Thursday, November 15, 2012

a little plate of haggis

Coming home
There's always a really good reason for doing it, sometimes it is with an unnecessary sadness attached, I wish it wasn't the case more often than not.
Haggis never really was something we grew up with, it wasn't an often sight or taste at mealtimes, and it honestly doesn't actually come across all that Scottish with me. It is utterly delicious though, and being fairly absent from my younger days, is now a bit of a treat now.
Try making a haggis just the once, and once only. All other times buy well and concentrate on making brilliant mashed potatoes and buttery, black pepper spiked neeps.
1 sheep's stomach, thoroughly cleaned
The liver, heart, and lights (lungs) of the sheep
1 lb beef suet
2 large onions
2 tblsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
2 lb dry oatmeal (the old-fashioned, slow-cooking kind)
2-3 cups broth (in which the liver, heart and lights were cooked)
You'll need a large spaghetti pot, 16 to 20 litre size with a lid to fit it; meat grinder; cheesecloth.
If the butcher has not already cut apart and trimmed the heart, liver and lungs, do that first.  It involves cutting the lungs off the windpipe, cutting the heart off the large blood vessels and cutting it open to rinse it, so that it can cook more quickly. The liver, too, has to be freed from the rest. Put them in a 4-quart pot with 2 to 3 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about an hour and a half. Let it all cool, and keep the broth.
Run the liver and heart through the meat grinder. Take the lungs and cut out as much of the gristly part as you easily can, then run them through the grinder, too. Next, put the raw beef suet through the grinder. As you finish grinding each thing, put it in the big kettle. Peel, slice and chop the onions, then add them to the meat in the kettle. Add the salt and spices and mix.
The oatmeal comes next, and while it is customary to toast it or brown it very lightly in the oven or in a heavy bottomed pan on top of the stove, this is not absolutely necessary. When the oatmeal has been thoroughly mixed with the rest of it, add the 2 cups of the broth left from boiling the meat.
See if when you take a handful, it sticks together. If it does, do not add the third cup of broth. If it is still crumbly and will not hold together very well, add the rest of the broth and mix thoroughly. Have the stomach smooth side out and stuff it with the mixture, about three-quarters full. Sew up the openings. Wrap it in cheesecloth, so that when it is cooked you can handle it.
Now, wash out the kettle and bring about 2 gallons of water to a boil in it. Put in the haggis and prick it all over with a skewer so that it does not burst. You will want to do this a couple of times early in the cooking span. Boil the haggis gently for about 4 or 5 hours. If you did not have any cheesecloth for wrapping the haggis, you can use a large clean dishtowel. Work it under with kitchen spoons to make a sling with which you can lift out the haggis in one piece. You will probably want to wear lined rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water while you lift it out with the wet cloth. (You put the dish cloth in the pot only after the haggis is done; you do not cook the towel with the haggis as you would the cheesecloth.)
Note: Even if the butcher has cleaned the stomach, you will probably want to go over it again. Turn the stomach shaggy side out and rinse. Rub it in a sink full of cold water. Change the water and repeat as many times as necessary, until the water stays pretty clear and handling it does not produce much sediment as the water drains out of the sink.