Bloempanch, as it is most commonly called, is a blood sausage that is also known by many other names. It is undeniably part of Brussels’ gastronomic heritage, and requires craftsmanship on the part of the butcher to produce. The word panch refers to the stomach of a ruminant, in this case, a cow. In addition, pigs’ blood, stewed onions, buckwheat flower and spekvetteerlingen (pieces of lard) are other ingredients. Some spices used include cinnamon, nutmeg and others. Following the traditional recipe, all of the ingredients are packed into a cow stomach into a sausage of about 15 cm in diameter. Previously, pig bladders could also be used.
Unlike thinner blood sausages made elsewhere, the bloempanch is very large and is eaten in thick slices, which are studded with cubes of pure, white fat. This is what gave the product is popular name in the Marollen area of Brussels, where it was once part of the everyday diet: bufsteik mi rooite (“beefsteak with squares”). Bloempanch is spicy in flavor and solid when cold, with an interesting texture due to the blocks of fat. Unlike other bloodsausages, when cooked, it retains its form, but with the fat cubes melting inside. It can traditionally be eaten hot or cold, served with a smear of mustard when cold and with applesauce or pureed potatoes when cooked.
Bloempanch has a long history in Belgium, and dates back to a time when all parts of the animal were used. When a pig was slaughtered, even the blood was important to be used as a source of food, and this sausage was one way to preserve it through the winter. At one time, it was almost a daily food of those who couldn’t afford meat, which gave another nickname to this product, of “steak of the poor.” Its legacy is seen in Marollen in the name given to one street, Abrikozenboomstraat, which now has a plaque labeling it Den Bloempanchgang (“Bloempanch Street”). According to a local legend, at one point a couple that lived at the top of this street included a butcher. When the couple would argue, the wife would swing the large sausage at her husband, who, if he ducked it time, would cause the thrown sausage to fly across the street.
Today, very few butchers still produce bloempanch. It is considered a “poor” food, and with higher standards of living since the 1940s, interest in this product declined drastically. To safeguard this tradition, the Order of the Bloempanch was founded, which for seventeen years helped to promote the traditional gastronomy of Brussels. But in late 2013, this group disbanded, and there are no specific efforts to promote this product today. Bloempanch risks falling into obscurity and becoming a part of culinary history if younger generations loose awareness of this product and cease to produce it.