Making morcilla de cebolla



Morcilla is Spanish black pudding made with onions. In Spain the killing of a pig is called the “matanza”. The usual thing to do immediately after the pig has been killed is to make some “embutidos” (sausages). The most common Spanish sausages are normally morcilla, chorizo and butifarra. In this post we are talking about morcilla. When a pig is killed it is normal to sever the blood vessels in the neck to allow the blood to escape. The heart keeps beating for a few seconds and it is possible to to collect the blood in a bowl.
The first few minutes are important in the processing of the blood. A pinch of salt added to the container to be used for collecting the blood will help stop the blood coagulating. You then need to very gently stir and squeeze the blood with your fingers until the fibrin forms together into a mesh after about 15 minutes. If you squeeze out and discard this clump of fibrin mesh, the blood can be kept in a container overnight and it will still be completely liquid the next day.

One pig will produce about 4 litres of blood. In order to make the black pudding, it is necessary to prepare 100kg of onions – two and a half 40kg sacks’ worth – and that’s one hell of a lot of onions. Luckily the onions you use are very big, not too strongly flavoured and perfect for morcilla. cebollas2The onions are peeled and then roughly chopped. It took about 4 hours to cook them once the cauldron had come to the boil. They needed to be stirred from time to time to stop them sticking to the bottom. cebollas1Once the onions are quite tender, they are put back into the sacks and drained overnight on racks with boards on top to get rid of any excess water. By the next day, they have changed colour completely and turned a dirty brown colour.

Now the fun begins.

The onions are finely chopped in a food processor. The first time we used the Magimix but were slowed down by having to stop and empty it after each batch so for the second one we used the coarse mincing blade on the Kenwood Chef. This was perfect and as you could leave it running, it didn’t take nearly as long.

The chopped onions are put back into the empty cauldron and then the other ingredients are added.

morcilla1 large loaf of bread “pan de hogaza”, thickly sliced
3 handfuls of cloves of garlic, peeled
2 plates of shelled almonds
1 string of dried red peppers

To prepare the ingredients for the morcilla, heat some oil in a large frying pan and then fry the slices of bread in batches until golden. Leave to cool and then break into pieces. Fry the red peppers in the same pan, cool and then tear into pieces. Fry the almonds in some oil in another frying pan. Remove to a plate and then fry the cloves of garlic.

Mince all of these cooked ingredients into the cauldron.

To buy the spices you need, you can assemble them yourself but it is by far easier to go to a specialised shop – a Casa de las Matanzas. There is one in the San Agustín market in Granada. All you need to do is tell them how many pigs you are killing and they will prepare the spices for you depending on whether you want to make morcilla or chorizo. A typical, traditional morcilla de cebolla spice mix includes oregano, aniseed, cinnamon, spicy paprika (or sweet paprika depending on what type you want to make), black pepper and cloves.

spicesYou then add the blood and mix well:

morcilla1For making morcilla, it’s best to use beef casing. These are stronger than the thinner hog  or sheep ones. Fill a bowl with cold water and squeeze some lemon juice in, adding the halves of lemon as well. Soak the casings until they are nice and soft and separate them out from each other. Run tap water through them. Cut into pieces and tie one end with a piece of cotton string. Hang each piece of casing over the side of the bowl so they can be easily picked up later.

The traditional embutidora or sausage filler is used to fill the black puddings.morcilla2

Each one is tied off at the other end …

morcilla2… and then pricked all the way through about 7 times with a thick needle so that they don’t burst or float when they are cooked:


They are then cooked in boiling water for 5 minutes. Again the cauldron was used and the morcilla were placed in the boiling water with their strings towards the outside of the pan so that they were easier to fish out. Each morcilla was then hung on a pole. They need to be dried for 24 hours before being put into the freezer and but can then be left to dry in a cool place for a couple of months until they are totally dry. This is a photo of them having dried for a day or two:


Getting some pigs

This is a photo of our pig

Sarah and I decided to get a pig. The idea is to buy it now (August) at around 60kg and slaughter it at around 120kg in December. We will keep it in the neighbour’s sty with another pig belonging to the neighbour and split the costs. The first step is to go to a pig farm to buy a pig.
You don’t need precise instructions to get to the pig farm because you can smell it from about 2km away. On arrival at the farm we had to wait a while to be attended because they were loading a lorry which was on the way to a slaughter house. Pigs eye’s are similar to human eyes and they look as if they know that they are going to their death. I asked myself if  I should  become a vegetarian? Later we go to the pens to choose a pig. The pigs are kept in crowded pens, there is no straw, the excrement goes through holes in the floor. The accommodation for the pigs is not very pleasant but it is within the law and must be quite typical of how pigs are looked after on commercial farms. I realise that by buying a pig and looking after it ourselves we can at least make sure that 2 pigs have a more pleasant life than they would have had if they had stayed where they were.

The only pig who has good accommodation on the farm is the father of all the pigs. He weighs 400kg and has testicles the size of melons.

Pigs at the pig farm

The pigs were a bit dazed and confused when they arrived at the cortijo but they managed to walk to the sty with no problem. Sarah chose the one with the spots.

Pigs walking to the sty

This is the pigs a couple of days after arrival. Here they are tucking into apple cores and small potatoes which supplements their diet of proprietary pig food. Pigs seem to enjoy
eating, at least they are going to be enjoying themselves between now and December.


Pigs eating apple cores