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Prepping a crude sheep stomach for haggis


PaulDWeiss
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Hi - I'm making a haggis in a few days, and will be getting a flushed (hosed out) lamb stomach to use as a casing directly from the slaughterer, as an unwanted by-product of a Halal kill. I haven't had a real haggis for more than a 15 years, but I remember the casing being thinner than - say - blanket tripe, which makes me suspect that the mucosa from the stomach has been stripped. The recipes I'm working with are 50 and 60 years old, and assume that I'll start with a stomach which is going to be butcher-prepped. They assume that at least it will have been parboiled/blanched, and one reference I've found implies that the stomach will have been pre-treated with some sort of lye solution. I don't know if that's traditional enough that the other references thought it beneath notice, but I don't have a clue about concentrations or times, let alone a reason as to why this might be a good idea. None of this butcher-prepping is going to be true for the stomach I'm getting; the beast's stomach contents will have been rinsed out, but that's it. If anyone knows what the correct prep is for this piece before stuffing, please give me a response, and (as always) if a previous thread discusses this, a pointer would be much appreciated. I'm not interested in finding general discussions of haggis recipes; it's the prep of the crude stomach in particular where I'm looking for help.

As a second question, when I had haggis in Scotland oh so long ago, one of the variety meats normally included was lung, which is no longer available for human consumption through the USDA food chain. (I grew up eating a fondly-remembered Hungarian-Jewish beef lung and rice sausage laboriously made by my Bubby.) Lungs (lights) are listed as a primary offal ingredient in most of the old haggis recipes I've found, as a primary part of the pluck. However, the slaughterer (who is also the éleveur, and who won't sell me any lung) has told me that here in the coastal NW USA, very few field-raised ruminants have clear lungs as a result of our wet climate. So, for instance, there is no longer any Kosher lamb production here, because too many carcasses get rejected after the kill on the basis of guidelines of ritual inspection. An interesting topic in itself, but let me get back to the haggis. It seems to me that a possible substitution for the lung might be spleen, which has a similarly spongy texture, and which is more generally available (especially as pork spleen). Any thoughts on the use of spleen in haggis? I've never seen it listed in any recipe I've encountered. Thanks for the help,

Paul Weiss

Edited by PaulDWeiss (log)
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Hi, Paul. As an expat Scot I'm always interested in haggisery, particularly given that the country I live in banned meat imports from the UK in the 50's and has kept it that way ever since. I'm sorry I can't answer your first question directly, but maybe I can help a little bit.

First of all, two sources you may have read already. I seem to be linking to it in every other post having first read it recently, but 'Margaret Dodds' addresses the subject of haggis at some length in her 1829 book - read from page 354 at Google books - the 'contents' tool will get you there quickly. The second piece is Tim Hayward's article and guide in The Guardian a year ago.

Tim says,

Haggis was traditionally packed into the sheep's fourth stomach or rumen. These are difficult to obtain from English butchers as anything with the slightest possibility of 'fecal contamination' requires special cleaning and there's tragically not enough demand down here. The best alternative, ox bung, is available from specialist sausage suppliers and comprises the last yard or so of the large intestine of a cow cleaned and salted.

On the same subject, 'Margaret' aka Isobel says, ahem,

... Have a haggis-bag perfectly clean...

- so there's that. But further on she more usefully suggests:

... A finer haggis may be made by parboiling and skinning sheep's tongues and kidneys, and substituting these minced for the most of the lights...

and

A Lamb's-haggis.

Slit up all the little fat tripes with scissors, and clean them. Clean the kernels also, and parboil the whole, and cut them into little bits. Clean and shred the web and kidney fat, and mix it with the tripes. Season with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Make a thin batter with two eggs, a half-pint of milk, and the necessary quantity of flour. Season with chopped chives or young onions. Mix the whole together. Sew up the bag, which must be very clean, and boil for an hour and a half.

Don't miss the calf's haggis explained in the footnotes, either.

