Let me begin with a couple of key points. 1) Sausage, as one prosaic wikipedia author put it, “is the logical outcome of efficient butchery”, 2) the type of sausage I am focusing on here is the kind that is made with pig’s blood, and 3) sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss.
I think we all “know” that sausages (and there are over 250 recognized kinds out there) are made from animal . . . bits. The herbs and spices used to make sausage are really in there to cover up the fact that these ‘bits’ may not be the most appetizing pieces of the pig (or cow or chicken). Although there is something to be said for using as much of a butchered animal as possible – it just seems less wasteful and somehow more respectful – let’s be honest about it, there are just some things about sausage we’d rather not dwell on.
What we’re going to be talking about today is a specific type of sausage that makes use of the butchered pig’s blood. Yes, it’s blood sausage, also known as blood pudding.
Although blood sausage and blood pudding might sound like they refer to totally different culinary animals (yikes, can you imagine?), the latter does also refer to a sausage.
Pudding is an early English term for sausage. One etymological theory has pudding coming from the Anglo-Norman bodeyn or bodin “intestines, entrails”, which would mean etymological kinship with French boudin (which meant “blood sausage” in Old and Middle French and now is used as a slang term for the “belly or stomach of a person”).
It has been suggested that the French boudin could be a cousin of the archaic Italian term boldone “blood sausage” and possible a descendant of the classical Latin botulus “sausage” (also the progenitor of the word botulism). Nice.
Another theory has pudding as native, developing from Old English puduc, which refers to a “wen” or “swelling”. Wen, as I’m sure you will be thrilled to learn, means “a lump or protuberance on the body, a knot, bunch, wart”. We get from there to here by a progression of associations, puduc “lump or swelling” to poud “boil or ulcer” to a word that starts to mean something akin to contemporary pudge. (Something similar exists in Dutch, as the regional term poddick means a “thick soft mass”, a “kind of pudding”, and a “shortish fat person”.)
Even earlier than its appearance in print as a term for “blood sausage”, pudding is attested as a surname. Such as Agelword Pudding (1100) and Willelmus Pudding (1202). Aw. Sad.
Choose your favorite (or your least unappetizing) etymological route, and by 1287 we see pudding in print to mean a “stuffed entrail”. We get puddings of milk, eggs, and flour (in other words, “not sausage”) in the mid-1500s and these could be sweet or savory. It’s not until the early 20th c that we see pudding veering toward the ‘sweet side’ and staying there.
The OED definition notes that, sausage, which originally means a “quantity of finely chopped pork, beef, or other meat, spiced and flavored, enclosed in a short length of the intestine of some animal, so as to form a cylindrical roll” extends in the 19th c to mean
a preparation of comminuted beef, veal, pork, mutton, or a mixture of these, either fresh, salted, pickled, smoked or cured, with salt, spices, flour (sometimes with the addition of fats, blood, sugar, vegetables, etc.), stuffed into a container made from an intestine, stomach, bladder, or other animal tissue.
Sausages can be classified as dry sausage (a cured product)
or fresh sausage (also known as wet sausage).
Other names for sausage? Saucister (obsolete), sauserling (a little one?), gigot (obsolete, but from a word meaning a “little piece”), gut-pudding (no beating around the bush there), snag (which as a noun has also meant a “stump”, a “sloe”, and a “snail”, along with a “sausage”, the latter being a colloquial Australian term), and (my favorite) smallgoods.
We’ll have to spend more time with the sausage names later on.
For now, we must narrow the field down to blood sausages specifically. Other terms for blood sausage are black pudding (named for its color), blacking (also a color issue), black pot (pot being an old British term for pudding – still occasionally heard in southwest England), blooding (named for its, well, you get that one), blutwurst (don’t let the German fool you), boudin (now the French are trying to fool you), and bag of mystery (oh, would that it were).
Boudin you may recognize from French cuisine; in the US, you see it linked to Cajun cuisine. You have boudin noir (yep, “black pudding”) and boudin blanc (“white pudding”), which, New Orleans style, is made with pork bits (including the liver) and rice, but no blood.
The Linguistic Atlas interviewers asked people about blood sausage and found a lot of terms that we see above, such as blood pudding and black pudding along with a lot of terms we saw for headcheese (such as scrapple, ponhaus, sousemeat, and press meat),which reinforces this idea that, for either of these dishes, what we’re talking about is using all we can of the hog we killed. A couple of fun Atlas answers to round us out: shakey, rice pudding (I’m thinking boudin blanc here), Dutch mush, endings, haslet pudding, horsepon (don’t think about it, just keep moving), napoleon pudding, skits, and vinkey (I’ve no idea what these last two are about).
Also fun to note that one Atlas speaker commented that blood pudding was served as a “relish”, while a couple of people used adjectives (that researchers count as “irrelevant” since they don’t answer the question, but, hey, they’re still interesting) like strong, tainted, and rank.
And there you have it. Happy Valentine’s Day.