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What's with the Pig's Blood in My Dessert?

Every once in a while someone mistakes Scott for a food expert and risks ruining dinner by trusting him to answer to a burning question. Got a question about food or restaurants? Send it via Twitter @scottreitz, Facebook @ Cityofate or in the comments.

Robyn Folmar (@Theburbanist): Can someone explain the use of pig's blood in desserts? Heavy or lack of flavor? Congealer? Seeing a lot of it. @beyondthekit @scottreitz

Lots of cultures use of blood in their cooking. Vietnamese pig's blood porridge makes use of large blocks of congealed pigs blood with the consistency of soft tofu. It's also a common addition to charcuterie like the french boudin noir, a sausage whose forcemeat is bound in coagulated pigs blood.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking has a single reference to blood in cooking, noting that the French make use of chicken's blood in the traditional recipe for coq au vin. Albumin (one of the proteins contained in blood) acts as a thickening agent for the stew when heated above 167-degrees F. It's probably these thickening properties that's causing you to see blood as an ingredient in your dessert recipes, though it really depends on the type of recipes you're encountering.

Some rural Italians have a taste for sanguinaccio: a pudding (not at all like the English black pudding) flavored with chocolate and thickened with blood. The dish is often made in the winter from the blood of a freshly slaughtered pig, which adds density, viscosity and richness to the dish. As for flavor, blood is quite bland, and as an ingredient it will take on whatever flavors are predominant in the dish.

You'll have a hard finding fresh pig's blood in Dallas, but the frozen variety is available at some Asian markets. I saw it myself at the Hiep Thai market in Richardson.


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