If You Leave Out the Legally Inedible Parts, Haggis is Edible

Do you have Scottish ancestry? If so, you may have heard of haggis, considered the national dish of Scotland. It is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Haggis apparently was a food staple in Scotland for centuries.

If you have an interest in the food of your ancestors, you might want to read Nick O’Malley’s description of his recent encounter with haggis. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t real haggis as it didn’t have sheep’s lung in it. Sheep’s lung cannot be sold as “food” in the U.S.) You can read about Nick’s recent experience in the MassLive web site at http://www.masslive.com/dining/2014/07/i_ate_it_so_you_dont_have_to_h.html. The article also tells where Americans can purchase “pseudo-haggis” in a can.

You can also read more about haggis in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis.

I often try the items I describe in this newsletter. However, I decided not to try haggis as I have been vegan for about a year and a half. If you like haggis, or even if you don’t, post a comment below and tell the rest of us about your experience with haggis.

23 Comments

While visiting the National Museum of Scotland about eight years ago, I got a great stuffed haggis toy for my young son — it’s soft, brown, has a pair of eyes at one end, and squeaks when you squeeze it. I love it more than he did/does, I think. I checked their website to see if they’re listed there, but it appears they aren’t. Too bad.
Thanks for that store link, too — at one point I was looking for a source for Scotch Eggs in the US, to no avail. It looks like they sell them, at least occasionally.

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I can only figure haggis was invented by a people both desperate and resourceful. I’ve actually eaten it and it’s actually pretty good. It was at a Celtic festival. It tasted rather like Irish black pudding, but better. It was in the US, however, so it was the lungless version.

Now I’ll have to ask my state vet why lungs are illegal to sell in the US.

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Dick – you can get vegetarian haggis. This one is suitable for vegans: http://www.macsween.co.uk/what-is-haggis/vegetarian-haggis-facts-myths/
Might be worth investigating, especially if you’re planning to come to Glasgow for WDYTYA? Live in August.

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    Di Bouglas,
    It looks fundamentally different from carnivorous haggis, but still good. Are you in Glasgow? We hope to get to Scotland once we’ve moved over to Ireland next year.
    Duckie

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I lived in Scotland for 7 years, and have eaten it many times. I love it! As with any dish, some are better than others, and for Haggis, I like the ones that have more stock in them. Others are too dry for my taste. I do miss it now that I’m back in the States.

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Apparently there is such a thing as vegetarian haggis. I’ve never tasted it (and certainly never would choose it over the meaty variety), but if you are interested in an approximation of the flavor, you might try that.

When the ban on importation of true Scottish haggis first went into effect, it created a crisis for many Scottish-Americans, as it is impossible to hold a proper Scottish banquet without serving haggis and there were, as yet, no local sources from which to obtain it. Nevertheless, the banqueting went on and the haggis continued to make its traditional grand entrance, to the tune of the pipes, from the kitchens of some of the grandest banquet halls in the USA. Not a word was ever whispered regarding its mysterious provenance, but no one would have been surprised to learn there might have been a customs official or two among those drinking the ceremonial toast to the haggis at some of these affairs.

As Dick suggests, I think we can learn a couple of important things about our Scottish ancestors from their attachment to haggis: (1) In the harsh conditions they faced on a daily basis, they placed a high value on life, even the life of an animal, so as the Native Americans did with the buffalo, they found a purpose for which every part of the sheep could be used; (2) If they think something is important enough, they will do what is required to achieve it, despite the obstacles and; (3) They will not give up. Our Scottish ancestors were as stubborn and intractable as the land they inhabited and they had a very ancient sense of there being a spiritual integrity by which they were bound together with the universe. When forced to emigrate, they took these qualities with them, wherever they went, and to one degree or another, passed them down to their descendants, almost as if written somewhere in the DNA.

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Haggis is something everyone should try, at least once. Living in eastern Ontario most of the settlers were from the UK with a large percentage from Scotland. Many communities have Highland Games, including the ones in Maxville (the largest in North America). All sorts of Scottish delicacies are offered, along with the typical hamburgers, etc. Haggis is also served at Robbie Burns’ Night festivities, properly “addressed” and with an entrance heralded by a piper. Try it. You may be surprised that you like it. Be cautious…it is very spicy!

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    John D. Stevenson July 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    As a Scot living in Scotland but having travelled the world ( through work) for thirty years or more I have come across “Haggis” in one form or another in many country’s .
    I have seen them tinned , frozen and freshly caught , but all the with the same ending – a GREAT MEAL !!!!!

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Good one, Dick! I just became vegan about three minutes ago when I got to the part about sheep’s lungs.

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Whenever I visit Scotland, almost annually, I always eat haggis at some point. However, I don’t think it’s made with the original recipe. Each part of the country makes it a little differently. I wouldn’t make a meal of it but I do find it quite tasty.

