Stornoway butcher seeks protection for Marag Dubh

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What's special about Marag Dubh, black pudding?

Black pudding from Stornoway – or marag dubh as it is named in Gaelic – is a common sight on Scottish menus these days. David Pollock caught up with moves to secure its status and identity.

Rather like a copyright scheme for local food, the European Protected Food Names system allows producers to ensure that only they can use a local designation for the foodstuffs which are synonymous with a region.

‘We’ve applied for what’s called Protected Geographical Indicator status,’ says Claire MacLeod, a manager with Stornoway family butcher Charles MacLeod, one of a group of four butchers on the Isle of Lewis town seeking PFN status for Stornoway black pudding. ‘It’s really to protect the identity of our product, because we use a specific recipe and method of production which links back to the crofting industry.’

Compared to other black puddings, boudins and morcillas, the marag dubh has a number of unique characteristics. While most black puddings use blood from pigs, the Stornoway version uses sheep’s, cow’s or pig’s blood – a throwback to the crofting heritage where all three animals were kept and recipes developed to ensure that every part of the animal was used. Rough Scottish oatmeal is used rather than barley or other cereals to soak up the blood, and beef suet is also a major constituent of the Hebridean recipe – with its low melting point it softens and lightens the texture of the pudding. The only other ingredients are onion, seasoning and water.

The Stornoway producers, all crofters themselves, use traditional family crofting recipes, and even today all dry ingredients are measured by ‘handfuls’, emphasising the experience, skills and judgment of the producers. ‘In the last twenty years black pudding has gone from being the poor man’s food to being an ingredient of choice for top chefs and a staple of specialist food retailers,’ comments MacLeod. She is hopeful that the results of the application will be through before the end of 2010

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