Hello sous-vide friends, and welcome to a fairly sanguine instalment of Will It Sous Vide?, the column where I make things my immersion circulator.
Photos by Claire Lower
So, first of all, TRIGGER WARNING: HELLA BLOOD. Though this week I wanted to do corned beef, it has a week-long brine time, meaning we have to wait a little longer to explore that fully. I still needed a topic for this week though, so I went with Carrie Mathison's less involved, but still very Irish suggestion of black pudding.
I am not a squicky person, and was able to locate some pig's blood, so operation black pudding was a go. For those of you not familiar with this Irish breakfast staple, black pudding is a type of blood sausage made from pig's blood, some fat, seasonings, and some sort of binder, such as oatmeal. There are a lot of variations, but I went with this simple recipe from Epicurious. Unfortunately the only blood I could locate in such short order was frozen -- and I didn't have a pig to drain -- but I was OK with that. (If you would like to attempt to make your own black pudding, call your local butcher, as it is very unlikely you'll find it at a conventional grocery store.)
I like how it's rubbery AND icy looking.
You would think the thawing of blood, pig or otherwise, would be a pretty simple process, but you would be a little incorrect. Though most of it thawed in a big bowl at room temperature, there were these gelatinous chunks that just wouldn't liquefy, even when placed over a pot of hot water.
The thing is, those last bloody blobs didn't really seem frozen -- they weren't even cold -- but rather congealed. I thought about heating them a little more, but I didn't want the blood to cook before it was incorporated into the sausage mixture, so I tried a different approach and grabbed my immersion blender. I knew full well that this could be a terrible idea, ending in a very Carrie-esque look for myself and my kitchen walls, but luckily it worked out OK, and the blood liquefied quite quickly without incident.
I need a bigger sieve.
Fun fact about blood: It's really splashy, and I'm pretty sure I will be finding tiny red flecks around my kitchen until the end of time.
Colour my life with the chaos of pig's blood.
I then strained the blood into a big ol' bowl with the rest of the pudding mixture, following the above recipe from Bon Appetit. (Basically you just need blood, some suet, milk, oatmeal, onion and seasonings. I also added garlic, because I freaking love garlic.)
You want steel-cut oatmeal that looks like this.
Much like myself, this stuff is aggressively unphotogenic.
This article on blood sausages recommended a final internal temperature of 68-70C, so I set my Anova to 68C and greased up some jars. Given the fact that moisture can't evaporate during the sous-vide cooking process, I was a little worried by how liquidy the blood pudding mixture was, so I prepared two jars: One with a lot of blood and one with most of the blood drained away from the rest of the ingredients.
There's really no way to make this look good, kids.
The two jars didn't make a dent in my blood batter supply, so I also prepared a pan of the stuff to be cooked in the oven as a comparison. Even with that extra, baked batch of blood stuff, I still have what seems like a never-ending bowl of the raw mixture in my fridge. This job has some weird "perks". [Editor's note: Extra blood is a luxury.]
I mean, I guess there's a certain beauty to it?
Anyway. I put the jars in the bath and the foil-covered pan in the oven (set to 165C) and then tried to clean up the bloody mess.
I'm just making you live this nightmare with me at this point.
It took an hour and a half for the internal temperature of the pudding the jars to reach 68C, and an hour for the loaf in the oven to cook. After they were all done, I let them cool a bit on the counter before let them chill and firm up in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, I took the jars out and ran a thin knife around the edge to coax the pudding out of its glass enclosure. The more liquidy specimen immediately started to fall apart.
A loaf of sadness
It's drier brethren had a slightly easier time, but still wasn't what I'd call "firm".
Neither were sliceable.
I feel dirty.
The baked pudding on the other hand behaved exactly as it was supposed to.
Then it was fry time.
The sous-vide samples didn't do so great.
But the baked stuff did quite well, and crisped up very nicely on the edges just like it was supposed to.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
And now we must ask ourselves: Will black pudding sous vide?
The answer: Nope. Though there was no discernible difference in taste between the sous vide'd and baked samples -- they were fine, but I would add more salt and pepper to both, to be quite honest -- the texture of the jarred stuff was beyond wrong. Black pudding is already on the soft end of breakfast meats, and an extra moist cooking environment does it no favours. So, if you wish to treat yourself to a traditional Irish fry up, I would stick with baking your puddings, not matter the colour. Unless you like blood pâté, in which case I can't recommend this cooking method enough.