From the Editor

To most of the rest of the world, pigskin is that object tossed and kicked about during football games. That’s true in Louisiana, too, but the term has another meaning, also associated with the fall and winter, for that is the season of the boucherie.

Many churches and schools in French Louisiana are endowed by money from their fairs. On Sunday mornings, lines form to purchase the roast pig dinners made from the carcasses that glowed on vertical pits the night before.

Among the specialty items made from the hogs, the two most popular seem to be cracklins and boudin. On paper a cracklin does not seem like something one would want to take to a spa. It consists of deep-fried pork fat with a hint of meat that is salted. When done right, though, there is a sweetness and crunchiness that cannot be denied.    

There are two types of boudin: the red and the white. The former is the so-called blood sausage, and that is a discussion in itself. There are blood dishes throughout the world, including the English’s blood pudding, but they are not for the squeamish.

White boudin is another matter. Pork, spices and rice are mixed together and stuffed into a sausage casing. Though it is an ancient food, boudin is thoroughly modern in that in can be frozen and then microwaved. Service hint: Be sure to prick holes into the casing before heating; otherwise you might have a boudin bomb in your oven.

An aunt in Avoyelles Parish traditionally gives me a pack of boudin for Christmas. It is a wonderful gift – except for the Christmas after Katrina when the car trunk tended to be loaded down with the paraphernalia for survival in addition to Christmas gifts. That following October, I traced down the gamey but still savory smell that wafted from the back of my car to the Christmas boudin that had shifted into a space at the bottom of the truck.

In modern times boudin has gained new popularity. Once unheard of in New Orleans, it is now on the menu at some white-tablecloth restaurants. At the Jazz Fest, boudin in various forms, including crawfish (that might be going too far), is sold. Of course, the ultimate in culinary experiences is the boudin ball, served from beneath hot lights at gas stations. (Somehow the words “boudin,” “hot lights” and “gas” belong together.)
Which grocery store sells the best cracklins and boudin is the source of much debate. Pictured here is The Best Stop in the Lafayette Parish town of Scott just off Interstate 10. I was there on a Sunday afternoon when there were multiple checkout lines, each three or four customers deep. Boudin bashes on Sunday evenings seem to be a big deal in that part of the state.

Just be sure nothing is left in the trunk.