Sanguinaccio dolce is an Italian sweet blood pudding made from pigs blood, chocolate, nuts, dried fruits and spices. A historical recipe that dates back to the time when pig’s blood was considered, due to it’s nutritional value, almost sacred and deemed sacrilegious to waste even one drop. When my mother was growing up in a small town called Montemurro - Basilicata region of Italy, villagers slaughtered their reared pigs to make sausages and other by-products during the 'pig season'. Every part of the animal was used, and this included the fresh collected blood to turn into this rich sweet treat. This was a time of year when family and friends gathered together to lend a helping hand and in return would receive portions of the pig or later on the preserved produce to settle a debt or just simply to share around. It was very typical of country life, and still occurs in some towns today; and as the saying goes, 'it takes a village to eat a whole pig...' Nose to tail and everything within - offal, blood and bones are used in the cooking and nothing is wasted.
In some regions of Italy, sanguinaccio dolce is associated with il Carnevale (carnival holiday) that coincides with pig season, and prepared on the day before Ash Wednesday - Martedi Grasso, also known around the world as Fat Tuesday and Mardi` Gras. This Carnival holiday is also celebrated in Montemurro every year and the celebrations take place in a public parade around the streets of the town in which playful and imaginative masked characters come to life. The masks linked to this towns Carnevale relate to the 12 months of the year, where each person parading on horseback or cart is dressed in costume and recites a rhyme representative of that month and season. I was delighted to come across some videos of Montemurro in the 1960’s while researching this topic and surprised to spot my maternal grandparents amongst the crowd.
This short video about Montemurro, sums up the communal ritual of the pig festival. I must warn you though that the slaughtering of the animal may appear barbaric and offensive to some. Once you have past this scene, it moves into the making of sausages, and then the Carnevale festivities of the town.
I recall my grandmother telling us how she would help out and receive some lard for the cooking or skin to make crackling as well as pigs’ blood to make Sanguinaccio. Sometimes this was considered payment for my grandfather's services, being the towns shoe maker. Nonno Rocco appears in part 2 & 3 of these series of videos. Below are some photos that my uncle - Zio Filippo captured of my Nonno in his workshop and some of the locals of the town.
Sanguinaccio alla maniera Lucana
Sanguinaccio dolce is a very rich sweet pudding with a slight salty and metallic undertone that comes from the blood. Served warm, it resembles a thick hot chocolate custard, and eaten with biscotti or savoiardi. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits and allowed to set, it is like a traditional thick pudding. Locals also use it as a filling within a crostata (tart). I still recall its distinctive taste however at the time I could not bring myself to eating more than a teaspoon full even though mamma made it with lots of chocolate to disguise the idea of the main ingredient. She would sometimes make a version of this pudding for us minus the blood and substituted it with cornflour to thicken the chocolate.
Although many won't be attempting this recipe, for the obvious reason that it requires fresh pigs blood and since 1992 the sale of pigs blood to the public has been banned, it is worth noting the process. In rural communities where they rear and slaughter their pigs, the Sanguinaccio making tradition still occurs. If you do manage to source some fresh blood from a pig and are willing to try it out, the recipe below will assist you in creating what many call a 'bloody' good desert.
1 lt fresh pigs blood
250 ml vin cotto
100 g grated dark chocolate or cocao
150 g honey
100 g raisins
150 g crushed walnuts or almonds
spices of choice 20 g each (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove)
1 grated orange peel
Cook the filtered blood in a terracotta pot over a gentle flame. Add the chocolate, honey, vin cotto, and other ingredients. Mix continuously with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined and the mixture thickens. When ready remove from the heat and place in serving bowls to set.
There are variations to this recipe. Some use milk instead of the vin cotto while others also add a dash of liqueur.