My path towards eating meat again, after ten years of vegetarianism, was not a subtle one. The summer it happened, blood sausage—amongst other delights like whole crucified goats, pig’s heads coated in clay and buried in underground fires, and giant purple octopuses—commonly appeared on the dinner table. I was in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers (ok, 20 minutes outside of Avignon, but I can’t drive!), and most of those strangers were chefs or restaurateurs or wine people or something like that. They were also all of either French or Argentine extraction. Not eating meat wasn’t really an option.
So it began. And some months after returning home, I began teaching myself to make sausages, with visions of a cave-esque corner in Bedstuy, all my own. There, I imagined, I would serve people the unfiltered natural white wines I had also just discovered, alongside chorizo or kielbasa or merguez—depending on my mood.
This is course, has yet to happen, but Dinner Again did. A dinner series, more or less dedicated the wine-bar menus and wine lists I dreamed of, and the sausages I conceptualized as the staple for it all.
Sausage is a funny food, in all its iterations, and it carries with it an air of the industrious. Almost always, it includes some medley of awful, which, along with all its regional specificities, seems to reflect its humble history. As far as I’m concerned, pouring blood into intestines takes the whole “make lemonade” idea to a whole new level.
Until two weeks ago, I’d never done it. But having learned a little about cider this Summer, I set out to make the Spaniard’s Morcilla. I found myself imagining plopping plump little bright red links fragrant with cloves and steaming bamba rice into boiling cider. Wanting to serve them up with apples poached in the broth of a duck once stuffed with guanciale. Make sourdough with just a whisper of star anise.
In reality, my first five loaves of sourdough failed, I bought four takeout containers of rice from the Chinese takeout downstairs, and I found myself standing in my kitchen for three hours, funneling blood through a makeshift plastic water bottle cut in half. In the end, it worked out, and I’m sure Saturday will go smoother. That’s what practice is for, I suppose.
Morcilla is not at all for the faint of heart, and depending where exactly you are in Spain it varies greatly. Mine borrows from Burgos, in the North, with its penchant for rice and duck fat, but then moves to La Rioja where warming spices like cloves are more frequent additions. It also leans on some pork belly, so it is bound with blood, rather than being solely that. Trying to ease people in.
Borrowing again, from Asturias, where Fabada reigns, and is typically served with cider, I plan to open a few bottles at the start of the meal. A dear friend I met this Summer, who makes cider in Wales, was kind enough to bring me a few bottles. I didn’t want to waste them in the boiling process, and am planning now instead, to boil the sausages in some good unfiltered apple juice.