I love black pudding, so when I heard about a local producer winning a rather special award from the French for his fresh blood black pudding, I couldn’t help but find out more. What is Matt Cockin’s The Fruit Pig Company doing so well to win a coveted award from the French? I asked if I could pay him a visit and learn some secrets behind his success, and he was delighted to accept!
Matt Cockin sources his pigs from local farms and small holdings that he knows and trusts. I was lucky enough to visit one of the small holdings which is located just outside Wisbech (on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) and had a great time with the pigs and getting out in the fresh air!
Now, these pictures are pretty cute, so please do bear in mind that these lovely pigs live a great life and the reality is that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the demand of us meat-loving humans wanting to eat them. It’s also important to understand and appreciate that meat was once a live animal and we should all try to buy the best standard of meat we can afford, or perhaps cut down rather than buying lots of cheap, unethically reared meat.
The farm (or I should probably say small holding) owner loves his pigs, and you can tell that they live happy and fulfilling lives.
Matt really knows his pigs but has chosen to stick to what he does best with the butchery and charcuterie making – all the better for us I say!
Matt warned me that his unit probably wouldn’t live up to my expectations of a traditional wooden shack or cottage out in the country – instead I found a functional, spotlessly clean unit in a business park, which ticks all the boxes for what Matt needs to make his delicious black pudding, sausages and other meaty goods.
Most black pudding producers in the UK use dried blood to make their black puddings. It is rare to find a producer using fresh blood, which takes a lot more effort to do. Marc Frederic, a well respected British Charcutier, is an advocate of using fresh blood in black pudding. In fact, when Matt was experimenting with recipes he asked Marc for his opinion – Marc wouldn’t even taste a dried blood version!
So now it gets a little gruesome… but what did you expect from a post about blood pudding?! Matt has to be super quick to collect the blood from his slaughtered pigs – if he’s too late, the blood starts to coagulate and clot, like our own blood would. As soon as possible he must add the oats, so has a great system for doing this (no secrets given away here!) but he does have to get up ridiculously early to do it! It makes him realise why so many producers take the easy option and use dried blood!
By the time I reached the unit, the oats and blood had already been mixed, but the colour was still shockingly vibrant.
So, aside from the obviously good fresh blood, what were Matt’s secrets to the success of his award-winning black pudding? Unfortunately somethings have to be kept exactly that – secrets! Matt mixed his added ingredients before I arrived so I couldn’t tell what was in there – clever man! I did take a good snoop at all the ingredients on his shelves though…
Oatmeal is a key ingredient in their black puddings – as with all blood puddings there needs to be a binding agent, which is usually some kind of grain like barley or rice but in England oats are usually used.
Fat is also added to the black pudding, which Matt melts down to give an even consistency to the pudding.
The mixture is stuffed into black skins and then placed in a water oven to cook through. I didn’t know, but black pudding is actually cooked when you buy it, so all it needs is a warm through, and for me a little bit of crispness!
The Fruit Pig Company’s black pudding has a flavour and texture that is definitely worth the extra effort that Matt puts in. It almost has a creaminess to it, which adds to the rich, meaty flavour and crumbly texture.
Every year in the old French market town Morgagne-au-Perche, over 600 black puddings from across the globe are judged by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding. The festival runs over 3 days with the aim of uncovering the very best black puddings in the world. Matt did England proud by bringing back a silver medal – congratulations!
The Fruit Pig Company don’t only do black pudding… they also have a delicious range of flavoured sausages, bacon, meat joints and other charcuterie items too. I asked whether he was doing anything about the pulled pork trend – of course! Matt opened up an upright smoker and lo and behold shelves full of pork joints smoking ready to be sent out to chefs for pulled pork!
I think it’s important to support producers that make this kind of effort with their produce – The Fruit Pig Company work hard to produce a quality product and deserve our attention and custom. Luckily if you aren’t local enough to visit the Creake Abbey or Kings Lynn farmers markets then you can buy online from their online butchery.
If you are keen to find out more about black pudding, and the festival organised by the Knights of the Black Pudding, listen to the brilliant Radio 4 Food Programme on the subject.
If you’d like to see more pictures from my farm visit – take a look at my Flickr page.