation on choripán called morcipanmorcipán. In Uruguay, it’s part of a full asado (or parrillada, a mixed grill). And in Puerto Rico, morcilla is a Christmas favorite.

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Morcilla Dulce

Where: Uruguay, Argentina, Canary Islands
Meat: pork blood
Preparation: grilled
Served: as is

Oh god, there’s . . . blood . . . everywheeeeerrrrreeee! Morcilla (above), Spanish-style blood sausage, is splattered wherever Spanish colonists set foot around the globe. It’s even gotten into the sweets. Like most blood sausages, morcilla dulce is an almost black sausage that owes its color and heady flavor to the blood of a pig, but it’s marked for the idiosyncratic addition of sugar, grapes, raisins, orange peel, nuts, and/or chocolate. Morcilla dulce can be found at Uruguayan grill-outs (asados or parrillas) and in other Spanish-inflected parts of the world, like Argentina and the Canary Islands.

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Mutura

Where: Kenya
Meat: goat or cow (blood sausage)
Preparation: grilled
Served: sliced

Sometimes referred to as the “African sausage,” mutura could technically be grouped under the banner of blood sausage, but it’s really more of a home for whatever unwanted bits are around. It originates from celebrations where a whole animal (usually a goat) would be butchered. Scraps of meat, along with lungs, kidneys, and other organs are chopped fine and stuffed into the animal’s intestines along with a bit of salted blood. The whole thing is boiled, then grilled until snappy. Served sliced or in a roll with kachumbari—a diced tomato and onion salsa—the sausage has since spread to the streets, becoming the preferred cheap protein source for Mombasa’s residents.

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Sundae

Where: North and South Korea
Meat: pork (variations can include seafood)
Preparation: boiled or steamed
Served: sliced, in soup, or stir-fried

Order a sundae (pronounced soon-dae) in Korea and you won’t get a treacly ice cream treat but rather a grizzly amalgamation of vegetables, cellophane noodles, and blood packed into a pig intestine. Steamed and then sliced, this night-market delicacy is often dunked in gochujang (chili paste) to counter the metallic tang of its iron-rich filling. Steamed liver, lungs, and other off-cuts are popular accompaniments. Sundae can also come boiled in a soup with cabbage (served in a reusable hard plastic bowl right there on the street), stir-fried with chili paste and onions, or eaten on its own.

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Verivorstid

Where: Estonia
Meat: pork and pork blood
Preparation: boiled and then roasted
Served: as the main attraction of a proper Estonian Christmas

Verivorstid is blood sausage from Estonia, the northernmost of the Baltic nations. Alongside seapraad (roast pork), hapukapsas (sauerkraut), and piparkoogid (gingerbread cookies), it is the centerpiece of Estonian Christmas. Each winter, families elbow-deep in a tub of pork, onions, marjoram, blood, and pearl barley funnel the mixture into casings by hand. The horseshoe-shaped links are boiled until firm and saved for Christmas Eve. When it’s time to serve them, they’re roasted until the skin darkens and blisters.

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This is excerpted from The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meats, Lucky Peach’s new single-subject cookbook and reference guide for anyone interested in sausages, on sale now! 

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