Boudin ("boo-dan") is a French word for sausage, probably cognate with the English word "pudding" — which becomes less weird when you remember that the original English puddings were a mess of suet and flour wrapped in cloth and boiled. In Louisiana, the term became specific to Cajun sausages using rice as a filler. Boudin rouge is made of pig's blood, because when you're a poor Cajun farmer you're not going to waste all that protein and iron rich stuff. Boudin blanc leaves out the blood (and just to maximize confusion, there's a French sausage called boudin blanc which is a blend of pork and veal). I've been meaning to make boudin at home, and this past week I finally decided to tackle the project.
I chose boudin blanc because I don't know where I could get pig's blood around here and didn't feel like waiting for prom night at the local high school. It does call for pork liver, which doesn't show up often at my local supermarkets but is available at a specialty meats store down in Chicopee. So, equipped with a pound of pork liver and two pounds of "boneless country-style ribs" (i.e. pork loin strips) I got started.
Since I didn't want to work with hot ingredients, I braised the pork a day in advance with bay leaf and salt until the meat was falling apart. This also gave me a pot full of pork stock, which I kept handy.
Then on the Big Day I sauteed my pork liver in the bacon drippings from that morning's breakfast (because there is no dish which can't be improved with some bacon fat) and cooked a cup of rice. I combined the liver, cooked pork, an onion, and some garlic in the Cuisinart and chopped it all into coarse shreds. Then I mixed all that with the stock (it was actually more of a jelly after being in the fridge overnight), spices, a bunch of chopped green onion, and the rice. Now I had a big bowl of boudin stuffing, ready to turn into sausage!
I have a hand-cranked meat grinder/sausage maker, and so I began to set it up, thinking proudly that the hard part was done. That's when I discovered the big flaw in my whole plan.
Boudin is not one of your finely-ground sausages. The filling has recognizable grains of rice and bits of onion in it. So I didn't want to push my filling through my meat grinder again because that would turn it all into paste. But when I tried to set up the grinder without the blade and screen assembly I realized that those components anchor the auger device, which pushes the filling through the blade into the sausage casing. Without the blade and screen, the auger just rattles around ineffectually within the barrel of the grinder.
So I had to stuff my sausage by hand. I bunched up the casing on the bottom of a funnel and started stuffing. Instead of a hand-cranked auger using mechanical advantage to speed the job along, it was just my finger, packing stuffing into the casings one cubic inch at a time. Over and over again, for the better part of an hour.
I got two casings filled, stuck the bowl of stuffing in the fridge, and steamed what I had made for dinner. Verdict: delicious. Next time I think I will increase the proportion of rice to meat. The recipe I used had a roughly 4:1 ratio, and as a result the rice sort of disappeared into the mass of pork.
After dinner I had a little sit-down, then cracked my knuckles and went back to stuffing boudin. It took me another hour to use up the rest of the filling, and by the end my finger was very stiff and wrinkly. But I had a couple of pounds of genuine home-made boudin to store in the freezer, so overall it was a success.
• I can make pretty good boudin!
• Next time I do this I'm going to find a mechanical stuffer.
• When you are stuffing pork liver into sausage casings by hand, your dog will sit at your feet and watch for an hour, just for the chance to lick your hand when the job is done (she also got the empty bowl).