Edited by Blether (log)

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Thanks, Blether. I hadn't found the Margaret Dods book. I've been finding a lot of digitized old public-domain cookbooks, and have added that one to my collection. I still don't know what she might mean by a "haggis bag," however, although I have read of treatments where the haggis is poached in a muslin bag, which is slit open at the table at service, the haggis being spooned out on to the diner's plates. Interesting to me that she's calling for beef suet. The old recipes I've been finding are running about 2 to 1 in favor of beef suet, with only one third using mutton suet. I'd guess that, given its provenance as a shepherd's dish, the fat originally used was that of the beast supplying the pluck, but perhaps that's a romantic assumption.

I'm a bit more dubious about the Tim Hayward piece. He's got the anatomy wrong for a starter: the rumen is the first chamber of the ruminant's system, not the fourth, and is sold in France as "gras-double," or "panse," and in the US as "blanket tripe," if you can find it. The reticulum is sold here as "honeycomb tripe," and the omasum as "bible tripe." Are those the names used in the UK market as well? I don't think there's any commercial human-food use of the fourth chamber (the abomasum, or true stomach; the one with the acids) here at all, though I don't know why not. The bottom line is that the rumen is very far away from anything which might be considered fecal; in fact, the rumen contents of a farm-slaughtered animal in particular looks a lot like the last couple of mouthfuls of grass or hay which the beast ate, which is exactly what it is. No matter, he's using ox-bung anyway, which is marketed as beef bung in the US, and which is easy to get from sausage-making supply houses. (Now, the bung is the large intestine - THAT'S had the poo in it!) I've had a couple of sausages and puddings stuffed into bung, and they have the virtue of being pretty easy to work with; nice and clean, not only flushed, but stripped too, and very uniform.

My grandmother used to make her lung sausage with bung, but she did the stripping herself, turning it inside out and using a dull soup spoon to scrape the mucosa out, which seemed to take about forever. In her version, the sausage was finally baked, and the casing ended up shiny, brown, crispy, tough, and wonderful; definitely the part everyone at the table tried to negotiate for.

Another thing that I find dubious about the Tim Hayward dish is the seasoning. If he had seasoned his haggis with gorse instead of rosemary, I might find it a bit more believable, but he's making a northern shepherd's dish with Mediterranean herbs. Delicious, I'm sure, but might as well choose a different name for the dish. My objective was (is) to get as close as I can to the original form of the dish, so I'm trying to pass on beef bung, ground beef meat, and barley, among other more modern improvements. Maybe I'll like the more modern one better; dunno.

Thanks again for the pointer to the Dods book; that's a treat!

Paul

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No problem. It was jackal10 who brought up the Dods book, in the Old Scottish cookbooks thread.

I guessed from -

Have a haggisbag perfectly clean, and see that there be no thin part in it, else your whole labour will be lost by its bursting.

- that she means a sheep-gut bag rather than something manufactured. Maybe her easy way with the calling for it reflects how readily available a 'haggis bag' was to her.

Best of luck with your haggis, and I hope you'll post more about it.

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Paul,

You also asked "Are those the names used in the UK market as well?" - I've been out of the country for nearly 20 years, and never went down the 'make your own haggis' road while I was there, so I'm afraid I can't answer that any better than anyone else with the use of Google.

I'm intrigued with the depth to which you're going into things. - and by your comment on seasonings. I'd not seen cayenne or lemon juice in a haggis recipe, that I remember, till the Dods one. Of course it fits entirely with the basic principles of seasoning to have something sour in the mix.

Likewise the suet - I mean I'm likewise intrigued. Did you look at the very early recorded recipes for 'Hagese' &c per Wikipedia ? To what extent do you care about authentic in method & materials, as opposed to authentic in terms of flavour / eating qualities ?