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We’ve had haggis at the local Highland games as my husband is of Scottish ancestry and we attend regularly. He and I don’t care for it, but our sons think it is great.

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I hosted a Burns Dinner to honor Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. The typical fare is haggis, tatties and neeps. One of the guests would not eat any organ meats so I modified a couple of recipes and came up with a legal version of haggis.

-1 pound ground beef
-1 pound ground lamb
OR
2 pounds of meat loaf mix

1/2 pound ground suet
OPTIONAL: ½ pound calves liver, chopped
–2 red onions, coarsely chopped
–1 1/2 cups oats toasted – place on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until golden
–1/4 tsp each of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon
–1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
–1/2 tsp black pepper
–2 tsp kosher salt
–2 eggs
–1 cup of broth or stock (I used Minors Beef Base)

The Directions.
In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients, minus the broth. Shape it into an oblong loaf and add a small amount of broth if necessary to make it hold together..

Pour the remaining broth into the crock pot and carefully transfer the meat mixture to the pot..

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for about 4 hours. Don’t overcook and risk drying it out.

Using large spatulas, carefully remove the haggis and set on a cutting board. Let rest for a full 30 minutes.
Someone should read the “Address to the Haggis” by Robert Burns before slicing the haggis. The remaining broth can be served as a gravy. Some single malt Scotch drizzled on the haggis adds tremendously.
Everyone thought it was very tasty, even the non-organ meat lady

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I first tasted this wonderful dish when visiting Scotland a few years ago. I confess I tried it with a bit of trepidation, but figured, “Hey, just taste a wee bit and see.” I loved it! I found a mail order place nearby (Western Washington State) and keep some ready in my freezer. When at our local Highland Games, that’s may “go to” lunch.

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A good Haggis is lovely. Years ago a Scottish friend brought me one back from Scotland and it was lovely, but beware some of the supermarket versions! I think Waitrose probably do the best version there. I always describe it to someone as a cross between black pudding and faggots (butcher’s faggots, not the horrible ones in gravy!).

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I have had both the vegetarian one & real one in Scotland and loved both! When we traveled throughout Scotland, we always ordered haggis, neeps (mashed turnips) & tatties (mashed potatoes). The haggis served at the Highland Games in the US cannot compare to the real stuff. Sure wish we could get it. Hopefully, we’ll get back to Scotland next year to get some more meals of haggis, neeps & tatties!

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    Whenever I’ve had it, the meal always started with a bowl of cock-a-leekie soup (chicken soup with leeks and either rice or barley added). The leeks add a flavor similar to that of onions, but more subtle.

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As an American living in Scotland for decades and love my Haggis Supper (haggis and chips), haggis tastes much like corn beef hash (but better).

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I have two stories:
1) At the Texas Highland Games (Arlington) a few years ago, I had “Texas Haggis”. The vendor explained he didn’t cook it in a stomach as he had several pots. He used rolled oats and he said his “liver critters” had an average of three legs. It was served with neets and tatties and was quite tasty.
2) More years ago than many have had computers, a genealogy discussion board hosted a popular Scots forum. Someone posted Robert Burns’ recipe for haggis and it was rejected by the moderator as “too disgusting for a family forum”. The poster then attempted to post it on the “food and wine” forum under “national dishes” and it was rejected there. It finally was allowed to be posted under “healthy dishes”.

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I was a new member to the Clan Campbell Society when I was introduced to haggis. They had their general meeting in Hamilton, MT at the Celtic Festival & Highland games and I attended their evening banquet. It was the first time I experienced the piper introduction and the “Address to the Haggis” done expertly by an officer of the society! It made the whole experience really fun! Discussions were varied at the table as to who would try the haggis. I was game and was pleasantly surprised at the rich flavor! But I do enjoy liver and meat, so that was not an issue. I found the whole experience a wonderful introduction to my Scottish culture that I had never known about before! I had never known about Burns Night Suppers either….I have since researched recipes for many native scot dishes and found them to be resourceful from the land and sea! Time to start my own traditions!

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We have used the haggis from http://www.scottishgourmetusa.com at our Robbie Burns dinners and other occasions. They make a very nice vegetarian haggis. Not my personal preference, but we have not meat-eating friends who attend the dinner. Scottish Gourmet is a great company to deal with.

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My husband was born and raised in Scotland and loves haggis. Every time he gets back to visit family he gets it as often as he can. We did find a place not far from us that makes haggis and he was surprised how similar it tastes to what he is used to. My daughter loves it as well although no one else in my family can tolerate it.

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There’s a “Tartan Days” festival in St Charles MO every spring, right around “IRS Day”. I’m totally non-Celtic (6/8 German, 2/8 English); the wife has Scot, Irish & English in her ancestry. She wouldn’t even try the haggis. I’ve had it a few times, including as a ‘haggis pup’ (Sausage form). I liked it, would buy it if i could find it locally.
N.B. As a total omnivore, I also like Indian, Thai, Korean, ….. and German cuisine.

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