It’s Burns Night tomorrow and the last night of the haggis season, so it’s time to go haggis hunting!
The haggis season runs from 30 November to 25 January when they go into hibernation.
Remember that wild haggis are shy creatures who only appear at dawn and at dusk so patience is needed. The rural haggis has two short legs and two long legs to make it easier to run round hills. It feeds on heather, blaeberries, turnip and potatoes. A rare variety of haggis is the urban or Tartan haggis which lives on a diet of shortbread. In the last 10 years a further species, the virtual haggis, has appeared which can be hunted online.
Those who are anti-hunting can make their own haggis using this traditional recipe 1:
the large stomach bag, the smaller bag and the pluck (including lights, liver and heart) of a sheep, beef suet, oatmeal, onions, black pepper, salt, water.
Brown and toast a breakfast-cupful of oatmeal in front of the fire. Clean the large bag thoroughly and soak it overnight in cold salted water. In the morning put it aside with the rough side turned out. Wash the small bag and the pluck and put them on to boil covered with cold water, leaving the windpipe hanging out over the pot to let out any impurities. Let them boil for an hour and a half, then take them out and cut away the pipes and any pieces of gristle. Mince the heart and lights, and grate half the liver. (The rest of the liver is not required). Put them into a basin with half a pound of minced suet, one or two finely chopped onions, and the oatmeal, and season highly with black pepper and salt. Over the whole pour as much of the liquid in which the pluck was boiled as will make the composition sappy. Fill the large bag rather more than half full, say five-eighths, as it requires plenty of room to swell. Sew it securely and put it into a large pot of hot water (to which half a pint of milk is often added). As soon as it begins to swell, prick it all over with a large needle to prevent its bursting. Boil steadily, without the lid, for three hours. Serve very hot without any garnish.
[the uninitiated are advised to note the danger of a too sudden assault on the "chieftain o' the pudden race".]
I’ve actually made this recipe and can recommend it.
Although people used to think that haggis came from France (as a result of the “auld alliance”), no-one really knows its origins. One theory is that the ancient Romans used to make a haggis-like dish; another is that it came from Scandinavia; while an early printed recipe appears in The English Huswife by Gervase Markham, printed in 1615.
Whatever its origins – have a good Burns Night!
- The Scots Kitchen by F Marian McNeill ↩