For Many Reasons: Blood and Chocolate Pudding

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

-Yep, it really is.-

"Do you need some pork belly?"

"That's a stupid question. I always need some pork belly," I replied.

Hank sat down on his knees and started to dig into his kitchen freezer before pulling out a slab of pork belly that weighed more than the pig it came from and handing it to me. "My pork guy loves me, so I sometimes get freebies. This is a bit too much for me to use though."

Hank, an avid writer, cook, and hunter, had decimated a small portion of the duck population this last season. Due to this he had plenty ducks in his freezer and each one of them was plucked, processed, and vacuum-sealed. (If you've ever killed your own bird for food before, then you know that just one is no small task.) Hank's freezer, now packed with birds (not to mention elk, pork, goat, wild goose, and many other of God's tasty creatures), was beyond capacity. To remedy the situation he had called me up to see if I would take some off his hands.

Now, it's illegal to sell wild duck in the state of California, so the only way to get them is to shoot them yourself or have friends who can handle a shotgun. Considering that the thought of crawling out of bed at 2AM to muck around in wetlands on a rainy day sounds as much fun as chewing tinfoil I happily took him up on the offer.

-You won't find chocolate and blood pairing together in too many other recipes.-

"Do you want some headcheese, too? I made it this morning with that spare pig head I had," said Hank nonchalantly.

"My God, I love you, Hank." Seriously. How can you not love someone who makes his own headcheese?

He cut off a piece of the head cheese slab and wrapped it up and plopped it in my bag where he had also put four ducks, the pork belly, some crab meat, a few homemade Chinese-style sausages, and a near bushel of candy-striped beets from his garden. A veritable bounty of meat and produce. The dainty half-pint of homemade kumquat-vanilla bean marmalade I had brought as a gift now seemed somewhat inadequate.

"I've also got a gallon of pig's blood if you need any," he casually noted.

I peered into the fridge to see a gallon jug whose crimson pitch contents, though perhaps not the source, were immediately identifiable. In any other house one would start wondering where the sacrificial glyph drawn with the ground bones of wayward children was and if there was time to call the police. Of course, this sort of ingredient sitting in the fridge was pretty standard fare for Hank's kitchen, so the only question I had was why there was so much.

"The guy I got it from only sells it in gallon quantities. I only needed a small amount for this pasta I made," he pulled out a ball of burgundy-colored dough wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. I had an image of Hank as Sweeny Todd except that instead of meat pies on Fleet Street he had been given a slot on the Cooking Channel to make Italian food.

-This is probably the most disturbing picture I have ever taken.-

"What on earth would I do with that? I bake and do sweet stuff. Seriously, what does a baker do with pork blood?" I threw my hands up into a relegated gesture and laughed.

"I dunno," said Hank as he looked at it, "make it into a pudding?"

It was one of those moments where you can feel creative impulse shock your brain. I stopped a moment before replying. "Hmm. You know what? Why not? Throw some in a jar. Maybe I can do something savory with heavy cream and make it all pretty and pink. I'll tell people it's strawberry." We laughed, though I admit I did consider this and how funny of a prank it would be.

At home I started to do some research on blood-based desserts. For the most part the only results I could pull up was an unidentifiable Taiwanese blood and rice cake that sounded generally unpalatable in flavor and an Italian dish called sanguinaccio. The sanguinaccio seemed to have potential.

A quick explanation: sanguinaccio is a special Lenten-treat in various parts of Italy and often made by local town butchers. It's a pudding made with chocolate, pine nuts, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and - yes - the blood of a freshly killed pig.

My research dug up a few pictures, descriptions, and recipes that shed some light on the recipe. Reactions and opinions were mixed; older generations revered it while the youngins' weren't having it. It seemed that it was a dish that was rarely eaten and often poorly made, which resulted in a gritty texture and metallic flavor. Still, it proved that pudding was a possibility.

I decided to simply take a more traditional pastry path and form my own interpretation of sanguinaccio. I made a basic chocolate pudding recipe, but cut out some milk for the blood and added some heavy cream to make up for the loss in milk fats and sugars. A heavy hand of chocolate and cinnamon would round it all out. Sanguinaccio is made only with chocolate and blood. I hypothesized that lack of milk to bind them together is why the results can be so texturally displeasing.

-Next time, I may try this with a bit of orange zest or Chinese five spice.-

The cooking was a bit unnerving (the cooking blood had turned the milk a dark brown color long before I even added the chocolate). It also didn't help that BF kept hovering and quoting the Weird Sisters from Macbeth.

"When are you going to add the eye of newt?"

"Go away! You're not helping!" I yelled back nervously.

