Proof of the Pudding

Clonakilty, County Cork

Photo of black pudding by Robyn Mackenzie

I once knew a waitress who worked in a hotel in Galway. Every morning, she’d ask the guests if they wanted a “full Irish” breakfast.

“What in that?” the American guests would ask.
“There’s bacon,” she told them. “And sausage, tomato, black pudding….”
“And what’s in the black pudding?”
“It’s delicious. You should try it.”
“But what’s in it?”
“Well… pork, oatmeal and, umm… blood.”
“Oh, gee.” They shuddered. “I’ll skip the black pudding then.”

Which is a shame.  Because black pudding of the right kind is damn delicious. And the best kind of black pudding comes from Clonakilty in County Cork.

You do not like them,
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say.
– Green Eggs and Ham, Dr Suess (1960)

The recipe for Clonakilty Black Pudding was created by Johanna O’Brien in the 1800s. She was a farmer’s wife, making a few extra bob by selling her eggs, butter, and other produce to Harrington’s Butchers. She passed the recipe to Phillip Harrington, who handed it down through his family.

When Edward Twomey took over the business in the 1970s, he found the process of making black pudding a chore and attempted to stop. Outrage ensued! People were travelling from all over Munster to get their black pudding; pensioners took the bus from Cork to stock up. He realised he was onto a good thing, and Clonakilty Black Pudding became the cornerstone of the new supply company, Carbery Meats. Soon they were winning awards and supplying produce to supermarkets in Ireland and worldwide. Johanna O’Brien’s recipe is still used, with its secret mix of spices known only to the Twomey family.

Black pudding itself has probably been eaten for a long time. Why would you waste a good (and tasty) source of nutrition? In the words of Fergus Henderson (author of Nose to Tail Eating), “If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing.” Traditionally part of a fried breakfast, black pudding is also yummy in a starter or salad, especially when paired with apple to counteract the saltiness. Other Europeans have their own versions: boudin noir (French), morcilla (Spanish), blutwurst (German), kaszanka (Polish).

In 2016, black pudding was proclaimed to be a “superfood”, but unfortunately this turned out to be a marketing hoax. It is high in iron and zinc (good for you) but also in saturated fat and salt (not). It’s best enjoyed in moderation, which means you should invest in the best. And didn’t I just tell you the best comes from Clonakilty?