Edited by Blether (log)

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Blether - very interesting questions, at least partly because I don't think I ever asked them of myself with regard to haggis. I think my motivation is pretty ill-defined, actually; I'm not a food historian (although I love to read that stuff), but I do have an unexamined bias against, say, a vegetarian haggis with fun miniature marshmallows, wrapped in fresh tofu skin, and sauced with a passion fruit foam. That still leaves a lot of turf to explore, I guess. After reading your questions and rubbing my chin, I did go downstairs to look the word up in the Oxford English Dictionary (the big OED, with the tiny little font), and found that pretty instructive. The recorded uses of the word go back to something earlier than modern English, and even very early citations talk about haggis made with veal and pork, not just with sheep, and sometimes with blood, too. So, what is haggis in the first place? It doesn't even seem to have been thought to be a characteristically Scottish dish until the beginning of the 18th century; before that, it was homely English cooking as well. So perhaps my vision of a shepherd's dish is itself my own invention.

I believe that my initial impulse for posting is more clear to me: I was looking for enough guidance in prepping the sheep stomach that the likelihood of presenting my guests with a plate of inedible slime might be minimized. But in terms of my overall culinary haggis goal, I think that I have a fuzzy model of one particular meal I had in Glasgow 20 years ago, when I decided that all the previous versions of haggis I had tried had sucked, but that that one was really good. I think I made the jump from that to a belief that I had been shown something essential, authentic, and defining about haggis, but who knows? Maybe the chef had thrown some passion fruit in there, and that's why I liked it so well.

This all reminds me of a terrific book I read about a year ago - "The Discovery of France," by Graham Robb. It's a history book that talks, not about a geographical discovery (which had been accomplished by Cro Magnon humans, and probably by Neanderthals before them), but the creation of a shared understanding of history and culture - of Frenchness - within France, and just how amazingly recent that is. Some of it's about food, and if you read about the maggotty filth almost everyone in France used to eat just a short time ago, it's amazing how firmly ideas about traditional foodways have been established in the blink of an eye. Great book, for a lot of reasons.

OK - local time zone says it's way past a reasonable bedtime, not to mention that I'm pushing the clocks forward tonight. Thanks for the questions - thinking about them is as much fun as doing the cooking! Maybe more fun than scraping the stomach!

Paul

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I'm a bit more dubious about the Tim Hayward piece. He's got the anatomy wrong for a starter: the rumen is the first chamber of the ruminant's system, not the fourth, and is sold in France as "gras-double," or "panse," and in the US as "blanket tripe," if you can find it. The reticulum is sold here as "honeycomb tripe," and the omasum as "bible tripe." Are those the names used in the UK market as well? I don't think there's any commercial human-food use of the fourth chamber (the abomasum, or true stomach; the one with the acids) here at all, though I don't know why not. The bottom line is that the rumen is very far away from anything which might be considered fecal; in fact, the rumen contents of a farm-slaughtered animal in particular looks a lot like the last couple of mouthfuls of grass or hay which the beast ate, which is exactly what it is. No matter, he's using ox-bung anyway, which is marketed as beef bung in the US, and which is easy to get from sausage-making supply houses. (Now, the bung is the large intestine - THAT'S had the poo in it!) I've had a couple of sausages and puddings stuffed into bung, and they have the virtue of being pretty easy to work with; nice and clean, not only flushed, but stripped too, and very uniform.

I think you're right to be dubious, Paul.

Researching the Guardian piece it became evident fairly early on that a) there was no real 'Ur-haggis' to refer to and b) all manner of utter bollocks is talked by those in the meat production chain when asked about anything they don't immediately have in stock.

Haggis style preparation of the offal - and by that I mean chopping the bits up, shoving them into any conveniently bag shaped bit and boiling - may even predate pottery cooking vessels. It seems one of the most logical preparations at the location of the kill requiring only fire, knife and water. Though I haven't been able to trace a decent source, I know I've seen references to American cowboys cooking a haggis style dish with freshly killed buffalo and there are also references in the Iliad to cooking guts in the stomach.

