Of all blood, that of the hog is thought the richest, and this is always employed in France in their boudins of this kind, which are excellent.
It is illegal in most states to sell pig’s blood, so the culinary tradition of making blood sausages has all but disappeared. Only in pockets of the Lowcountry where farmers still butcher their hogs will you find someone who knows this old bit of charcuterie. The only local current cookbook in which I have found a recipe is Billie Burn’s collection, STIRRIN’ THE POTS ON DAUFUSKIE (1985), from Daufuskie Island, which is still separated from the mainland by the lack of a bridge. When I lived in Charleston, I would go to my butcher’s on slaughter day, with a bucket to catch the fresh blood. He would give it to me to me to bait sharks, but what I would really do is make blood pudding. A tablespoon of salt or vinegar stirred into a quart of fresh blood will prevent its coagulation.
1 cup cooked white rice
2 cups cream
2 quarts fresh pig’s blood, plus 2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon Quatre-épices *
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh pork fat
2 pounds onions, chopped
prepared hog casings, knotted at one end, rinsed well
and placed in a bowl of water
Place the rice in the cream and set aside to soak while you continue with the recipe. Stir the seasonings into the blood. Dice the fat and fry out 1/2 pound of it in a heavy Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook slowly until the onions are translucent. Remove from the fire. Add the rest of the fat and the rice/cream mixture to the pot. Stir the mixture well and, when it has cooled, add the seasoned blood, stirring well.
Now, put on an apron and cover your work surface with something like a large cookie sheet, as you cannot help but make a mess with the liquid sausage stuffing. Slip the unknotted end of the prepared casings over the end of a plastic funnel, holding the casing tightly with one hand so that it does not slip off. Ladle the mixture through the funnel into the casings, then tie it off in 4″ lengths.
I serve these sausages on a cold winter night with spinach and mashed potatoes — half white and half sweet — mixed with a little milk and butter; or, as an appetizer, on a bed of caramelized onions. To cook blood puddings, simply prick them lightly in a couple of places and fry or grill them.
“Four-spices” are, in fact, usually five, and are commonly used to season forcemeats for sausages and terrines. This is one combination of spices that I try to keep on hand in small quantities. The recipe is really just a suggestion: the quantities and proportions given below are typical, but not written in stone. Vary the amounts to suit your own palate.
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ginger
Put all of the above in a spice mill or blender and process until it is all evenly ground. Store in a cool, dark place. Make quantities no larger than this, for spices quickly lose their punch after being ground.
Wielding a machete, the boatman, who had climbed the palms to harvest their fruits the day before, would chop through the outer, green husk, slicing off the end of the coconut with the flourish of a Japanese steakhouse chef, making a hole from which I could drink its soothing juice, cheaper than bottled water. The boatman then cut away all the outer husk, spinning the coconut in one hand and whacking away at it with the machete until the luscious, soft interior pulp was revealed, glistening in the already bright morning sun. The smooth, gelatinous texture of the green coconut always reminded me of custards I ate as a child in the Lowcountry, and, indeed, green coconuts lend themselves well to custards, often baked in the shells, not only in the Caribbean, whence came the early settlers of Carolina, but also in Indochina and Indonesia, where the coconut palm originated.
Cocos nucifera now flourishes throughout the tropical world, and is a major source of food for a third of the world’s population. Though green coconuts were formerly not available outside the tropics, the mature brown seeds of these drupes are available year-round in most parts of the country. (You can now find green coconuts in Asian, Hispanic, African, and Caribbean markets, as well as from street vendors in cities with Latin American neighborhoods like mine. Sandlappers, or residents of the lowcountry,
with a long history of involvement with the spice and slave trades (and, hence, with stong African and Asian influences in our cuisine), have taken more readily to coconuts than have Europeans, who tend to use them as almond substitutes. I have eaten the gelatinous pulp of unripe, green almonds in Italy, but never have I seen a coconut in a market there, and I lived in the great port city of Genoa.In Indonesia there are five different types of coconut milk; and coconut comes, even to us, flaked, creamed, canned, shredded, blocked, frozen, shaved, and as milk or oil. But it is the rich interior of the mature nut that is of the most interest, because of its intense flavor. Over two hundred years ago on her rice plantation north of Charleston, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who had been raised in the West Indies, wrote down her receipt for “coconut puffs,” delicious macaroons to be made from these tropical nuts. But even today coconuts stay out of the European tradition. With its great harbor and Caribbean connection Charleston was to lead the way for coconut cookery in the Western world.