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Boudin noir is a traditional French sausage made with pork, fried onions, fat, and blood. Belgian, Catalan, and Cajun cuisine also features this sausage, and variations on this dish are eaten in many cultures. Blood sausage or black pudding, for example, are eaten in Great Britain and Ireland, and the German variation of this dish is known as blutwurst. Culinary historians have found recipes for recognizable versions of this dish that date back well over 2,000 years.
By tradition, boudin noir is a fresh sausage. When families slaughtered pigs, making blood sausage was one way to ensure that every part of the pig was used and the sausage was often eaten on the same day of the slaughter by members of the family and the slaughtering crew. The dish is a staple of French charcuterie, the French culinary tradition that revolves around making cooked and cured meats, and is made fresh every day in some butcher shops.
More modern takes on the boudin noir have included sausages that are smoked or cooked and then canned so that they can be eaten at any time. Grocery stores sometimes carry these forms when they do not have fresh charcuterie, especially if they stock other staples of French cuisine. It is also possible to order fresh sausages through some meat suppliers.
The filling of the sausage is customized by the individual cook. Cooks simmer onions in cubes of fat, stir in ground pork, and add blood that has been continuously stirred to prevent clotting. The filling is poured, rather than forced, into sausage casings that may be left as long tubes or twisted to create links. Once the sausage has set, it can be steamed, fried, or otherwise prepared by the cook. It is common for boudin noir to be heavily spiced during its preparation and there are regional spicing preferences. As a result, sausages from different locations can taste quite different.
A common way to serve boudin noir is fried with potato and apple slices, although there are many variations. The flavor of the sausage is very complex, thanks to the blend of ingredients, and while some diners are put off by the thought of eating blood sausages, others have no such compunctions, making the sausage a delicacy in many regions of the world. People who are interested in trying boudin noir can try the offerings at a French restaurant or deli, or buy sausages at a butcher and bring them home to cook.