Depending on what was available, haggises could be made in bladders, stomachs, cleaned oesophagus, standard casings, colon, rectum, caul or, as you point out, a cloth bag. As with many foods so entirely ancient and largely supranational, authenticity is largely down to the semantics of definition. You can define haggis by the the contents, the container or the cooking method - there's even an argument that the only true definition is the nationality of the cook :-)

We have no problem obtaining lungs here, though the windpipe is irritatingly and apparently quite arbitrarily removed. This is traditionally hung over the edge of the pot to drain mucus. I bought my lights from a West Country butcher where a set of lungs with heart and liver is called 'a hinge'. Butchers can easily sell the liver and kidneys separately so the definition is more a commercial consideration than anything else. I imagine a shepherd or farmer with a freshly slaughtered lamb, would regard any innard as a potential ingredient. There was no melt in my set but it would make a great addition - not sure it would replace the lung material.

Rosemary is not what you'd imagine to be an 'authentic' Scottish ingredient but it seemed fun to add at the time.

There was a lot of preliminary discussion of the project with Scottish foodies on various board. It's controversial but most agreed that the codification of haggis lore only really began with the invention of Burns Night. Up until that point it was an interesting rustic foodway with little consistency and, like many others worldwide, became a potent national, cultural and political symbol.

Rosemary is native in the UK and I figured that the boar's head was bedeck'd with bay and rosemary long before the Chieftain o'the puddin' race was ever hymned.

Good luck in your search for authenticity. However far you get, I hope you find, as I did, that the experiments are delicious.

ETA: I was down in Italy last month working on a video of a rural pig-killing and sausage making. Take a look at the 'fegato' sausage being made by this family. Lung, tripe, liver, heart, melt herbs, chili and orange peel all shoved into a sausage skin.

'Haggis'? Almost certainly not. Delicious? Absolutely :-)

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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... wrapped in fresh tofu skin, and sauced with a passion fruit foam.

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

Each new generation - hell, each individual - must rediscover its / his / her own heritage, wouldn't you say ? The same stuff fascinates me, too. It must be the long winter evenings.

I'm sure you're aware of the background, but for the sake of completeness I'll offer some thoughts on Scotland's national dish. The obvious genesis of this is, I believe, Burns' 1786 poem, and his adoption as the national bard. Not available in my area - it may be in yours - you can find one copy of the text at least at the BBC, and if you're lucky hear it read by John Gordon Sinclair - Gregory, no less. It's my belief that that adoption of Burns was a spontaneous result of the widespread acclaim in Scotland that met the publication of his first verse collection.

There's a longish but exceptionally good article on Burns - Freedom and Houghnamagndie - by Andro Linklater at The Spectator Book Club. Forgive me for overdoing the quotations:

(on Burns)

His physical presence was electrifying. The philosopher, Dugald Stewart, remarked on ‘the fluency and precision and originality of his language’, while Walter Scott was struck by his eyes ‘large and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed) when he spoke’, but a farmer’s girl, Nelly Miller, caught the magic best:

He was na to ca’ a bonnie man; but uncommon invitin in his speech — uncommon! Ye could na hae cracket [talked] wi’ him for ae minute, but ye would have studen [stayed] four or five.

It was only after the death of his father, in 1783, that the poetic pose became a reality. By no coincidence, it was then too that Burns consciously chose as his model ‘the Scotch poems’ of the Edinburgh poet, Robert Fergusson, who had died in 1774. His father’s health had been destroyed by the pressures of dunning landlords, and the son’s repudiation of the polite cadences of The Spectator in favour of the ‘sonsy, canty strain’ of Scots was as much political as linguistic, a declaration of war on the Anglicised property-owning establishment:

For though I be poor, unnoticed, obscure,

My stomach’s as proud as them a’, man.

