Morcilla Blood Sausage

From the moment it was suggested I think we were all excited to include blood sausage on our Spanish menu. It follows our interest in eating nose-to-tail and fits perfectly with providing unique experiences to people who really love food. Most cooks and foodies I have spoken to about blood sausages say they have tried them at some point but their reactions have varied from excitement to vehement distaste. I asked both enthusiasts and critics to recall what they did or did not like about the sausage and concluded that there is definitely a trick to making these things perfectly. I have been lucky enough to have tasted some great blood sausages, the last of which was made by Chef Jeff Van Geest of Tinhorn Creek Winery. His was a French-style version which was served with sautéed apples – a marvellous pairing – which gave me something to aspire to.

Our Morcilla before frying

My research then began with an email to Jeff, and a few other sources, which included a great blog at honest-food.net (http://honest-food.net/2009/03/16/repaying-a-debt-in-blood-sausage/).  This is an excellent site for charcuterie recipes and very detailed methods. It pointed out the different ways the sausage can be made, but noted why the blogger chose each method and ingredient.  I then called Nicola at Irving’s Pork Farm and asked her about the availability of pig’s blood. She sounded a little surprised but agreed to talk to the inspector and was happy to accommodate. It turns out that a ‘small’ bucket of blood is about 12 litres so we had more than enough.

I should note that Irving’s Pork is organic and hormone-free, which is obviously a superior choice for many reasons, but, in particular, when producing a dish that will showcase the flavour of offal such as liver, sweetbreads, or blood, I believe it is important to use product of the highest quality. The blood we received was far better than we expected. It was incredibly fresh and not at all clotted which is necessary to produce smooth-textured sausages.

I found various styles of the Spanish blood sausage Morcilla when looking for a recipe. Some were 100% blood, others were a mix of blood and pork (both Jeff and honest-food.net recommended between 30-40% pork), some contained rice, or raisins, some had only paprika, others had clove and cinnamon and all contained sautéed onions. Most of the recipes and discussions I found were for the version made in Burgos which is in the north of Spain. It is almost always served hot and is used in tapas, stews, stuffings or served on Spanish rice. For a little more info, try:

http://tapastalk.wordpress.com/2007/09/09/tapa-of-the-week-12-morcilla-de-burgos/

http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-recipes/morcilla

http://forum.sausagemaking.org/viewtopic.php?t=4634

This also looks awesome and I am going to feed it to the Staff Meal crew:

http://www.weareneverfull.com/morcilla-stuffed-squid-bloody-hell/

So, the recipe I created from the various sources went like this:

750 g pork shoulder

About 1.5 litres pig’s blood

125ml sherry

2 chopped onions, sautéed slowly until caramelized

20 grams kosher salt

4 grams insta-cure #1 (can be found at Butcher’s and Packer’s near Northlands)

15 grams sweet paprika

2 tsp ground clove

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

2 tsp black pepper

Optional: 1 cup sherry-soaked raisins and 1 cup cooked rice

First, sanitize all equipment and make sure that all of the ingredients are quite cold. When preparing sausages, this step is important for several reasons. One reason is that it is easier to grind cold meat, another is that cold meats will bind better and therefore yield a smoother, moister texture. As well, because you are handling the meat quite a lot and it will be going through several machines, it is important to keep it cold and sanitary to prevent bacteria from contaminating and multiplying in it.

Next, put the blood through a sieve to remove the clots. We were lucky enough to have very fresh blood but I have read that some people needed to put the blood through a blender and then a sieve to remove large lumps. Using blood with clots will not yield the smooth textured sausage which we were looking for.

Next, cube the pork and grind it through a small die. This may require you to grind first through a coarse die and then a fine die, depending on your grinder. This is also much easier when the pork is very cold. You may find it helpful to put the pork in the freezer for about 20 minutes while you’re getting everything ready.

Add your ground meat and sherry to the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for about one minute or until the meat is slightly sticky. This step is what helps to emulsify the sausage and bind the meat with the blood.

Now add the remaining ingredients with about half of the blood. I advise that you mix slowly and try not to make a mess; the blood looks awful when it is all over the kitchen. Once mixed thoroughly, add the remaining blood until the mixture looks about the consistency of pancake batter. You can also add the spices a little at a time and make tasters if you want to make them to suit your tastes.

Throw the mixture in the fridge while you clean up and get the sausage casings and stuffer ready. At the same time, put two large, shallow pots of water on the stove and bring to a very low simmer (about 180F). It is very important that the sausages be poached at a low temperature in order for the sausages to stay smooth when they’re cooked.

I won’t go into great detail about how to use a sausage stuffer or prepare casings here since there are plenty of good resources out there (try. Also, if you’re tackling blood sausages, this probably isn’t your first sausage-making experience). What differs with these sausages, as opposed to typical sausages, is that the mixture is very liquidy so you’ll want to tie them between links with twine rather than just twisting them. As well, hog casings are preferable for these sausages; do not try using collagen casings as these sausages cannot be peeled later. To stuff them more easily, soak them overnight in the fridge and then in warmer water just before stuffing. I poached the stuffed sausages about 5 links at a time while preparing the next set of links. Cook them until they are firm to the touch or, if you wish, you can take their internal temperature, which should read 160F.  Stuffing these proved rather tedious and definitely goes faster and is more fun with two people.

Once finished, the Morcilla will be firm and turn a pleasant purple-brown colour. They can be smoked, or as we are doing at our event, cut and fried with apples and served with parsnip puree, a salad of parsley, as well as a glass of Madeira or sherry.

The complete dish from the Spanish dinner at Culina Mill Creek.

Posted by Andrew

About staffmealedmonton

We the chefs of Staff Meal Edmonton intend on showcasing what we would like to see happen within this city’s food industry. We believe that the future of Edmonton’s food scene should be vibrant, interesting, responsible and equitable. Whenever possible we will place an emphasis on nose to tail eating, supporting local farmers and producers, sustainable food practices and we will celebrate the communal act of eating together with friends and family. We hope to continue the conversation about what we eat, how we eat it and why we eat it and hope to challenge those who are passionate about food, the food industry and ourselves to bring our food back to where we all are - our community. View all posts by staffmealedmonton

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