Boudin rouge is a rare find in the Cajun country of Louisiana

When visiting the woods of Louisiana’s Cajun country, hiking in a state park, or just visiting a friend’s or family’s old farmhouse, you may come across a grizzled oak tree with rusty hooks sticking out of it.

This is a sign that the site was used for a boucherie – the tradition of a community coming together to slaughter and harvest locally raised pigs. In the days before industrial meatpacking, an entire town or just members of a family were invited to join in and help break down the entire hog into edible cuts of meat.

The pig was hoisted on hooks by its hind legs, then its throat was slit to drain the blood into a pot on the ground below.

This was true nose-to-tail cooking: every part of the pig was then butchered and used to prepare the pork-based delicacies we know and love from Cajun cooking: boudin and andouille sausage, stuffed pork chops and trotters (feet), as well as crispy fried pig ears and cracklins.

More obscure dishes from this tradition still exist today. For example, there is “ponce” or “chaudin” in which a pig’s stomach is stuffed with sausage stuffing and other spices and meats, smoked and cooked, and then cut into pieces like a terrine.

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T-Jim’s Grocery and Market

928 Dr HJ Kaufman Ave., Cottonport, LA 71327318-876-2351 Open 7:30am to 6pm, Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 6pm. Saturday at 4pm, Sunday closed.

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However, one of the rarest and most prized dishes of the Cajun past is boudin rouge, or blood boudin, a sausage made from various cuts of pork, rice, seasonings, and fresh pork blood. The sausage is steamed or smoked to cook it. Nowadays Boudin rouge is available in only a handful of Cajun meat markets throughout Louisiana.

The rarity of boudin rouge can be attributed to several factors. First, it’s an acquired taste; the pig’s blood gives it an earthy, metallic flavor. And there’s an innate stigma about eating food made from animal blood. Finally, the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates the meatpacking industry, is clearly not a big fan of using blood as an ingredient in cooking.

That said, blood is still a widely used ingredient both here and abroad. Spanish morcilla sausage, British black pudding, and the “blood curd” found in dishes such as Vietnamese Bún bò Huế are widely available.

Still, boudin rouge is something of a holy grail for Cajun food connoisseurs looking for a taste of long-lost traditions.

One of the few places that still makes and serves boudin rouge is T-Jim’s Grocery and Market in Cottonport, in the deepest heart of old Cajun country.

At first glance, not much has changed in Cottonport since it was founded in the mid-1800s as a gateway for cotton that was shipped up the local bayous to the Mississippi River and on to New Orleans. Although the cotton industry has mostly disappeared, agriculture still plays a large part in the local economy.

And that includes raising and harvesting pigs. T-Jim’s is a throwback Cajun meat market offering a variety of fresh cuts of pork. But it’s most famous for one of the few remaining outlets for homemade boudin rouge in Louisiana. It is served both steamed and smoked.

Smoked boudin rouge is one of the most unique flavors I’ve tasted in my travels around the country sampling smoked meats and grilled dishes. The combination of the post oak smoke with the metallic earthiness of the boudin is unforgettable.

Sadly, on a recent visit, they only had the steamed version available. I ordered a link of boudin rouge at the counter and took it to a picnic table in the town square across the street, steeped in Cajun country lore.

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