In four astonishing years of physical and poetic creativity, he took on a new farm, fathered three bastard children, fell deeply in love — with Jean Armour, the Mauchline belle, and Mary Campbell, known as ‘Highland Mary’ — and composed more than 100 poems. His subjects ranged from American independence to haggis, the tone included Popean satire on the Calvinists’ god — ‘O Thou that in the Heaven does dwell/ Wha, as it pleases Thee,/ Sends ane to Heaven and ten to Hell’ — and Enlightenment good sense about hygiene — ‘Oh wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us,/ To see oursels as others see us’ — and his praise of love embraced it in every form, from the platonic adoration of ‘maiden-innocence’ to houghmagandie or fornication. Through them all burned an undeviating lust for personal freedom:

A fig for those by Law protected,

Liberty’s a glorious feast!

Courts for cowards were erected,

Churches built to please the Priest.

(on the published work)

The aristocratic Caledonian Hunt subscribed en masse to buy the enlarged, Edinburgh edition of his poetry in 1787, and in Galloway it was said that ‘even ploughboys and maid-servants would gladly have bestowed the wages which they earned most hardly if they might but procure the works of Burns.’

Of course Scotland's national failure in Panama and rescue through 1707's union, the decline in clan power after the Jacobite defeats of 1715 and 1745, and the advent of a new anglo-centric gentry immediately precede and coincide with Burns' time. It was the famous Highland Clearances that saw crofting communities displaced by sheep, so that perhaps the increasing ubiquity of lamb and mutton in Scotland combined with these other developments gave us the Haggis we know today.

I don't think haggis is understood in any detail by the general public, even in Scotland. Generally everyone relies on the butcher trade, or on volume producers like Grant's (tinned haggis). Just as you say, you can go through life noticing when you're served particularly good haggis, and if you care to ask where it came from, then knowing a good source - but what part of the sheep's intestine was involved, or how the farce was created is something you'd need to take some trouble to find out. The number of people making the stuff at home has to be vanishingly small.

My own Holy Grail of haggisdom is the haggis I remember from "McDougall's the butcher". Fortunately for me the core staff now work at the remaining butcher in my home village, so when i get back there I can still get pretty much exactly that (already seen in the Dinner! thread at least). For a St Andrew Society event in Tokyo we had haggis made up from scratch by the French chef at one of the hotels in town - he made a good job and our Burns Supper guests loved it, even if it was heavier on the cinnamon than is typical, and wrapped in crepinettes rather than gut.

Edited by Blether (log)

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Oh, and -

the slaughterer... has told me that here in the coastal NW USA, very few field-raised ruminants have clear lungs as a result of our wet climate...

- I think wet-climate sheep are traditional, leastways all the loaded sheep trucks I ever saw were headed south.

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I'm distraught that a food agency anywhere has banned lungs. These are the kind of arseholes who stop me taking sheeps heads back from the abattoir. I don't think the spongey lung texture makes that much difference to haggis, but the problem will be getting some protein based mildly livery taste in there which lungs do have. Very fresh liver would approximate the taste. The bit I've never used is the stomach. My haggis goes into ox runners, or just vac packed - then microwaved and added to mashed potato and swede for a winter lunch.

I should read the thread about smuggling food stuffs on aeroplanes and become a contraband lung importer to the US.

Lungs chopped and ready to go :

3056696015_cd82e793e4.jpg

My haggis tip - load of dried mixed herbs and black pepper. Taste it after you add the pinhead oatmeal to make sure there's enough.

Edited by sheepish (log)
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Blether - thanks for the references to Scottish history, and to that of The Bard. I love it when I'm sent off to learn a bit about things I know nothing about, which is almost everything.

By the way, my suspicion is that all of the southbound sheep you used to see were heading down for a couple of weeks at Brighton, that their lungs might clear.

Paul

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I made haggis again last month. The lungs are readily available as part of 'the pluck' here over the border in PNW Canada. Protestations notwithstanding, the ones I've had have all been fine. Sometimes the windpipe is attached, sometimes removed. Time for some smuggling? I think perhaps they do lift the texture of the finished haggis a bit.

As an ex-pat west-coast Scot, I find the idea of local sheep suffering from the damp a bit risible. Suffering from lousy farming, perhaps... :smile:

Fergus Henderson's recipe in 'Nose to tail' gets pretty close to my recalled 'ideal haggis' [that being McSween's of Edinburgh, back in the day].

