Burns’s suppers are held worldwide by Scots on January 25, and no Burns supper would be complete without a “Haggis.” Before you read any further, you should know that “Haggis” is a traditional Scottish dish, considered by many the National Dish of Scotland, and the Scots make it from a pluck (a sheep’s stomach) and lights (the lungs, heart, and liver). That said, the following recipe is a summary of the one from Mistress Margaret Dods’ Cook and Housewife Manual, which was first published in 1826. In reality, Meg or Margaret Dods was the pseudonym of Christian Isobel Johnstone, a writer and editor who lived from 1781-1857. People originally considered the book a literary farce because Johnstone used the name of the fictional landlady of Cleikum Inn from Sir Walter Scott’s novel St. Ronan’s Well. Research, however, proved the book to be legitimate, and for many years it was considered a useful household manual.
pluck and lights of a sheep
4-5 onions (chopped)
pepper, salt, cayenne pepper
2 cups finely ground oatmeal, toasted
450 g (or 1 lb.) beef suet
Soak the stomach in salted water overnight. Turn it inside out. Pour boiling water over it and scrape out any residue. Boil the pluck for at least 45 minutes. Then remove from the pot.
Wash the heart, liver and lungs (which should still be attached to each other). Pierce the heart and lungs to drain any blood remaining in the organs. Parboil the 3 organs, letting the windpipe hang from the pot. Change out the water for fresh.
Cut the liver in half. Remove the gristle. Then chop (a food processor) the heart, half liver and lungs into a very fine mixture. Blend in 2 cups of oatmeal and the onions. Add in the beef suet. Grate the other half of the liver into the mixture. Season to taste and use the mixture to stuff the stomach bag. Pour in the beef gravy. Be sure to leave some room because the oatmeal will swell. Add the juice of one lemon. Secure the bag’s opening to hold in the mixture. Return the pluck to the pot in which you originally boiled it. Prick the bag when it begins to swell and boil for three hours.
“Address to a Haggis”
Fair fá your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftan o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace; As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill; Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill; In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distill; Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight, An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight! Warm-reeking rich!
Then horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive: Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve; Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidmann, maist like to rive, ‘Bethankit!’ hums.
Is ther that owre his French ragout, Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew, Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scronfu’ view; On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash, As feclless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash; His nieve a nit;
Tho’ bluidy flood or field to dash, Oh how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resound his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade, He’ll make it whistle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an heads will sned; Like taps o’ thrissie.
Ye pow’rs, wha make mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware, That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer, Gie her a Haggis! (1796)
Needless to say, sheep lung is a bit hard to find in modern day supermarkets. That is because many Scottish sheep have been infected with Lung Worm, which makes the lungs inedible. Sandy Clark of the Scottish Agricultural College said, “…the changing climate and availability of the parasite is becoming a problem.” So, Scottish butchers are securing their sheep lungs from Irish farms instead. For vegetarians, such as I, there are meatless versions. Haggis is also available in the canned variety.