Southern Foodways: Boudin
Southern Foodways appears on Fridays as part of our collaboration with the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization based in Oxford, Mississippi, that "documents and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South." Dig in!
Chances are, if you don’t happen to live in or around Louisiana you might never have heard of boudin. If you do know about it but don’t live anywhere near where it’s made, you likely got your first taste of boudin courtesy of Calvin Trillin through his essay, "The Missing Links: In Praise of the Cajun Foodstuff That Doesn’t Get Around."
Since boudin is so good, why is it such a secret? Trillin posits a possible answer, “I figure that about 80 percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most of the rest is polished off in the car. In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state; it usually doesn’t even get home.”
Another possible answer—boudin is a by-product of hog killing. The stuff a commercial slaughterhouse might discard or sell for animal feed, the boudin enthusiast saves and uses. And, he uses it well. Boudin is made from the parts of the hog that can’t be preserved—liver, hog jaw, belly, heart, kidney, and, sometimes, blood. All the good stuff is ground and mixed with rice, green parsley, green onions, onions, and other secret spices then squeezed into a sausage casing.
Bob Carriker is a history professor, SFA member, and boudin-lover. He is also co-creator of BoudinLink.com, a comprehensive taste guide to boudin in south Louisiana. In his introduction to The Southern Boudin Trail he provides a brief history of the origins of boudin making:
Although the archival record may never reveal the precise origin of Louisiana’s boudin sausage, we do know that it traces its culinary lineage, like the Cajun people trace their ancestry, back to France. The French have a sausage called “boudin blanc” (white boudin) which is similar to Cajun boudin almost solely through its nomenclature; for French boudin blanc is a highly perishable sausage made with pork, chicken, and/or veal mixed with milk, cognac, and spices. While this is certainly a delightful treat, it bears no resemblance to the link you will sink your teeth into in Louisiana. When the French Acadian’s (today’s Cajuns) made their way out of Nova Scotia, after having been expelled by the British in 1755, they adapted their traditions and culture to their new surroundings. Many made their way to the bayous, prairies, and backwoods of Louisiana where life required ingenuity, flexibility, and creativity. So, when they set out to make use of a freshly butchered hog, and to make good use of every single part of that animal, it was not much of a stretch for them to add some rice (as filler and flavor) to the “leftover” pork, mix it with the seasonings at hand, shove it into the intestines and call it what they had always called such a sausage: boudin. Today in places like St. Martinville, at La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns ( the hog butchering) held the Sunday before Mardi Gras, the age old practice of making boudin is embraced and the custom and community spirit continues to be passed from one generation to the next.
Enough talking, let’s eat! Looking for fine boudin made in the traditional style? Look no further than John Saucier of Saucier’s Sausage Kitchen.
Born in 1941, John Saucier grew up on a farm in Plaisance, Louisiana. He learned the Cajun boucherie tradition of slaughtering hogs, how to preserve meat, and how to tend a garden. He carried these lessons into his adult life. Even when working as a custodian, supporting a family of his own in Mamou, Louisiana, he raised his own food. When John retired, he decided to keep busy by selling the things he’d always made for his family: smoked sausage, tasso, cracklins, and boudin. John is of the old school: he doesn’t believe that boudin is boudin unless it’s made the traditional way, using more than just liver and rice. To make it properly, he says, “You’ve got to put the right things in it.” And all of those things—hog jaw, belly, heart, kidney, liver—get stuffed into the casings at Saucier’s Sausage Kitchen. Locals look to John for old-style Cajun specialties. For him, the tradition is as important as the taste.
Traditional boudin old hat for you? Or maybe, you like to live on the edge of what the FDA will approve. Try boudin rouge—red/blood boudin, made with copious quantities of coagulated swine brine. It’s hard to come by these days because most recipes fail to meet modern health codes, but you can still find it at places like Babineaux’s Meat Market.
Either way, as the weather turns cold, nothing warms like a spicy link of boudin. To find some near you and learn more about boudin-making and makers, visit southernboudintrail.com.
Saucier’s Sausage Kitchen
Address: 2064 Saucier Road, Mamou LA 70554
Babineaux’s Meat Market
Address: 1019 Babineaux Road, Breaux Bridge LA 70517