Oh, and I'm too lazy to seek and clean a paunch to stuff - I 'portion control' using regular hog casings and the sausage stuffer, something I can get away with since the haggis is a mundane food item rather than a special celebration thing for us. Remember, photos or it didn't happen.

Great educational thread, thank you all. I'm wondering about Halal goat pluck now.

Edited by DerekW (log)
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'Tis done, and 'twas a grand success, thanks in part to all of the participants here. It turned out that the actual prep of the stomach was the least interesting part: I parboiled it for a minute, then rotated it through 3 changes of salted and acidulated (cider vinegar) water over 4 hours or so, then scraped some of the looser membranes and fatty bits from the outside of it, and the bag was free of odd smells, and was ready to go.

The filling mix was a lamb liver, two hearts, and four kidneys. Some unknown amount of lamb flare fat - probably close to a pound; I was working by feel and texture. As Tim Hayward has noted, the recipes are all over the map. I poached the organ meats (and a half pound of muscle meat to richen up the stock) at about 140ºF for an hour in just enough water to cover them, then ran the heart and the uncooked suet through a ⅜ inch grinder plate, and the liver and the kidneys through a ¼ inch plate. A chopped onion, and (because the second onion had rotted) a chopped large shallot. Parsley, a bit of sage, savory, salt, and a lot of pepper; pretty simple seasoning. 2 pounds of oats were coarsely ground, browned dry, and when I mixed the whole works up, I used the filtered stock from poaching the meats to moisten it. That gave me enough filling for at least two finished haggis-es, or whatever the plural is, and maybe three; the extra got cryovac-ed and is in the freezer. Filled the stomach, tied it up, and poached it for 4 ½ hours at just below boiling.

A local cook had suggested a whiskey plum sauce, which appealed to me, given that the skeleton of the evening was going to be a single malt tasting (we had 9 different malts). I made a gastrique with a half cup of well-carmelized sugar, into which I whisked a quarter cup of red wine vinegar. A quart of veal stock got reduced to 2 cups, into which I whisked 4 oz of German blue plum butter, 2 oz of a boring and undistinguished blended Scotch, and two tablespoons of the gastrique. I brought that back down to 2 cups, and finally added a tablespoon full of Laphroaig close to the end to add some peat; I just left the sauce on the fire long enough to evaporate off the alcohol. The sauce was terrific - I would have made a meal of sawdust and the sauce.

Overall, I was quite happy with the finished dish. Next time I'll try to reduce the amount of suet; it all disappeared during the cooking, but there was more than I think would be optimal. I had thought that I had too little oats in the mixture as I mixed it up before poaching, but that turned out to be just right. I served it to a room full of 20 haggis-neophytes who started off uneasy, and ended up enthusiastic; what could be better! Thank you all for your help.

Paul

Edited by PaulDWeiss (log)
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I've yet to make an authentic haggis, so I'm enjoying this discussion very much. I've had the Real McCoy made from scratch, courtesy of relatives, and also some nice incarnations at pubs, etc. My question is: does anyone else like canned haggis? It ain't the same beastie, but it's got something special. The analogy I think of is canned smoked oysters.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Ach, Peter, you made me go out and buy canned smoked oysters again. Still, they're washing the wine down nicely. Don't ask me any personal questions in case I start making confessions.

For me, 'haggis' is something like 'sausage'. Well, of course it is a kind of sausage, but I mean in terms of questions like "is haggis any good ?" or "what's haggis like ?". It runs the range from superb to appalling. I've even had small-producer haggis that's left me thinking, "that's a bit nasty". But 'sausage' is maybe too wide a comparison - making a parallel with 'salami' or 'kielbasa' rather than 'sausage', would be nearer the mark.

I think that Grant's tinned haggis - to name the only canned brand I've tried (I think I'm right in saying before that it's the biggest) - is a pretty good product. It's on the mealy side, and tends towards the average rather than the special for meaty flavour, but it makes a decent meal in the way that, yes, smoked oysters are a nice snack, (the better kind of) tinned pate, spread on bread, is tasty and easy, and tinned sardines squash nicely onto toast.