"Feeling squeamish?" he prodded.

"I'm either cooking or performing dark witchcraft. What do you think?"

Admittedly, I was a bit freaked out. Blood is the lifesource of animals. Yes, we may eat their meat which may have blood in it and that we often call juices to assuage ourselves, but how often to we really sit down and focus on, as Hank described it so eloquently in his post, the anima of the animal? More so, how often do we ever just eat it in its pure form? Probably never for most of us.

That is until you spend ten minutes over a pot stirring and whisking it together with milk and sugar. It's pretty much in your face by that point.

The pudding seemed to come together rather well. The cream and blood soon smoothed out into a perfect pudding consistency. I added in the chocolate and vanilla and gave the pudding a quick stir before straining the it into a bowl and letting it chill.

The result?

Pretty darn fabulous. It's a rich chocolate pudding with a smooth, though slightly silty texture. You don't really taste the blood. Instead, it just gives the pudding weight and density. It did add, however, a slight minerally and savory flavor in the back; a barely inescapable whisper of umami.

The real experiment of this recipe was partially to challenge myself and to push the limits of pastry. Could something as savory focused as blood be turned into something dainty and sweet? I'm pleased to say, yes.

More than that, I wanted to practice what I so often preach about eating responsibly. Hank is the most responsible eater I know. He kills his own meat and uses practically every single part of the animal. Like most people, I usually go to the store and get whatever cuts I want. I've killed and processed my own chickens and rabbits before, but I still feel generally disconnected to my food - especially dairy, eggs, and meat. Pastry people rarely have this opportunity to bond with the sources of more primal foods based on the nature of our work. There is little life and death involved in locally grown apricots and freshly foraged elderberries. This pudding was a chance to reconnect with food at a visceral level.

Pork blood isn't exactly easy to come across, but if you do find it for sale or know a guy who killed a pig I encourage you to make this pudding. It will challenge your ideas on pastry and your general understanding of what makes good food and how it can be approached. Aside from that, it's a flavorful dish that eaters will remember.

Blood and Chocolate Pudding

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup fresh pork blood
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In the top of a double boiler or a large metal bowl whisk together the cornstarch, salt, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the milk, blood, and cream. Place over simmering water and stir occasionally being sure to scrape down the bottom and sides. Use a whisk if lumps form. As it cooks the blood will turn from red to dark brown. This is normal. After about 10-15 minutes it should thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Take off the heat and add the vanilla and stir.

2. Pass the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for 30 minutes. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

-Thank you for not unsubscribing to the blog. Next Week: Something that's not blood.-


  1. Blood nearly always makes me feel squeamish, but masked in chocolate, I think I may find it considerably more palatable! If I lived within the Masai community, I know I'll be making this pudding on a regular basis ;-). Now I'm wondering if it works equally well with chicken or cow blood?

  2. This has to be the craziest recipe I've ever seen... I didn't know people cooked with blood, let alone in a dessert!

  3. Oh this is ballsy. Why is blood so much more disturbing than meat? I've read plenty about sanguinaccio but never tried it and always sort of hoped I wouldn't have to in a way. I've had hare blood in stews and felt brave even doing that. I'm reminded of all that hype about the breast milk ice cream in London right now. Is it body fluids?

  4. Good for you. Me, I had the ox blood choc pudding at Mulvaney's and did not care for it at all. I wonder if the type of blood makes a difference? Although I can't imagine how. Blood is blood.

  5. Wow!

    woulda never thought.....ehhhh probably not gonna make this one, but good on ya for being creative-


  6. Hm, I live not far from the italian border and have never heard of sanguinaccio at all!
    In fact, I have never heard of a sweet blood-dish. But we make blood sausages and they are delicious!

    Your recipe sounds quite good, maybe I'll try it one time.

  7. It looking delicious. However, i don't want to try them.

  8. Was anyone else reminded of Dexter?

  9. *stands and applauds*

    Bravo, Garrett! This is incredibly ballsy of you (I'd say "gutsy" but I'm trying to keep the entrails away from the blood post), and I'm glad it turned out so well.

    It also reminded me not to read your blog whilst drinking water. BF's Macbeth comment literally made me spit it out all over my screen... *sigh*

    The pictures are also amazing, btw. Disturbing, but amazing.

  10. This sounds amazing! I applaud your creativity.

  11. I've actually had a similar dessert at a restaurant in Montreal. It was very good, though I'm not sure I'm brave enough to play with pork blood at home :) Your's looks delish.

