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Haggis

March 29, 2010

It all started back when our good friends out at the Wookey Ranch heard about my previous attempt at making haggis. Instead of the traditional ingredients, which we’ll go into later, I used minced beef and liver and ended up with an over-livered pile of almost-edible dog food. As Mr. and Mrs. Wookey happen to partake in activities such as raising lambs, chickens and such, and are also quite serious about making, and eating, good food (?. See other examples), they got all excited about the prospect of using one of their lambs to make a proper haggis. So when the time approached for them to summon the local butcher to come out to their place and dispatch with two of last year’s hoggits, we were called into action to prepare for a haggis making get-together. All I needed to do was find the recipe, the ingredients would be provided through the amazingly efficient work of the butcher, who I have previously had the privilege of witnessing carry out the on-farm slaughter of a steer at another friend’s farm. The calmness, skill, and efficiency in the way he goes about this most gruesome of tasks is almost relaxing in its artistry. I was disappointed to be working when the lambs were to be slaughtered, but was assured that all the correct organs and unmentionables would be carefully set aside for my later use.

Well, the weekend came and it turned out that the Wookeys were having a pre-rain chicken emergency on the farm and wouldn’t be able to attend our haggis-ing event. I was posed with the internal question of whether I wanted to proceed alone or wait until I had the moral and culinary support of Mr. Wookey. I chose to proceed and make one haggis from the remains of one of the lambs as a trial-run and freeze the other for a time when the Wookeys would be able to partake in the haggis-ing of one of their own, lovingly raised lambs.

What follows is a pictorial diary of the process with simple descriptions. Some of the photos are pretty gruesome so if you’ve got a sensitive stomach have a thought for me, and more importantly, Lex who was there taking the photos with no defense against the smells and the goo. Otherwise be advised. Please also excuse the quality of the photos, somehow we got some of the aforementioned goo on the lens.

Mr. Butcher man carefully removing the insides of one of the lambs on Friday, 2 days before haggis while Mr. Wookey keeps an eye on things (photo courtesy of Wookey Ranch).

After a serious amount of washing, the stomach looked like this. Most people these days use either artificial haggis casing or what is known as beef “bung”, which is the last few feet of a cow’s large intestine. As we had the traditional lamb’s stomach we thought that would work well.

Quite definitely the most disgusting thing I have ever done. After thoroughly rinsing the outside, I blanched the “bag” in boiling water to loosen all the inside stuff in order to more easily scrape it off. I also, albeit unwittingly, released the most pungent and foul smell. There is a rendering plant in the area and whenever we drive past we always roll up the windows or turn off the air and switch it to circulate just to avoid the smell. I released it tenfold into our little flat. Oops.

At two in the morning on Sunday I finished rinsing, scraping, and washing the “bag” and left it to further stink up the kitchen and soak in salt water for the remainder of the night. At On Sunday morning I cleaned the rest of the pluck, although I must admit it was pretty well cleaned to begin with thanks to Mr. Butcher and Mr. Wookie. The pluck consists of the heart, liver, and lights (lungs) of the lamb.

The pluck was then added to a pot of water and boiled for about 1 1/2 hours.

The pluck with windpipe attached to be used as an overflow outlet for any “impurities” to be wheeched out of the pot and into a holding vessel to be served as tea to any unwanted visitors.

Following the boiling of the pluck, it was allowed to cool for the rest of the afternoon (about six hours, although I have heard that most people leave it overnight). I then grated about 1/4 of the liver, the rest being donated to the seagulls and crows at the county dump.

I then minced the rest of the pluck to as fine as I could get it.

Toasting the uncooked and dry steel-cut oats. (A slight reprieve from the sheep’s bits)

I then mixed all the minced and grated meat with suet, onion, various spices (ha ha, you thought I was going to tell you, sorry, sworn to secrecy by the haggis-makers society), and the toasted oats, using a cup of the liquid reserved from the boil to moisten the mixture.

The “bag” got a good rinsing, and because I had torn it in the middle at about 1.30 the previous morning while trying to maintain control of the contents of my own stomach, I had to tie it at both ends before stuffing it.

Using a kindly sacrificed needle and some kitchen twine the bag was laboriously sewn shut.

The sewn-up bag. I suppose I’ll have to sew on my own shirt buttons from now on. If two haggi (yep, that’s the plural) were ever to have a scar-off, mine would get laughed back home to the Highlands; “Scar, call that a scar?”

The haggis was then boiled on a low heat for about 3 hours, engulfing the flat, yet again, with a lovely aroma. I’m glad the ladies downstairs in the shop weren’t around, I’m sure that would’ve had them call the police – “The crazy Scotsman upstairs is boiling heads again” (again?). I remember our downstairs neighbour when I was growing up used to boil red cabbage for what seemed like days, wafting the rank smell all over the neighbourhood. That put me off boiled cabbage for years. At least no-one in their right mind wants to eat boiled lamb’s stomach, right?

“His knife see rustic Labour dicht, An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, Trenching your gushing entrails bricht, Like ony ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm, reekin’, rich!” – Robert Burns

“Is that my dinner? Man, it took forever, and why was he just speaking to it?” – Skye the dug. After being around for the entire process and keeping the floor clean, Skye knew exactly what was in that big dumpling. It’s just a shame she didn’t get to chase it around a hill first!

The first taste (with audience).

“Gie her a haggis!” – Robert Burns.

So, that was that. Less than 72 hours after being humanely dispatched by Mr. Butcher, this lamb found itself being turned inside-out, boiled, scraped, and minced, before being mixed with all sorts of other, possibly more p.c., ingredients and stuffed back into itself, not your usual weekend.

So, your probably wondering what it tasted like and whether all the smells and gagging were worth it. Well, I’d say yes. Apart from the stomach boiling and scraping bit, the rest of the process was relatively unremarkable, albeit gruesome and messy. I think that when I do it again, I’ll use an alternative for the casing, use less onion, more spices, and spend more time getting the entire mixture to a better consistency as this was somewhat lumpier than is customary. I will also ensure there’s propane in the tank so I can do the smelly stuff outside on the burner.

I’m off to get some incense sticks.

Cheers!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Baji permalink
    March 29, 2010 7:57 pm

    After reading this hilarious post, good single malt in hand, I’m thrilled that you made the haggis and delighted that we had a pre-rain chicken emergency (having been present at the first emptying of the lamb stomach). Well done!

  2. Struan Robertson permalink
    March 30, 2010 1:35 am

    Brilliant that beats me trying to make cheese a couple of years ago by miles!!! How did you bribe the loving wife to get away with that! 🙂

  3. Barb permalink
    March 31, 2010 9:01 am

    Sounds like it was a grand experience and what a wonderful article. Glad we don’t have smellavision! This is one of the many reasons why we appreciate you and Lex and your dedication to get back to the land and experience real food production.

  4. TG Golden permalink
    April 2, 2010 4:45 am

    Hey Gil, Just the other day my friends and I were talking about throwing a haggis party. After going over all your valuable info/illustrations, we’re now leaning towards prime rib and lobster. We may throw in a rack or two of lamb ribs, but we have decided best not to venture much deeper into the animal. Later Dude, TG

  5. Rachael permalink
    April 2, 2010 7:53 am

    What I need to know is if any impurities actually wheeched out of the windpipe???? I never thought about the implications of sourcing your entrails from a clean airshed…

    • April 2, 2010 8:56 am

      If the impurities were alternating red, brown and foamy then yes, there was some wheechage. Where do you source your entrails from then?

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