I'm glad your haggis turned out well, Paul. Thanks for breaking trail in the kitchen. If we say it's a sausage - were you at about the "25% fat" line, do you think, or somewhere else ? I'm initially surprised to read 2lbs of oatmeal for the amount of meat you had, but (a) of course I've never made it, and (b) I've not read any recipes - far less many - closely enough lately to be in touch. (Another edit: 4 1/2 hours is a long time).

ETA: come to think of it, how did you coarsely grind the oats ? Do you mean you bought whole oats and had at them yourself, or you bought them ready-ground, or something else ? Oh yes, and your sauce sounds cracking.

Edited by Blether (log)

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Blether - "breaking trail?" I didn't use any trail. (Sorry, kind of a weak snipe-woodcock joke.)

I think that the weights and ratios were approximately as follows, weights in pounds:

Liver - 1.5

Kidney - .5

Heart - .75

Lamb lean - .5

Flare fat - 1.0

Oats - 2.0

Had this been a pork sausage, that would be a very lean mix - about 15% fat. I usually try to have my pork sausages up near 30%. However, the pork fat has a higher ratio of mono and poly unsaturated fats to saturated fats than lamb fat, I think. (Too lazy to look for a reference to corroborate that, so maybe I'm screwy on that....) At any rate, the lamb fat is a greasier, heavier fat, and at about 15%, the mouthfeel was greasy once the haggis dropped to room temperature. It was rich and unctuous when it was warm, but the fats "crystalized" after it cooled. A pork fat stays more fluid at room temperature, and doesn't crystalize until it's a bit cooler. I'm not certain that less fat would please me more, but I'd like to try adjusting that next time around.

I had several choices for the oats. Whole groats are available, but would be too coarse in that form. My means of cutting them is the dry-blade canister on a Vita-Mix, which acts as a sort of hammer mill, and results in a lot of fracturing and fines, rather than all cut grains. I could have passed the fines through a tamis and pitched them out, but I thought that I could get closer to my goal by going with a pre-processed product. Rolled whole oats don't have nearly the right texture, so they were out. The other 3 choices were all called pinhead at the local Scottish products store. (Get yer bagpipes and sporrans, step right up!) There was a commercial imported Scottish all-oat porridge, but the store keeper said she thought that it had a lot of fines, also. Down to two, both milled Scottish-style of locally-grown oats by an Oregon mill: steel cut groats (claimed to be cut into about thirds), and a coarse stone-ground product. The shop keeper suggested that haggis babies might be least frightened of the ground oats, so that's the one I went with. I think it would have worked as well with less oats, but the proportion and texture were pleasing to me as it turned out, and the whole thing was ultimately inhaled by people who had started off by saying things like "This looks truly repulsive, no offense."

The 4 ½ hour cooking time was, in fact, sort of middle-of-the-road for the range of recipes I had found, and was determined finally by what time the forcemeat was finished, and what time the party was supposed to start. I thought the texture was good: oats neither hard nor mushy, fat melted into the whole, and the heart and lean still had a nice amount of tooth. Dumb luck on the timing; it's one of those dishes where you don't have any feedback at all along the way; you don't know what you've got until you cut the bag open.

The sauce was inspired by the classic Canard à l'orange sauce from James Peterson's "Sauces" book. The veal stock had a very nice amount of gelatin once it was reduced (the modern loose definition of "demi glace"), and didn't need any other liaison. I caramelized the sugar more strongly than Peterson suggests, to keep up with the stronger flavor of the lamb liver, relative to a roasted duck. Now I'm all excited by gastrique-based brown fruit sauces, and will have to do a few more experiments with them. I think that my knee-jerk rejection of all things sweet-and-sour comes out of experiences of horrible examples from Americanized Chinese restaurant cooking, but I have seen the light.

Paul

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