Monday, November 2, 2009

Pig's Blood

When the weather turns toward the darker days of autumn, and the colder, wetter nights require more substantial fare, the menu at Park Kitchen often takes on a higher proportion of charcuterie and offal. My sous-chef, Will Preisch, was working on a creative rendition of grits made by pulverizing raw cauliflower into tiny grains, then simmering it in a puree of cauliflower. It looks like traditional white corn grits, but has the rich, nutty vegetal flavor of cauliflower. After some thought, we decided to pair it with blood sausage. Although I've served a variety of sausages at Park Kitchen in the last five years, I had never put blood sausage on the menu before now. In order to lighten the dish, it is garnished with a raw salad of shaved radish, burnet leaves, ground cherries for a little tartness, and a mustard tuile for crunch (not shown in the photo).
The composition of pig's blood is mostly water at 77%, with 7.2% albumin, 14.5% globulins, 0.3% fibrin, 0.2% fat and 0.8% other odds and ends. It is well suited to cooking, as the albumin and globulins coagulate at around 160 degrees fahrenheit. In traditional blood puddings, the blood is poached with cream and eggs, in addition to other solids for structure, usually cooked onions and bacon (and sometimes fruits or grains, depending on the region). What usually turns people off about blood sausage is the texture, which can be dry and grainy if there is not enough fat added, or loose and pasty if not sufficiently coagulated. To avoid these shortcomings, I decided to add some ground pork to the forcemeat to make it more like a sausage than a pudding.

Some people are a little squeamish about the idea of blood in their food. As is so often the case, fast-paced Americans have become very separated from their own food traditions. I remember hearing the stories from my own hometown of Kansas City, how their famous barbeque sauces were thickened with pig's blood, just as the French did with their rabbit civet, thickened with blood of the hare. In fact, for centuries throughout the world, blood has been consumed in various preparations for it's nutritional and symbolic value. According to God's law, it is forbidden in Jewish and Muslim cultures, although even religious nations have culinary traditions using the blood of animals, especially that perfect culinary creature, the pig. According to U.S. law, it is legal under Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Ch. 3A, § 310.20 "Blood may be saved for edible purposes at official establishments provided it is derived from livestock...and handled in a manner so as not to render it adulterated ..." et cetera.

In ancient sub-Saharan Africa, blood is drawn from wild animals and drunk raw for nutrition, while not necessitating the killing of a valuable animal. The ancient Spartans ate a "black soup" of pig's blood, called melas zomos. The Tuscan dish called roventini is a kind of pancake made from flour, eggs, and pig's blood, finished with parmiggiano-reggiano. Throughout western Europe, there are various sausages or puddings made from pig's blood; the Spanish morcilla, Catalonian botifarra, the French boudin noir, sometimes garnished with apples, the German blutwurst, the Polish kaszanka, usually containing buckwheat, the Irish drisheen, made from sheep's blood, cream, oatmeal and tansy, the Finnish preparation of mustamakkara, a blood sausage with ground pork and crushed rye, usually eaten with lingonberry jam. Swedish blodpalt is a potato dumpling enriched with blood, and Finland also makes a mykyrokka, a potato and offal soup containing myky, a dumpling of rye flour and blood.

One of the most famous recipes of France is coq au vin, the Burgundian dish of rooster stewed in red wine, which was traditionally finished with roosters blood that had been stabilized against clotting with a little vinegar. The Polish czarnina is a poultry broth enriched in the same way, with duck's blood and vinegar. These dishes may not have been found at every dinner table, but they have been popular enough to maintain traditions throughout the generations.

In the far east as well, the Koreans make soondae, the Filipino's make dinuguan, a spicy meat stew with pig's blood and rice cakes. In Viet Nam, doi huyet is a pig's blood sausage make with herbs and shrimp paste. The Thai's have a spicy curry mee, and there is the famous Taiwanese ti hoeh koe, a pig's blood cake made with sticky rice, then rolled in ground peanuts and cilantro, served on a stick!

Pig's blood cookery is nothing new to the world. All that is new is what people are doing with it. Elsewhere in Portland, Xocolatl de David has a wonderful pig's blood chocolate ganache, and Le Pigeon restaurant has served a very tasty pig's blood pappardelle. The well stocked meat counter of Laurelhurst Market often has blood sausage with whisky. Portland's culinary talents are exploring pig's blood. Maybe you should, too.


  1. Any recommendations on where I can get pork blood in P-town?

    1. Sorry for the late reply James. Wholesalers like Nicky and SP Provisions carry pig's blood. If you don't have access to that kind of supplier, retail meat counters like Chop and Laurelhurst market can order it for you as well, but you'll probably have to order in advance.

  2. Very informative and intriguing article! Was actually looking for the nutritional value of pig's blood and learned so many other fascinating things! Thanks!

  3. Pig blood tastes bad....

  4. All Asian grocery stores sell pork blood.