Sizzling start: 8 top black puddings

THERE was no shortage of black pudding on the shelves at the end of 2016 when I went shopping for this survey. We tasted just about all I could find in shops (not butchers) in Cork.

Sizzling start: 8 top black puddings

Many butchers make their own and I wouldn’t try to persuade anyone to change, but it’s good to keep an eye open for new products in markets and interesting food shops.

Overall, since our last survey in 2013, there was a marked improvement in the taste and texture of this useful ingredient.

If you have leftover pudding, pop in a bag and freeze it for another time.

A few cubes can make a difference to dull soups and stews, in a tomato sauce with rice or pasta or as a warm salad with seasonal vegetables.

Try it with roasted sweet potato or butternut squash on the side — the sweetness is a good foil for the spices.

A black pudding sandwiched with chutney is delicious.

I also add cubes to chopped steamed vegetables —carrots, parsnips, broccoli (add the latter last) in a pan with the lid on.

This time, I sought some depth and complexity in the flavouring, with spices not too harsh. I didn’t want gristle, and ideally no MSG nor excessive salt.

Whatever one you choose, a little goes a long way as there are saturated fats in all brands.

Rosscarbery Traditional Black Pudding 280g €2.80

50% pork, including dry cure bacon and 18% pig’s blood, pearl barley and pinhead oatmeal are the main ingredients here and the balance is just right.

All tasters agreed this had the meatiest taste with interesting, subtle spicing – a satisfying bite with a decent amount of pork from a consistently good West Cork producer. Gluten free available too (€3.10). SuperValu and independents.

Score: 9.5

McCarthy’s of Kanturk Pudding 290g €2.18

Bacon trim, spices, seasoning, rusk, blood, oatmeal, water, onion and pearl barley are used well here to make a creamy, smooth style of pudding which I liked more than some tasters who found it a bit too dense.

The understated spices and subtle flavour were enjoyed by all tasters. Delicious spread on buttered toast like a paté. SuperValu and independents.

Score: 8.75

O’Herlihy’s Black Pudding 300g €2.19

A delicious, meaty flavour here, from beef, bacon and pork trims mixed with oatflakes and pearl barley.

A texture, which is neither dense nor loose, and well-balanced spices, resulted in a satisfying pudding which is made in Cork. In Dunnes, Supervalu, Centra and independent shops.

Score: 8.75

Kelly’s of Newport Wild Atlantic Black Pudding 280g €2.50

Bacon, pearl barley, oatmeal, beef fat, onion, dried beef haemoglobin (a constituent of blood), oat flakes, rusk, lamb and fat are mixed with five types of organic seaweed which sound quite healthy.

Given the ingredients, it’s surprising to see MSG listed. Tasters liked the flavour, though could not identify the seaweed. The consensus was that the flavour was not very meaty, but not over spiced either.

Score: 7.75

Clonakilty Black Pudding 280g

A huge favourite of many pudding lovers, the label lists oatmeal, onions, beef fat, beef blood powder, salt, potato starch, natural spices and salt.

Unfortunately, our tasters found gristle in many of the thick slices, but otherwise they liked the nicely nutty, slightly oily texture and the well balanced, spicy flavour.

Score: 7.75

Tesco Finest Black Pudding 300g €1.29

A spicy pudding with a pleasingly chunky texture was the opinion of most tasters who liked this pudding. Beef fat, oats, bacon trim and pork blood make a chunky texture with quite a spicy finish.

Score: 7

O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausage Company 300g €2.50

Pork, pinhead oatmeal, flour, dried blood and onion blended well here with quite aggressive spicing, which most tasters liked. English Market Cork.

Score: 7

Truly Irish Traditional Back Pudding 300g €1.79

The best of the most widely available supermarket brands, pork is blended with pork fat, pearl barley, beef blood powder and lots of oats. It is none the worse for that amount of oats which lightened the texture.

Quite a meaty taste, with well-balanced spicing which tasters liked. While not a favourite of any taster, they would still be happy to eat more.

Score: 6.75

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