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American Haggis

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One of the most famous of foods from Scotland is haggis, the infamous dish of sheep organs boiled in a stomach until it's ready to eat. (Yes, I know haggis is much more than that.) Essentially, haggis is another kind of sausage, because it uses those parts of the animal in a manner that ensures every part is useful and nothing is wasted or discarded. People may cringe in disgust at the idea of cooking organ meat in a sheep stomach…but that's not very different from common everyday sausages, which are actually pig intestines stuffed with ground up offal meat.

However, haggis has actually been banned in the United States since 1971. In that year, a ruling went into effect banning the use of lung tissue and meat in processed foods in the USA. This is because of the "possibility" of contamination from other bodily fluids. During the process of slaughtering, fluids such as stomach acid or phlegm may enter the lungs. Because ofthis, foods using lung tissue, especially haggis, cannot legally be imported or sold in the United States.

This was why I set out to make an "American" version of haggis, using ingredients that are more readily available in the USA. The result was surprisingly easy to prepare – and quite delicious! What we have here is essentially a kind of sausage, but one with a more sweet flavor than you might expect. I was quite pleased with how this turned out, and I hope you may consider this interesting enough to give it a try.

And for those of you from Scotland who are decrying this dish and declaring "That ain't haggis!", I fully agree with you. That's why this is called "American haggis." After all, we can say this about nearly all American cusine: take a famous reciple from your native country, change it around and use completely different ingredients, but call it the same thing. Look at what we've done to pizza and "Chinese" take-out foods! Now we're giving haggis the same treatment. (Chill out, everyone reading this, and take it with a sense of humor.)


Neeps and tatties

The meat can be ground up using a grinder or food processor, to give it a texture for stuffing sausages. The sausage casings are optional, and the meat can be finely chopped without having to be completely ground up.

Once the meat has been ground or chopped, then mixed together, add spices and mix in: pepper, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, thyme, cinnamon. Add oats and mix in. Grind or finely chop a large onion and mix it into the meat and oats. The oats will absorb a lot of liquid, which is why you'll need to add one cup (or more) of chicken stock to give the haggis the right texture.

When mixed, cover with plastic wrap and let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

At this point, you can stuff the haggis into sausage casings, or you can simply cook it.

Although boiling haggis is the traditional manner of cooking it, this dish will taste even better if you fry it in a cast iron skillet! Heat a large cast iron pan at medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it's hot enough to sear the food. Add cooking oil to the pan, and let it heat for about 30 seconds. Add your haggis to the pan, and stir fry it until thoroughly cooked.

The traditional manner for cooking haggis is to gently simmer it for an hour. Whether or not the haggis is stuffed into sausage casings, wrap it up in aluminum foil so the haggis is kept out of the water, though steam will still be able to get into the food. Place in a stock pot or dutch oven, and add about 3 cups of water to the pot so the foil-wrapped haggis is about half submerged in the water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for an hour.

During this time, peel and boil turnips and potatoes in their own separate pots, until they are soft enough to mash.

Remove the foil wrapped haggis to a plate. Unwrap the foil, and serve with mashed turnips and potatoes. This is the traditional Scottish dish of haggis, neeps and tatties, and it's especially popular to serve on Burns Night (January 25).


This dish is based on a reciple for Simpligied Haggis, courtesy of Caroline's Cooking: