10 things you might not know about Stornoway Black Pudding

Stornoway black pudding is one of Scotland's most unique delicacies, here are ten things you might not know.

Published 30th Jan 2017
Updated 30 th Jan 2023

Made exclusively in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, it has an important place in Scottish culinary tradition. Its high quality and excellent flavour have been celebrated, but not everyone knows the whole story.

To help you understand the history and importance of Stornoway black pudding, we have compiled a list of facts which may surprise you.

It was under threat by 'impostors'

In 2009, the Stornoway black pudding was under threat. Black puddings labelled as “Stornoway” were being made outside of the Western Isles, causing the authentic Isle of Lewis butchers to suffer.

Labour MSP Peter Peacock dubbed the black puddings made outside Stornoway “impostors”.

At the time, more than 1,500 people signed a petition to stop the misuse of the Stornoway label.

It has been granted protected status

Campaigners finally saw success in May 2013, when Stornoway Black Pudding was granted protected status by the European Union.

It was granted a PGI (or Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin), meaning that producers outside of Stornoway could no longer use the “Stornoway” label.

Its ingredients make it unique

The only ingredients in Stornoway black pudding are beef suet, oatmeal, onion, blood, salt and pepper. There are absolutely no artificial colours, flavours, bulking agents or preservatives in the product.

Picture: Flickr\Greener Scotland

Picture: Flickr\Greener Scotland

Most black puddings across the UK are made from pigs' blood, but the Stornoway version is made from sheep's, cows' or pigs' blood. Scottish oatmeal gives the pudding its rough texture.

In the past, intestines were used to contain the sausage, but nowadays plastic is used instead.

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Some of its main producers have the same surname

Two of the top butchers in Stornoway which make this product have the surname "MacLeod". This is the most common surname on the Isle of Lewis, meaning that nicknames or patronymics are often used to dispel confusion.

Charles Menendez MacLeod, otherwise known as “Charlie Barley”, set up Charles MacLeod Ltd. in 1947. Kenny and Donald MacLeod founded the MacLeod and MacLeod business in 1931, and their strict quality guidelines are still used to this day.

It has been granted a number of Great Taste awards

Charles MacLeod's black pudding has been awarded six Great Taste awards by the Guild of Fine Food. In addition, MacLeod's and MacLeod's black pudding was awarded a Great Taste award in 2015.

One of its producers left £3.3 million in his will

Charles MacLeod, the son of Charles Menendez MacLeod, ran the family business with his brother, Iain, until his untimely death in September 2015.

It emerged in May 2016 that he had an estate valued at £3,334,072 at the time of his death. This included his £2.4 million share in the business. He left his entire estate to his widow, Julia.

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It has been made for hundreds of years

Crofting has always been a huge part of the economy on the Isle of Lewis. It is only in the past 40 years that crofters began to take other jobs in addition to crofting.

Crofters kept small numbers of animals, and shared the task of killing the animals they needed for food. In order to make sure that no part of the animal was wasted, and that they had enough meat for winter, the crofters would save the animal's blood and intestines, and use them to make black puddings.

It is also known by its Gaelic name

The Isle of Lewis crofters knew black pudding by its Scottish Gaelic name, “marag dubh”, with “dubh” meaning “black”.

Picture: Flickr\Greener Scotland

Picture: Flickr\Greener Scotland

Other varieties of black pudding are also made across the UK, and in many other places across the world, such as Norway, Thailand, Latin America and Nepal.

It is the star of a recipe book

The owner of Café Gandolfi in Glasgow, Seumas MacInnes, has written a book of recipes, all of which contain Stornoway black pudding as one of their ingredients.

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He is passionate about this regional product, and thinks it is as much a part of Scottish culture as haggis. The dishes he created for the book include: black pudding and mushrooms with pancakes, black pudding pakoras, and black pudding tarts.

It has some famous fans

A number of famous chefs are particularly big fans of Stornoway black pudding including Sue Lawrence, Rosemary Shrager, Nick Nairn, and Lady Claire Macdonald.

Former First Ministers of Scotland, Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond, are also fans of Stornoway black pudding.

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Maddy lives in Edinburgh and has written for the Sunday Herald and the Ed Fringe Review. She is passionate about authentic, sustainably sourced food, and is always keen to discover exciting new flavours.
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