By Beth Clark • October 22, 2018
We chose "Blood and Muffins" as October's theme because Halloween and harvest season are this month and we're all about using humor to make reading and books fun. Turns out, the joke is on us, because you can actually use blood IN muffins. As an egg replacement. (Gross, we know, but keep reading.) Their protein compositions, especially the albumin that gives them their anticoagulant properties, are similar enough that they behave almost identically.
Cooking with (animal!) blood has been part of what goes on in the kitchen for centuries, and only began to fall out of practice in the last few decades. Iron being the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide, anemia can have devastating consequences, and the bioavailability of the iron in blood has real therapeutic value. And many cultures believe in using all of the animal—blood and yucky bits included, leaving nothing to waste. We're not advocating a return to the old ways, but the science nerds in us were curious, so read on to learn what we discovered out about blood and other substitutes.
For those who learned how to cook directly from the previous generation(s), it's easy to forget how much legit science happens in the kitchen. Luck may also be involved, but essentially, cooking is a series of chemical changes and reactions that (hopefully) result in deliciousness. Of all the books written about kitchen science, cooking methods, and ingredients (including blood), the accuracy, clarity, and comprehensiveness of On Food and Cooking is #1 for foodies and chefs. Its unique approach to where foods come from, what they're made of, and how cooking transforms them pioneered the molecular gastronomy culinary movement. (Technical food science morphed with cook-friendly kitchen science to become culinary magic.) Plus, Harold McGee blends science with the historical evolution of foods and kitchen techniques in fun and fascinating ways that make for compelling reading that's hard to put down. #nerdsunite
Blood puddings, blood sausages, blood pancakes, and blood desserts are still prevalent in much of Europe and Asia, and the hard truth is that a pig who is slaughtered and turned into 8 oz. packages of Sunday Bacon yields a couple liters of it. Blood byproducts are already used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics (plasma and serum), fish food and fertilizer (dried blood), and to make imitation crab and bind cuts in hams (transglutaminase…but not in the EU).
Onto the science-y part: The similar protein compositions of blood and eggs and the albumin that gives both their anticoagulant properties does indeed make blood a viable replacement for eggs in foods like baked goods and ice cream. You can't quite pour it in straight #farmtotable style (!), but considering that egg allergies are the second most common in kids worldwide, the substitution potential makes for some interesting scientific research (including lab-tested recipes).
Animal blood has a long cultural and culinary history globally, so just to clarify, the blood we're talking about is that of animals (pigs) that are already being processed for consumption, not human (sorry vampires) or other blood, and we're not endorsing any practices that involve animal cruelty, unsanitary or unsafe situations, or questionably legal activities. Just sayin'.
On that note, bon appétit and happy reading – be sure to shop out the cookbooks and other reads mentioned above!