April 3, 2015
After the sheep slaughter, Peter had told me that he wanted to make a traditional haggis. With a smile, he held up what looked like a giant water balloon—the fourth stomach full of salted water, ready to be refrigerated overnight.
These days, he says, it’s hard to make the real thing, since butchers don’t tend to sell sheep stomachs. Most people just buy a pre-made haggis from the shop. And, horror of all horrors: you can even buy a vegetarian haggis! I don’t even want to know what’s in that. I’d bet a quid that it’s a lot less real and healthy for you than sheep stomach stuffed with organ meats, oats, and spices.
So Peter and I consulted The Oracle for answers and, after looking at several sources, we landed on a recipe from the BBC:
- 1 sheep’s stomach or ox secum, cleaned and thoroughly, scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water
- heart and lungs of one lamb
- 450g/1lb beef or lamb trimmings, fat and lean
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 225g/8oz oatmeal
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground dried coriander
- 1 tsp mace
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- water, enough to cook the haggis
- stock from lungs and trimmings
- Wash the lungs, heart and liver (if using). Place in large pan of cold water with the meat trimmings and bring to the boil. Cook for about 2 hours.
- When cooked, strain off the stock and set the stock aside.
- Mince the lungs, heart and trimmings.
- Put the minced mixture in a bowl and add the finely chopped onions, oatmeal and seasoning. Mix well and add enough stock to moisten the mixture. It should have a soft crumbly consistency.
- Spoon the mixture into the sheep’s stomach, so it’s just over half full. Sew up the stomach with strong thread and prick a couple of times so it doesn’t explode while cooking.
- Put the haggis in a pan of boiling water (enough to cover it) and cook for 3 hours without a lid. Keep adding more water to keep it covered.
- To serve, cut open the haggis and spoon out the filling. Serve with neeps (mashed swede or turnip) and tatties (mashed potatoes).
We gathered up the organs to get those going pretty early, since it takes about 6 hours to make haggis.
For those unfamiliar with sheep organs: starting from the left and going clockwise, that’s the liver, lung, and kidney, followed by my awesome knife, which enjoyed chopping them very much.
We cut them up and popped them into some water to boil away for two hours. The texture changed quite a bit from the raw state.
Then, we scooped them out; chopped them into small bits; and added the oats, onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and loads of black pepper. We didn’t have mace, so we left it out.
Katie had thought Peter was Irish before she met him, so the only whiskey we had we had on hand was Jameson. Peter scoffed, but we put a good splash in anyway, plus a tug or two (or three) for the cooks and onlookers.
Since we had some leftover blood that was spiced similarly, we decided to give it a go an add it in as well.
After everything was mixed together, we ran it all through the grinder with some sheep fat to give it a good texture, like oatmeal cookies but way better, adding stock from the organs to get it to the right consistency.
Then, we stuffed the filling into the stomach and tied it up to be boiled for 3 more hours.
Peter was quite happy with the outcome.
Because we weren’t using exact amounts, we overdid it on the filling, and there was a lot left over. Everyone gave it a taste or two (or three), but there was a lot of extra and we didn’t want it to go to waste. So, we decided to use some of the small intestine to make mini haggi (that’s the plural), which Lydia made to look like little German sausages.
The haggis was a big hit. It was nice to be able to share the experience of bringing a traditional Scottish dish to life with a proper Scotsman, using the freshest possible ingredients that we harvested and processed with our own hands. I never would have guessed that haggis would be so delicious…and so good as leftovers at breakfast.
If you know anything about my cooking, I love to take the old dishes we grow up with and add some sass. So, my goal now is to make a Kentucky highlands haggis, with deer organs and a big ol’ dash of bourbon. Look for that during hunting season.
My favorite Scotsman, Peter Ananin, also wrote about making the haggis. Read his blog here.