Making morcilla at home – nearly there…

As I said in this post, my plan is to make morcilla – Spanish black pudding. The reason for this is that back fat, required for conventional black pudding, is unavailable at the retail level, and some variants of morcilla don’t use back fat.

I’ve decided to go with the Castillian version, Morcilla de Burgos, made with rice and onions, fried in lard until soft but not browned, and flavoured with smoked paprika (though in my case that’ll be sweet paprika, as I can’t abide the smoked version except in tiny amounts). Sod’s Law, though – during my Sunday battle with the zombies at Sainsbury’s (if these people drive the way they wander around the store, it’s a miracle they survive!), I forgot to buy lard, but I have a jar of the stuff I rendered myself, which should be fine – a couple of years old, but under a layer of oil, in a tightly close jar, it should still be sound.

On the plus side, the auto-checkout malfunctioned, and I got a free pack of onions! Often, if you have multiples of one item, it’ll scan the first item, but not the second; the third will scan without difficulty. This has been a –problem at Sainsbury’s since they were installed, and if they can’t be arsed fixing it, it’s their problem. Anyway, the normal checkouts give you vouchers for the difference if your shopping costs more than it would at Tesco (or somewhere), redeemable next time. If, however, you use the auto checkout next time to avoid queuing, there is no way to redeem your voucher, which means that Sainsbury’s have made quite a bit out of me over the past year, so gypping them out of a pack of onions won’t cost me any sleep at all!

The first thing to do is source dried pigs’ blood, and several websites specialising in sausage-making equipment and ingredients stock it – I got mine here, £3.50 per kilo.

It comes in plastic bags, and if, as I do, you want to store it in something more robust, a 5 litre clip-lock plastic food storage box (Sainsbury’s, £6.50), will hold exactly 2 kilos of dried blood (blood does not “pack down” or settle like, say, flour or sugar do – what you see is what you get).

I bought too much blood, but it should freeze OK. It’s mixed at the ratio of 1 part blood to 2.3 parts water (information that would actually be useful on the website), so 100g of blood will take 230g of water, for example.

I always weigh liquids as measuring jugs are mostly inaccurate – it also ensures that if my scales are off at all, the same error is applied to liquids as well as dry ingredients, so the proportions remain the same. For all practical purposes, in the kitchen, 1g = 1ml for all fluids. That’s 100% true for water and skimmed/semi-skimmed milk, and the minute differences in oil or whole milk matter not at all.

Dried blood is, apparently, hard to rehydrate, so I suggest using water that is blood heat (i.e. it feels neither warm nor cold when you stick your hand in it – or use a thermometer), plus an electric mixer if available, or maybe a blender, using the lowest speed – you don’t want it frothy. And if you make too much, pour the surplus into a food bag and freeze it – label it clearly, you don’t want anyone mistaking it for soup. By the way, when mixed with the rice. onions, etc, you just want them well moistened, not swimming in blood (too much blood and the solids will sink).

The rice I’m using is paella rice. Nothing fancy, the basic stuff is fine. By the way, the Tapas Lunch Company has by far the best prices for Spanish ingredients, especially the basics like rice and beans. They sell Spanish panceta by the piece, Correction, that panceta comes from Delicioso (very useful, and not that easy to come by – nor is the Italian version, pancetta, for that matter); it’s cured with paprika, but as there’s a good chance you’ll be using it too, that won’t matter. They also sell several types of morcilla, including Morcilla de Burgos, if you don’t fancy making your own, as well as packs of meat for Fabada de Asturiana (chorizo, Morcilla and panceta).

Oh yes, and the cheap (but rather good), stainless steel casserole I bought (mentioned here ), has proven to be excellent. This is the one, at Amazon. It’s 20cm in diameter, which perfectly fits my cooker’s larger rings, holds 3 litres (a good, versatile, size and cost £17.73 – half the price of anything comparable). Also, and this is unadvertised, while the body is rather thin, but mirror-polished, stainless steel, the base, as figured out by testing with a magnet, is laminated with aluminium and capped with induction-friendly 18/10 stainless steel, the result being that it cooks like a dream, and nothing sticks. Not sure how well it would behave in the over (plastic handles), but that’s not what I want it for, so it doesn’t matter.

Yesterday I cooked pigs’ liver in a herby tomato sauce (pigs’ liver lends itself to long, slow, cooking , unlike lambs’ which goes leathery), and I also added one of my own pork and cider sausages by way of an experiment. I wanted to see if it would cook properly or fall to pieces** – in the event, it cooked perfectly, which means I can use the artificial casings to make my own chorizo. It also adds another string to my bow for using the sausages in a bean casserole.

**Potentially possible as I don’t use chemical binders or emulsifiers – nothing but pork, salt and pepper,  and flavourings – in this case, sage and a little very good cider.

So, anyway, back to morcilla.

I want to make this in loaf tins, as many butchers do with normal black pudding, and I found a couple at the back of the cupboard, bought when I first started making bread by hand, and pensioned off almost immediately as they were too shallow (most loaf tins offered to amateurs are far too shallow – I use these – metal is a bit thin but they’re perfectly proportioned).

Anyway, after scrubbing them of accumulated dust, they’ll do nicely for morcilla. I had, initially, thought of buying mini loaf tins, Amazon have a selection, to make individual puddings, but slices will freezer better and take up less room – good for sarnies too.

So my first step is to cook the rice – online research suggests it has to be used cold. Then I need enough fried onion to match, roughly, the volume of rice – so I’ll start with double the volume in raw onion, which should cook down to the right amount, give or take – from what I’ve read, and seen on TV, precision isn’t an overwhelming consideration, the important thing is to take notes as I go, so it’s replicable if it works out, and I can correct any faults if it doesn’t.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m lucky in that I have an instinctive feel for this sort of thing.  I know – and I have no idea how this works – how ingredients will taste when combined, and I’m not really anticipating any problems.

Unlike sausage-making (though I now have an electric mincer), the amount of actual labour involved in morcilla is minimal – I just have to chop the onions. And I’m seriously considering putting everything off for a week and buying a food processor** – for the first time in years my fibro is playing up (right shoulder and neck seized up and very painful), and I doubt that chopping is what I need right now.

**Decided – gonna do it! Probably this one.

Mixing, of course, is pretty easy, at least for a small test batch – and watching it on TV (Rick Stein’s Spain series), there’s no substitute for getting your hands in it (with disposable gloves, of course), though for a bigger batch I’d be inclined to use my stand mixer, the one I use for bread.

So that’s as far as I’ve got for now, though the recipe previously published is the one I’m going with:-

250g paella rice, cooked until almost soft – not totally, so it will absorb liquid in the morcilla – and cooled

Sufficient finely chopped onion to roughly match the cooked volume of the rice (obviously this isn’t an exact science, as onions cook down dramatically, so I suggest double the volume of chopped raw onion for starters), fried until soft but not coloured.

50g Lard (a guess for now, until I know the actual amount of onion – all I know for sure is that it needs “plenty” of lard

2 tablespoons sweet paprika – or more depending on the final volume of rice and onions

1 teaspoon black pepper – you don’t want to dominate the paprika

1 teaspoon fine sea salt – remember, you can always add salt, you can’t take it out!

Sufficient rehydrated pigs’ blood to bind – a slightly wet, not quite runny, mix if using loaf tins, so the solids don’t settle out.

And that’s where I am for now. Normal service will be resumed, and morcilla made, as soon as my processor arrives or my fibro flare-up goes away, whichever is the sooner!