  12. Hannibal Lecter would be proud! Living in Central Pennsylvania, I see blood pudding (the savory sort) and blood sausage all the time; the Amish are very serious about using every part of the animal too. It never occurred to me to use blood in a sweet application though. Probably not going to try it myself, but I really have to applaud your ingenuity!

  13. Wow... a modern-day dessert recipe using blood. After the initial 'euww', I must say I have a lot of respect for you! How does the pudding taste? Does the taste of blood get masked completely? Considering this is my first time on your blog, you've set the tone for upcoming visits :) Great pictures and a great recipe!

  14. In the spirit of the Food Network comment trolling meme, can I substitute mineral water for the pig's blood (because both taste minerally)? If you're interested, Xocolatl de David makes pig's blood truffles.

  15. very cool...I would love to try it.

  16. Damn, I missed all the Leviticus quoters? Anyone who quotes Leviticusis a whack job.

  17. BonPierce: It was by e-mails and tweets. ;)

  18. How much chocolate did you use for this? (I didn't see an amount in the recipe)

    I probably wouldn't make this, as it would remind me a lot of when we make sheep's blood agar in microbiology, but I would probably eat it!

    This is a brilliant idea.

  19. I can't wait to hear what Leviticus has to say about tweeting.
    Thou shalt be unclean until evening!

  20. Free Radicals: 6 ounces. Thanks for catching that. Wow. Go me.

  21. PS. I have a feeling I sounded more negative than intended. What I meant is that I would be nervous to eat this and completely into the visceral intensity of the experience at the same time. I love the post.
    Ok hope that's clearer.

  22. I would love to try is so daring! I have made blood sausage before, and I have read somewhere a long time ago, that the favorite German tradition of Rote Grutze was cooked in blood (I haven't attempted that yet!) Thank you for posting this!!

  23. Reminds me of Chris Cosentino's pork blood mousse :)

  24. This pudding is very intriguing! It reminds me of "chocolate meat" - a filipino dish I remember eating as a child. (I don't know the filipino name, sorry.) It's a savoury meat dish with a blood-based sauce (beef for both, I think). My sister and I pretended to be a vampires when we ate it, lol! Love your blog :)

  25. if i ever have a chance to get my hands on fresh pork blood i will have to try this -- i love pudding!

    and, of course, chocolate :)

    thanks for sharing, Garrett

  26. note to self: do not read blog entries about pigs blood while eating lunch. or ever.

    i still love you, though.

  27. 1st Anonymous commenter: Yes, I was immediately reminded of Dexter! The blood splatter pictures didn't help... or did help, depending on how you look at it. :)

  28. OK. First off, the skin of the pudding is the best ever, so shame on you for telling people to put a piece of plastic wrap on the pudding before chilling it.

    Second off, Taiwanese blood and rice cake unpalatable?You've just insulted my entire culture! That is Taiwanese street food at it's best!

    Just kidding. I've actually never had it. Mostly because my parents never let me when I visited Taiwan as a kid with them (they were firm believers that you should only eat hot food from the street vendors). But if I ever go back to Taiwan I'm totally tracking it down to have. You should to. It's suppose to be quite good, though not really a dessert, as it's more savory.

    I have, however, had pig's blood in Taiwanese soup. Didn't really care for it. But that was years ago as a child. I wonder how I would like it now?

    Thanks for the post and recipe though. Tell Hank that I will take some pork belly off of him anytime! Excellent creative use of blood in a dessert though! I can see the mineral qualities of the blood working well with the chocolate.

    You should consider using the rest of the blood for a Devil's Food Cake or Red Velvet Cake. Heh.

  29. @ anonymous, chocolate meat the filipino way is called Dinuguan, its a favorite dish made with pork blood and minced entrails of the pig...

  30. I can tell you about a traditional dessert from my homeland, Galicia (Spain), that involves pig blood too.

    They're called "filloas" and are some kind of crepes.

    * 1 l. milk
    * 4 eggs
    * 1 glass of pig's blood,
    * 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    * 1 lemon (zest)
    * Flour which supports,
    * Lard or butter
    * Sugar
    * Cinnamon.
    * Salt (just a bit)

    Beat the eggs, add the milk, salt, lemmon zest and cinnamon. Add flour gradually until you get a loose paste (just the same texture as crepes). Add the pig blood, retifying flour if needed.

    Spread some butter or lard (you can even use bacon grease) over a pan. Cast a thin layer of the paste, enough to cover the bottom of the pan and let it thicken, flip over until the other side browns a little.

    Spread some sugar and cinnamon and they're done.

    We fill them wity honey, jelly, chocolate, fruits... almost anything that you can put inside a crepe.

