And Then There Is Haggis

"I like Haggis." she said, when I made a comment about certain things online being like Haggis, in a derogatory way. "It's just seasoned sausage. Tastes good."

I didn't believe her. But Haggis is like that. People hate it, or love it, and it persists. The mere mention of it, we learn from National Treasure, is enough to inspire outrage.

But it is a thing. And I learned that it is like Burgoo. It is a food for a REASON.

It is referred to variously as a sausage or a pudding, and for some people it has a lot of blood and oatmeal and a soft texture, and for others it is meatier, and firmer. So the claim goes both ways.

There are regional names for various versions. The typical Haggis is mutton (scraps and offal) stuffed into a sheep stomach, along with some blood, oatmeal, poultry seasonings or sweet spices, onions, garlic, and nitrates, after which it is boiled, baked, smoked, or hung to cook over a peat fire. It may be eaten fresh, or dried, depending on the type.

So with that, we need to understand there are variants.

It may not be a sheep stomach. Not everyone has one laying around waiting to be stuffed with the remains after you take all the tasty bits off the sheep carcass.

Long Haggis is stuffed into sausage casings - Hog, Sheep, Goat, Beef, or Venison. It just depends on what you HAVE that you have enough of. Just like Burgoo.

Round Haggis is a stomach that encases it, but it isn't always sheep. There is Pork, Beef, Veal, Goat, and Venison there also.

But it is the STOMACH that imparts a particular flavor to the Haggis. Like tripe. Either you can eat it or you can't.

The meat is usually Mutton. Now mutton can be pretty cheap because it isn't something everyone can choke down. It has a strong somewhat stale taste like old cooked beef. That's the lanolin. Sheep, you know.

Sometimes the meat is Lamb. Wool lamb still has a mutton flavor, though it is less intense. Hair sheep have a clean savory beef-like flavor. Very tasty and no lanolin smell to drive you off.

But in other areas, you might make it WITH, or FROM other meats. The same ones you get the casings from (casings are just cleaned intestines, you know). When you put other meats in, you either reduce or eliminate the muttony flavor that combines with the tripe flavor to make people who hate Haggis hate Haggis.

It usually contains animal blood. Some Scots tribes claim the blood of any enemy will do just as well, but we hesitate to encourage that kind of thing.

The blood is not a binder, the blood is cooked, drained, and then the solids are tossed in. Makes the sausage moister and softer. Gives it a nice meaty and salty flavor.

Oatmeal is kinda a required thing. But sometimes you don't HAVE oatmeal, so you put in wheat flour, rye flour, or even rice if your bent runs that way.

The seasonings fall into three groups, as a rule - Savory, Sweet and Spicy, or Both.

They can run mild, or pepper hot. Depends on how bad the other ingredients are, I guess, and how much you need to numb your tongue.

Onions, Garlic, Parsley, and Nitrates are usually used, though there are some regions where Nitrates or Parsley are left out, and the onions and garlic are fairly spare.

But it is about what you HAVE, and what you need to USE UP.

Once you get that far, it is about how to make sure it does not spoil before you can use it all - hence it usually has some nitrates in it, though sometimes not enough to make it pink.

Sometimes it is smoked, and sometimes dried. Depends on where you come from, and what your parents taught you that normal consists of. And whether the peat fire was all you had to cook over, I guess.

My favorite recipe that I found (I did not try it, I just love the wording) is:

Highlander Haggis - Some kinda animal stomach, some kinda meat (nose to tail with blood), some kinda grain, whatever spices are left in the cupboard, salted (no nitrate), boiled or baked, sometimes sliced and dried, sometimes sliced and cased and dried - flavor could be anything

So you see, it can be just like Burgoo. Survival food. Hardship food. Something to eat from the ingredients that are left after you made all the things you really wanted to eat.

But I think it may be worth trying when I can get a large sausage casing. Because I sure as anything am not going to make the round Haggis in any kind of animal stomach.


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