Monday, March 21, 2011

Blood Bread.

The simplest recipe in the world is for bread: take flour, water, and yeast; mix, leave, and bake. You can even avoid the nuisance of adding the yeast yourself, by ignoring the dough long enough that it picks up its own supply from the atmosphere. This simple formula gives us the basic, sustaining, staff of life. But how marvellous are the ways that we have learned to embellish this blank canvas over the millennia.

I thought I had seen all possible bread ideas, until I came across the following ‘health food’ recipe recently:

Blood Bread.
“Make as ordinary wheat bread, using about 20 per cent of uncoagulated blood from raw flesh, preferably beef. It is nutritious and anti-scorbutic.”
The Complete Bread, Cake, and Cracker Baker, J. Thompson Gill, (Chicago, 1881)

For those not forbidden by their religious beliefs to eat it, blood is highly nutritious; for those not held back by an apparently not uncommon repugnance, it is also pretty tasty. Culinary history includes a long litany of recipes specifying blood as an ingredient. Blood sausage (‘black pudding’) was a tradition at the annual harvest time pre-winter animal slaughter, and is still by many considered an essential component of a traditional British breakfast (whatever that is – but don’t get me on that topic.) Blood Pie was not unknown either, and it featured in a blog post some time ago. Another idea, suggested in a recipe from 1790, was that a pig be rubbed over with ‘a little rosin beat exceeding fine and its own blood …’ before it was put to be roasted.

Pig’s blood mixed with vinegar was supposedly the base for the infamous and maybe mythical melas zomos (‘black broth’) that supposedly gave the famous and apparently fearless Spartans of Ancient Greece their fighting edge (see the quotation below for a theory of why it might have worked.) And at the five-star end of the culinary spectrum, the blood of the hare is a key ingredient in the famous dish Lièvre a la Royale.

But blood in bread? Wouldn’t have thought of it in my wildest vampirest cooking dreams? What do the bread enthusiasts amongst you think?

P.S Blood is also an ingredient in ‘American Cutcheree Soup’ (1827)

Quotation for the Day.
“Now I do perceive why it is that Spartan soldiers encounter death so joyfully; dead men require no longer to eat; black broth is no longer a necessity.”
Supposedly said by ‘a certain native of Sybaris’ after he tasted the soup.


Marcheline said...

When I spent two weeks in Scotland, I had blood sausage quite often for breakfast. Loved to eat it, just glad I didn't have to make it!


carolina said...

I certainly am well aware that blood was used often in dishes of previous centuries. People obviously thought nothing of it. Personally, however, I say, "Ewwwwwww. Ick." :o)

Fay said...

I make all our own bread, mainly sourdough but also yeasted treats. I have used yoghurt, whey, wine, milk and pickle juice in some recipes in addition to the usual water. I can't easily lay my hands on uncoagulated blood from fresh beef flesh. 20% I assume of the liquid ingredients would be about 3 Australian tablespoons, so not too much. My concern would be how it would look in the loaf when cooked. The proteins might set a bit stringy.
Perhaps Next time I have some dough ready I will put some meat juices in with a bit and make a little bread roll to see how it looks and tastes. I'm a fan of black pudding so the thought is not totally repugnant. As long as it's cooked.

SharleneT said...

I grew up on blood pudding and blood sausage. We'd serve it with fried eel and German potatoes. Can't seem to get my current guests enthusiastic about it. But, at least, I've introduced them to beef heart, which still grosses some people out. I guess we've become to sanitized as to our food's origins. Too bad, there's some good stuff out there.

Hope all is well and that you're back in your own digs now with little loss. We seem to be jumping from one world tragedy to another. Come visit when you can.

The Old Foodie said...

Fascinating, isnt it? I would love to find another reference to this bread - or hear from someone who has made or tasted it

Fay said...

I found a link to blood bread from Finland. I don't know any Finnish people to ask though. Looks quite edible.
PS Gore alert.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Fay: interesting. I did a very little research myself, and it does seem to be real blood, re-liquefied, not (as some people have suggested) beef extract. Bit gruesome, isnt it?

Noam said...

There's a traditional pasta made in the Alps with pork blood:

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Noam - thanks for this, it seems like blood in recipes is far more widespread than I thought ( or used to be)

Magnus said...

In Sweden, and probably Finland, bread with blood as liquid is baked and can still be bought in ordinary supermarkets. It is called "Paltbröd".

It is eaten as bread in an open sandwich or dried. In supermarkets it is dried and frozened.

Dried paltbröd is placed in water and boiled and traditionally served with bechamel sauce and bacon or the thicker sliced Swedish variant. The tradition with bechamel sauce is from the mid 19th Century.

In an older cook book, Hjelpreda i Hushållningen För Unga Fruentimber by Kajsa Warg, from the middle of the 18th century paltbröd is described as "good for the servants".

June said...

Here's a picture of blood bread soup, and an article, in Swedish, with the recipe. My parents were Swedish-speaking Finlanders and we grew up eating this every Sat. night. The bread looks like chocolate cake but has a bland taste. When made into soup with salt pork, onions, and potatoes, it was a tasty meal.

and an article about it.. in Swedish... with the recipe..

Unknown said...

My grandmother grew up in Finland. She took us grandkids back to the old country and blood bread and blood bread soup was one of the things she had us eat!! It was made with fresh cow's blood that her brother's family slaughtered shortly after we arrived. We kids already "knew" about blood bread so she caught us by surprise by telling us our Aunt Ellen had made a chocolate cake for us but left out the sugar so we needed to put lingonberry preserves on it! A few bites into it and we figured out what it was!! Don't really remember what it tasted like but I do remember what the beef tongue tasted like that she served us as roast beef from the same cow!! My grandmother is now 95 years old and I just ordered her some lutefisk, lingonberry preserves, and some ginger cookies for Christmas. I came across your blood bread blogpost looking for a company where I can order some blood bread for her as well!!