There’s no blood in a white pudding

IT IS years since I had a white pudding. It is a very regional dish: think black pudding without the blood and you have more or less got it.

The Irish have a fancy for it, very often alongside black pudding which makes their breakfasts the Very Full Irish. In fact the best breakfast I have ever had was on the train heading south from Dublin with puddings of both colours and the tastiest sausages I have encountered.

When I worked on a Sunday paper in Devon white pudding, or hogs pudding, was always in the shops but I lost sight of it coming north. Now I’ve found it, or at least the Irish version (made in Lancashire), on sale at Dearne Farm Foods’ stall on the Moor Market.

As I understand it white pudding may or may not contain meat alongside the fat , oatmeal and spices. This pudding was made with quite a bit of pork as well as finely chopped bacon but seemed low on oats. It did have a rainbow of herbs and spices: white pepper, pimento, ginger and cinnamon along with rosemary, sage and thyme.

When I cooked it in the pan, simply by slicing and frying, I found it meatier than I expected and less oaty than I would have liked. But it was enjoyable . Think polony (which the stall also sells) but with a firmer texture.

Unlike most black puddings, there weren’t any little nuggests of chopped back fat but this would certainly go well in a ‘poor man’s fry up’ as the only porky contribution.

The stall has been selling it in 200g ‘stubs,’ as the plastic-wrapped sausages are called, for the last four years. “The Irish buy a lot of it,” the butcher told me.

The Scots have their own version, mainly oats, suet and beef, which sounds closer to the Devon hogs pudding I recall, although that didn’t have beef in it. There are even versions of white pudding which contain dried fruit, a recipe which goes back to medieval times.

This white pudding is made by the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company and he also sells their award-winning black pudding. I bought some of that as well. Also on sale are stubs of polony, once a famous Sheffield delicacy but now fallen from grace, from Potters of Barnsley. Polony is still favoured in South Yorkshire funeral teas for the elderly and by anglers as bait.

I intend to have both black and white pudding, along with bacon and eggs, on Sunday mornings – a Very Full British Breakfast!

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Why I’m in hock to the pig

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Pork hock rillettes

SOME THINGS are such a bargain it should be a criminal offence not to buy them. So it is with me and pork hocks. They are the cheap-as-chips joint that just keeps on giving. And when I saw them for sale at Roney’s the butchers on Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield, at £2.99 for one, a fiver for two, I knew just what I was going to do with them. I ought to say you can get them even cheaper on the market.

  • After boiling for three hours or more, the best of the meat would give me pork rillettes, a sort of halfway house to a full-on terrine (I would have needed two hocks for that).
  • The broth the cooking water had become would give me the base for soups.
  • The skin, gently cooked in a frying pan on the lowest of lights for two or so hours would give me crisp, tasty pork scratchings (and the resultant fat saved for frying or roasting).
  • Meat not soft or good enough for rillettes would be sliced fine for a Chinese stir-fry.
  • And the bone, stripped of any surplus fat but not the gristle, would add flavour to a pot of soaked, dried beans I was cooking up for the freezer and future chillies.

This goes up to eleven on the Frugality Scale of one to ten and ticks every box you can think of: economy, taste, versatility and that one about paying your respects to the animal by not wasting a single gobbet of goodness.

Here’s what I did. I put the hock in a pot with onions, carrots, celery, bay and herbs (no salt), bringing to the boil then simmering for three hours, or until it is beginning to fall off the bone. As it’s a salty joint you might want to bring to the boil, drain then start again with fresh water. I didn’t.

I took the hock out and allowed to cool overnight, also straining the cooking liquid and leaving it in the fridge. You can proceed while the meat is still warm but it takes a couple of hours before it stops burning your fingers.

The next day I cut off and reserved the skin. You will soon discover which is the best quality meat. You will have to scrape off the fat and cut away tendons. Now, using two forks, break up the meat into soft strips. (You can do a bit of fine knifework if this gets too tedious).

Put the meat into a bowl. Season. Add two tablespoons of good cider or white wine vinegar, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, herbs of your choice, finely chopped gherkin/olives/caper berries and anything else that takes your fancy. Now get out the cooking liquid which will have jellied and scrape off some of the fat which has settled on top. Mix it in with the meat. It’s optional but a little bit of fat adds to the texture and ‘mouthfeel.’

Pack tightly into ramekin. One hock filled two ramekins. Now take a ladleful of that jellied stock, gently reheat it and pour it over the meat in the ramekins until it reaches the surface. Allow to cool when it will jelly back up again.

This is almost a terrine but isn’t and tastes great on toast or with a salad and freezes well.

Meanwhile cut up the skin, fat and all, into one or two inch squares, heat a heavy frying pan on a low light and leave until you have beautiful scratchings. Drain off the fat for later use.

The stock can also be frozen. You will probably want to dilute it 50-50. I used some of the leftover meat, finely diced, to make a meat and veg soup. The rest went in the freezer. The fat went on to baste a stuffed pork fillet for Sunday lunch.

The rest of the meat added to a stir-fry and the bones went in my beans.

I could, of course, have roasted the joint. It would have been a rather rugged meal but would still have been a tasty treat.