Plate or Pass: Live sea urchin
But this is "Plate or Pass," and we do these things so you don't have to. Instead of backing away, we prepared a feast, complete with blood sausage, blood tongue, blood pancakes, and sanguinaccio dolce. And to be honest, Hot Dish readers, we almost lost it on this one.
Blood consumption is nothing new. On special occasions, the Maasai of Tanzania consume milk mixed with blood from living cows. In China, coagulated blood is chopped up and fried in a dish known as "blood tofu," and in a number of cultures around the world, blood is consumed as the star ingredient of black pudding, or blood sausage. The first known mention of blood pudding dates back to 800 BC, in Homer's "The Odyssey." Apparently, Homer's feelings about black sausage weren't too far from our own. He wrote, "When a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted." We're with you, Homer. Raw blood sausage is not our thing, though we've heard of some who gnaw on it like summer sausage.
But is blood actually good for you? It depends on who you ask. Earlier this year, the Nordic Food Lab of Copenhagen told The Independent that blood has similar properties to eggs when used in cooking and could be a viable alternative for the growing number of people with egg allergies. The Lab has been experimenting with using blood in place of egg whites in ice cream, cakes, meringues, and pancakes.
Blood also contains an abundance of iron, which can be toxic if you consume large amounts of it (and aren't a vampire bat). This hasn't stopped "real-life vampires" from feeding on their friends. It didn't stop us either (though we spared our friends the bloodletting).
We took a bite of the blood tongue and gagged, somehow still managing to force it down. It wasn't so much the flavor, but the fact that we could clearly make out the intricate contours of cow tongue, which also happened to be one of the chewiest things we'd ever encountered. The blood sausage was more manageable than blood tongue in its raw form, but it was nothing to throw a party about. It was a bit cold, mushy, and slightly salty.
We picked up another pound of blood sausage from Ingebretsen's for the sake of comparison. Ingebretsen's also makes their sausage in store, but theirs is darker, more rotund, and will cost you a few extra bucks. For the other two dishes, we bought three containers of pig's blood from United Noodle in Seward (which comes frozen and sells for $2 to $3 a pop), chocolate chips, flour, and lingonberry jam.
It was time to get bloody. We started by frying the two varieties of blood sausage in butter, cutting Ingebretsen's into half-inch chunks and Kramarczuk's into rounds. Ingebretsen's blood sausage turned black, but wasn't burnt, and the chunks held together much better than Kramarczuk's, which crumbled after a few minutes over the heat. (Though that was probably our fault; next time, if there is a next time, we'll cook the sausages whole.)
In terms of taste, we were partial to Kramarczuk's blood sausage, especially when the outside became crispy. It was easier to forget we were consuming copious amounts of beef blood with Kramarczuk's sausage, primarily because it didn't feel congealed and it tasted a bit like corned beef hash. Ingebretsen's sausage was softer and chewier, like the cold blood sausage we'd tried earlier. That mushy, congealed texture is our primary issue with blood, and seemed to follow us with every recipe. It was even present in blood pancakes, the next item on our list.
Blood pancakes, or blodplättar in Swedish and veriohukainen in Finnish, are exactly what they sound like. The recipe we used called for a cup of milk, a cup of pig's blood, one and a half cups of flour (rye flour is preferable), two tablespoons of molasses, a pinch of salt, and some marjoram. The wet pancake mix was a vibrant red, but quickly blackened when it hit the buttered frying pan. Blodplättar is traditionally served with lingonberry jam, so we picked up a jar at Ingebretsen's for $8 and spread a tablespoon on each cake. The combination reminded us of cranberry sauce on injera, with an added tinfoil aftertaste. If you're looking for an easy way to add pig blood to your diet, this is a good way to go.
For dessert, we prepared sanguinaccio dolce, a sweet pudding made with chocolate and pig's blood. The recipe we found called for a quarter cup of hazelnuts, a quarter cup of almonds, one cup of chocolate, one cup of milk, and one cup of pig's blood. Unfortunately, the mixture didn't harden as it was supposed to, and we ended up with something of a pig blood chocolate sauce. Still, it was good. Really good. Sanguinaccio dolce was the best tasting dish by far, and the pig's blood was only noticeable as a slightly metallic aftertaste. If we make it again, we'll skip the nuts and opt for cinnamon and sugar, as suggested by Emiko Davies.
As usual, we convinced a group of friends to try our gory concoctions. Here are their reactions to each dish.
"It tastes kind of like potatoes."
"Ooh, it's good on a cracker."
"I don't really like the texture."
Blood and tongue:
"It's just a chewy meat cube."
"Tastes like summer sausage."
*Gagging* *Spits into cup* "It tastes dead, dude. I'd rather drink a shot of blood. It's like a spongy, coagulated blood cube."
"It's very dense."
"I'm trying to figure out what this texture is. It's like mochi."
"I'm actually really into this pancake thing. Next time, maybe put some powdered sugar on it."
Verdict: When it's disguised in sweet foods, we'll consider it. Otherwise, not so much.