Fresh blood black pudding was recently put in the spotlight via a feature on Channel 4’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast. We asked Stuart Mason of Welsh Mangalitza, a farmer and artisan producer of fresh blood puddings, to share his views on the subject and explain to us why he is an advocate for the use of fresh blood as opposed to dried blood.
Which Blood Type Are You?
General Fact: Fresh Blood, Dried Blood & Black Pudding
Almost all know that black pudding is made from blood. But few people know that their breakfast favourite is usually made from imported dried pigs blood, some from pigs reared in conditions we would not allow here in the UK. There are very few producers in the UK that use fresh blood and even less again that use the blood of the animals they breed and farm themselves.
Facts About Us
We are Welsh Mangalitza. A husband and wife that rear the fabulous Mangalitza Pig on the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains in Wales. We started the keeping the breed in 2010 and produced our first carcasses in early 2012. We have an increasing pedigree herd of around 150 Mangalitza pigs and produce both breeding stock and carcasses, which we butcher and cure in our small on farm butchery. The stars of the show are our Fresh Blood Black Pudding and Blood Cake. We produce a pure animal pudding; that is to say, blood & fat come from the same animal…..our animal.
The pigs we farm here are all bred by us, raised by us, only leaving the farm to be slaughtered in a very small family run abattoir 5.6 miles away. We then bring them back to the farm to butcher and cure and produce the all important puddings! We sell over 90% of what we produce within a 20 mile radius of the farm at farmers markets along with mail order and a small amount of wholesale customers. The markets we currently attend are Aberystwyth, Lampeter and Myddfai. [Note: You can keep up with where we are next by following us on Facebook or Twitter as we also attend many food fairs and events.]
The diet our pigs consume is also of great importance to us, so we:
- mix their feed ourselves, using no GM crops, Soya or Palm.
- feed them a muesli type feed, not a commercial pellet.
- don’t rear to quotas. They go when they’re ready and they live their entire lives truly free range doing what pigs do best, rooting!
My background as a chef working on country estates taught me great respect for my produce, to show the ultimate respect for an animal that has been slaughtered is to use it all. This sound but basic belief directly inspired me to set up Welsh Mangalitza as a truly nose-to-tail butchery. The only thing we have left after butchering a carcass is the ear tags and they all stay with us!
We only use fresh pure Mangalitza blood from our own animals to make our black pudding. Fresh blood is a lovely product to work with and true to the animal, butcher, charcutier, and most importantly the consumer, rather than buying in imported dried blood. The fresh blood is the whole animal; it can’t be beaten, with all its nutrients present and nothing removed like in the drying process that makes dried blood ready for reconstitution. Many dried blood products contain various unnecessary additives and fats used to replicate what it once was, Fresh Blood!
The production of puddings using dried imported blood has little provenance and a lengthy food chain. Most sold nowadays is a far cry from when it first came about as a way of using the whole animal, nothing wasted!
The dried blood versions are usually made up with tap water, though some use beer, either way it’s not a very honest product given that the blood makes up the majority of the finished product. The dried blood or butchers mixes are far simpler to achieve the desired consistency, just like making a cake, some are even mixed up and left to set up like a jelly.
Welsh Mangalitza Fresh Blood Puddings
Our fresh blood pudding and cake have a well balanced full flavour with a dense texture and a good blood to fat ratio. We hand cut our back fat and lardons to give the trademark windows any good pudding should have. Our blood cake is 100% pure Mangalitza and the black pudding entirely Mangalitza bar the natural casing.
The fresh blood sausages have the potential to burst in the kettle. This is usually eliminated in commercial practice by using a non edible plastic type skin, we don’t use these as we believe they taint the final product.
We also do not use any dairy or gluten in the products and grind our own meal. Though most of our customers are not gluten intolerant, we are a gluten free butchery. We use buckwheat in place of barley or oats which is naturally gluten and avenin free. Buckwheat is also not a grain so truly suitable for a paleo diet or coeliac.
So Why Do Many Producers Use Dried Blood?
It needs to be said that using dried blood versus fresh offers the producer huge mark ups. Many dried blood producers will tell you that the demand for their produce outweighs the available supply of fresh blood, but this could the real reason…..
Fresh blood from one pig gives a few kilos yield and the cost is factored into the pigs rearing cost. A 20kg sack of dried blood is enough to make 300kgs and costs as little as £25! Most producers use bought in fat, not always pork fat (abattoir by-products). This again adds to the lack of traceability. For some puds, the blood, fat and grain used can have no bearing on where the product is produced. This coupled with a synthetic casing, means the pudding could be made just about anywhere, from just about any pigs.
There are some dried blood producers that use back fat from their own pigs though they almost never have the provenance of a pure pudding. Although the fat may be from a well reared free range animal, the blood is almost certainly not, most likely coming unbeknown to the consumer from Holland or Spain, from any number of different welfare environments.
Why Welsh Mangalitza?
We believe that our puddings are top of the tree;
- Hand tied not crimped.
- Fresh ingredients; blood, back fat, garlic, onions and so on, not dried rind or powdered onion.
- Naturally gluten and avenin free for those sensitive to oats.
- Our recipe is our own. It is made from scratch using whole spices as opposed to a bought in seasoning mix.
Whole animal butchery is something we have great passion for, we strongly believe that people should get behind it too.
So now I ask you again, after reading this, Which Blood Type Are You?
If you would like to know more about Welsh Mangalitza you can contact Stuart via:
Facebook (Group): Welsh Mangalitza & Butchery
Many thanks to Stuart for contributing this enlightening article. His passion toward the management and welfare of livestock is clear to see, as is his commitment to rear and farm a breed of pig that was on the verge of extinction only 20 years ago.
Nose-to-tail butchery is certainly not a new concept [we’ll gloss over the fact it is a current foodie trend] as, of course, it was part of the origins of black pudding all those centuries ago! Welsh Mangalitza are one of handful of artisan producers embracing these butchery skills and traditions, recognising they are important for the following reasons:
- minimal waste
- it is the most environmentally-friendly way to approach working with meat
- to show respect for an animal that has been slaughtered by using it all
- supply transparency
- a ‘meat’ product is traceable right back to it’s source location and origin
- is more often than not a sign of good quality product
- the availability of less common, often under-rated but equally tasty, cuts of meat and offal
- which in turn, is often more economical and of greater nutritional value (black pudding and liver are two great examples of this!)
Artisan producers like Welsh Mangalitza play an important role within the food chain, the economy and the environment. Arguably, they do not get the recognition or support they deserve. What do YOU think? We’d love to hear your views on the subject and any feedback on the article. Please contact us, comment below or add a post to our social media pages.