[Northkeep] Haggis (longish)
Melissa Long Blevins
hlecalais at sbcglobal.net
Fri Aug 4 19:16:00 PDT 2006
Yes please, and thank you (concerning that last line)!
Now, please do not take this badly, for I do not wish you ill, BUT in this condition you ARE very entertaining and informative! LOL!
Jennifer Carlson <talana1 at hotmail.com> wrote:
With all the talk of haggis, that great chieftain o the pudden race, and
with me being down with bronchitis, I pulled out my cookbooks. Be warned
Im in blathering mood, I have an English degree, and Im not afraid to use
it. Read on only if youre really interested.
Most people have a vague idea of what haggis is: something to do with
sheeps lungs, or windpipes, or liver, or oatmeal, and a stomach is in there
somewhere. Thats about as accurate as saying that SCA fighting is two guys
whacking each other with sticks. Most folks, bless their hearts, just dont
know any better.
That being said, lets make sure everyone in Northkeep knows better. First,
haggis is a pudding. A pudding, you say? How so? A pudding is a dish
thats thickened, usually with a cereal filler. Jello Pudding is a
pudding. So is an Apple Charlotte. So are most sausages. So is the
dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer that dish) you serve with your
Thanksgiving turkey. A Yorkshire pudding is nothing but a big popover
seasoned with roast beef drippings, but its a pudding just the same.
So, lets dip into that collection of puddings and lift out the subset
called sausages. A sausage is generally a mixture of some kind of meat,
fat, and seasonings. Often a starch filler, eggs, or milk is added as a
binder. Sausages may be stuffed into a casing - usually part of an animals
digestive tract - or served loose. Most casing sausages are stuffed into
intestines, but some sausages use the stomach. Chodin, a Cajun style
sausage, and haggis are but two examples.
How do we know that haggis has always been a sausage stuffed into an
animals stomach? The linguist James Orchard Halliwell says hag is a
northern dialect term for belly. A 1530 description of haggis, by
Palsgrave, describes it as a pudding of the caillette de mouton.
Caillette refers to the sheeps fourth stomach. Now we know that the
meaning of haggis in period does refer to a sausage with a stomach casing.
And what went into that stomach casing? As with any sausage, it depends.
One of the earlier recipes we have is from the 1600s, and was made of a
calfs haggis. The cereal binder was breadcrumbs, and the recipe is
Yep, haggis is not solely a Scottish dish. (Your Excellency, take a minute
and let your blood pressure return to normal.) In fact, haggis was common
in England until about the seventeenth century. Hmm. James IV of Scotland
takes the English throne in 1603, and haggis falls out of favor in England
during the following century. Go figure.
Back to the ingredients: A recipe from circa 1430, Hagws of a schepe
(Harleian MS. 279), uses breadcrumbs and is seasoned with saffron and
pepper. This, too, is an English recipe.
Until we get past the Jacobite rebellions in the 1700s, we dont have much
detail on how haggis was made in Scotland, though experts are pretty sure
the Scots always used oats as the binder. At least something good came out
of the Battle of Culloden the Scots started writing things down. And
before you accuse me of being anti-Caledonian, Ill have you know my mother
is a Gillis - thats a sept of the MacPhersons, if you please, and as
Highland as heather and broom!
Dairmaids sainted Scottish grandmother (a formidable woman of the
Campbells) left him a nifty cookbook called The Scots Kitchen, Its
Traditions and Lore, With Old-Time Recipes by F. Marian McNeill. If you
run across a copy of it, buy it. Its cool. Miss McNeill gives recipes
Deer Haggis, made only with deer heart and liver - no lungs or stomach.
Traditional haggis, including details on how to properly cook the pluck,
which was depicted in nauseating detail on an episode of Historys Dirtiest
Meg Dodds Haggis, which uses lemon juice and cayenne, and won the Prize
Haggis at a prestigious haggis competition in Edinburgh.
Haggis Royal, which is made of mutton, suet, beef-marrow, breadcrumbs or
oatmeal, anchovies, parsley, lemon, pepper, cayenne, eggs, and red wine.
Theres even mention of a fish haggis, called haggamuggi, made of the
stomach of a fish filled with hashed (finely chopped) livers and sunds (air
bladders) and boiled. Ill pass, thank you.
Jeff Smith, in The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors, offers a
recipe made of beef heart, beef liver, and lamb, stuffed in sausage casings.
It passed muster with the Medinah Pipe and Drum Band of Chicago.
Apparently, there is no one true way to make a haggis, and it neednt be a
nasty, smelly, possibly disgusting dish.
So, now you know.
Oh, and that comment earlier about people thinking that SCA fighting is just
two guys whaling the crap out of each other with sticks? Halliwell also
says that to cool someones haggis is to beat him soundly.
(Sources and recipes available upon request)
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