Quirky Foods Of The World: Black Pudding In Britain

We’re taking a journey to delve into some of the strangest foods around – quirky foods of the world is a series that explores some weird and wonderful dishes from around the globe.

This time we’re having a look at the black pudding, a curious food with strong ties to various areas in Great Britain, but that’s also commonly eaten in Ireland, as well as other areas of Europe. It’s usually made from pork fat or beef suet, along with oatmeal, and in some cases barley and oat groats.

It has an interesting history going back thousands of years, and is one of the most polarising foods out there, with many people suspicious of its blood and fat content, along with its strong flavour. Despite this, the black pudding has, for many, become an essential part of the traditional English breakfast.

Whether you love or hate it – it’s time to explore the history and fascination behind this famous blood sausage dish.

What exactly is it?

Black pudding is essentially made from animal blood, usually from a pig, that’s then mixed together with fat and oatmeal before being packed into a casing.

The sausage can be eaten cold, but is usually grilled, boiled in its skin or fried – then cut up into rounds, or broken up into smaller pieces. It was originally made as a useful way to make use of a common byproduct.

History and controversy

The exact origins of this culinary curiosity are still not conclusively known, however the dish has been around since people have farmed livestock – even back in 800 BC the dish was referenced in some capacity within Homer’s classic saga, ‘The Odyssey.’

“As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted…”

Some theories suggest early versions of the dish travelled with the Romans during their conquests, with others stating that the Moors of North Africa introduced the blood sausage to the Romans, as they followed them around many parts of Europe.

A popular food for the poor and the rich, black pudding was a notable addition on King Henry VIII’s breakfast banquet menus, held at Hampton Court.

The black pudding was also incredibly controversial in the 17th century, with many Christian scholars at the time arguing against it – claiming that blood products were not to be consumed. It was a debate that raged on for almost 100 years.

Modern day renown

The traditional British black pudding has now become an iconic heritage dish, and is celebrated as a much loved regional delicacy in Great Britain. This is particularly true in the North West of England, where the international World Black Pudding Throwing Championships are held once a year.

The famous festival takes place in the market town of Ramsbottom, and according to local beliefs it dates back to feuding factions from Lancaster and York, during the War of the Roses.

Similar blood sausages are served all over the world, with very popular equivalents in France and Spain, known as boudin noir and morcilla respectively.

Speaking of France, there’s even a special organisation in the country called, the Chevaliers du Goûte-Boudin, or the Knights of the Black Pudding. Members are knighted and vow to uphold the traditions of the black pudding, and to promote the eating of it.

Surprisingly, vegetarian and vegan variations of the dish exist – obviously these alternatives don’t include the blood, but are still packed with oats or barley. White pudding is an example of this, and is often served with Scottish and Irish breakfasts.