Every so often, on my trudge to work in the half light, I remember to look up. The looming panorama of Pyrenees never fails to give a little surge of pleasure which sits giddily with my early morning grumpiness. Sometimes I remember that I mustn’t miss the view of the Pic du Midi just around the corner only to forget by the time I get there – perhaps put off by a cunningly-placed poodle poo. Bof! Never mind. It’s Boudin Noir day today!
Making black pudding is brilliant. A gruesome, stinky celebration of the art, perfected over generations, of turning something unpleasant into pure gold. There are myriad variations of the blood sausage, and the version from the Béarn is a different beast to neat horseshoes of Bury breakfast pudding. Ours is bulging with meat and ugly as a badger’s bottom.
I’ve eaten lungs several times, a mistake, generally - with the obvious exception of the heroic haggis - but they go in our black pudding, along with hearts and some blubbery necks. No doubt, the splendid application which has been devoted over the years to finding good use for every last scrap of pig is scant consolation to the individual involved for a pneumatic bullet in the brain. However, I am heartened by such miserly wastelessness. The meat is perfumed and padded out with hearty proportions of stock veg and generous seasoning, and the lot is hubbled and bubbled for hours before being chopped and mixed with a gallon or three of blood.
“Delightful,” you might be thinking. And you’d be right. It’s beautiful. Even raw. I haven’t mentioned the stinky bit yet. A pig’s colon is about as unpromising as it gets. It smells really bad. It has a double skin, the interior of which has had a lifetime of odour-eating and so is beyond the pale, even for the French. This fatty, fetid stocking must be painstakingly separated from the useful and tasty outer layer, before the sausage making can begin. Frankly, even the cleaned boyaus have some odour issues, and they are often full of annoying holes, but for me they are indispensible to the glorious end product that is Boudin Noir Béarnais.
Even cleaning up is fun. Think of the waves of blood in The Shining and you’re not far off the mark. Not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps – but I love it.