    Sorry if you can't understand quite well what I have wrote here, english is not my mother language and cooking recipes are quite hard for me :P

  31. Codega: Thank you so much for sharing! I really appreciate it. I never would have thought to make something like this. =D

  32. I have to say, I saw this post two weeks ago, and only ot the courage to read it tonight.

    I'm not usually reluctant to trying new food... this one doesn't seem to be an exception, but I have to admit, I'm not so sure I'm willing to try this recipe at home. The though of having a jar of boold in my fridge just creeps me out! But tastewise, I'm pretty curious and would try it if offered to me (by the way, Jen H, where in Montreal did you have this? I'm in Montreal too.)

    Thank you Garrett for challenging our food conceptions!

  33. Well...I have never seen anything like this. Not sure if I can get pork blood in my area but I will have to look and see. It sounds and it looks great!!! Thanks :)

  34. Fascinating. So glad you tried this out. Someday I have a goal to make my own blood sausage but never would have considered it in a dessert.

  35. This is my first time visiting your blog but I like it. Very cool that you would try this. So many people love pushing the envelop but are afraid to with something as taboo as blood. I applaud you. You are a man after my own heart. Is it evil of me to imagine feeding this to my poor unsuspecting vegan friends? Don't worry I won't..... but I can't say it didn't cross my mind. ;-)

    On a side note I think it is wonderful you believe in useing every part of the animal. I do too. There is a show called The Wild Within that I think you would probably like.

  36. Fascinating!

    Did you know that Mesoamericans thought of chocolate (in its liquid form) as blood- they used to add achiote to make it red.

    I wonder if that influenced the formation of the Italian dessert? I study the history of chocolate in 17th-Century England and then we were reading a lot about chocolate's South American origins- I imagine the Italians were doing the same, so perhaps this was born from that?

    Fascinating stuff anyway- I would have never thought to put blood in a chocolate pudding and that it would be such a success! Congrats!

  37. Great story, wonderful insights and, as always, spot on storytelling. So nice to see this piece nominated for best food writing! Here here! May you take home the prize for this bloody piece!

  38. You're really adventurous in your cooking!
    In Malaysia, there's a curry noodle dish that's served with cubes of congealed pig's blood in them, which I really love to eat. But I never would have thought of a sweet blood dish. Kudos to you for doing it!

  39. If you feel up to a savoury blood dish after this you should try a good old British black pudding;

    We eat it sliced and fried with bacon and eggs for breakfast. It has a soft texture, is crazy rich and makes an excellent accompaniment to a soft yolk and some mushrooms cooked in leftover bacon fat.

  40. Mmm, yes, the pig blood rice cake is savory in nature. It's usually eaten with sauces and lots of powdered peanut and cilantro atop.

    @ Irvin: I adore pig's blood soup. Savory, just a bit of sour, and amazingly full of umami. :D You should try it sometime!

  41. I don't think this one is for me. I'm a little squeamish.

  42. Okay, is there anything you can't do?? The extent of my knowledge of using blood in cooking is black pudding, and I'm too squeamish to try that.
    But this pudding looks too good to not try ( not that I have a chance of getting pig's blood anywhere).
    But good on you for pushing the limits of dessert!

  43. Three things:
    1. I thought pig's blood had a lot of cholesterol or was unhealthy for the body in some way (like when people decide to eat 10 sticks of butter and a pint of chocolate ice cream plus a pan full of fudge brownies).
    2. Maybe not? I'll have to research that. FYI, a lot of Asian supermarkets carry pig's blood in small quantities, though it may neither be fresh nor food-conscious.
    3. I don't really like writing under Anon, but since I have no url I shall simply be Anon.
    Oh, and thanks for the blog! It's my weekly dose of fun and humor. Though this week was a bit bloody- this Hank guy seems awesome though.

  44. Anon -Pork, especially from "modern" breeds, is leaning into being too lean - not enough fat! Depends too on what the pigs are fed. Probably the cream in this recipe has more fat than the pigs blood.
    I am raising two pigs right now, so I'm on the hunt for all things porcine, but I'm betting the processing plant will not want to save me the blood of Kevin Bacon and Ham I Am and I am too chicken to try butchering the first time out. But I will bookmark this for when I decide I can handle the brave new world of butchering:)

  45. I tried something similar years ago, but I really like your recipe too.

  46. I think this may be my favorite blog post, ever. EVAH! The localvore movement is huge in Austin, as is eating nose to tail, so I'm not too squeamish to taste a chocolate pudding made with pig blood. I've recently eaten insects (mealworms, crickets) and this is less shudder inducing than a piece of chocolate topped with a whole cricket. Now I'm not gonna run out and stock up on animal blood, but this was a fantastic read.


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