My dad always loved going to the Maine Highland games. Listening to the pipe and drum bands and sampling the various foodstuffs was a great way to spend a mid-summer afternoon with the family. There was always a vendor called Cameron’s of Kearny. I used to have a bumper sticker of theirs that read, “You can bust our chops, but you can’t beat our meat!” and of course that made my dad and I smile. Cameron’s made Scottish meat pies and Forfar bridies (I’ll test out a recipe for those another time) that were delicious and savory, but Dad always wanted to try haggis. Finally, the last time we went, there was a vendor there called McKean’s selling haggis links, and they were delicious!
He loved it so much that I took a ride up to Bangor, just to buy some more of McKean’s haggis. It turned out not to be particularly economical to keep doing that, so I started working on my own modified recipe. Let’s face it. It’s not easy to get sheep bits unless you have a sheep farm or a specialty grocer nearby. I do, in fact, have a sheep farm nearby, but I still prefer to make my haggis — or, I suppose, faux haggis — with beef parts, in the name of frugality, something we Scots are known for. Haggis was, at its conception, a peasant dish, created as a palatable way to make use of parts of the sheep that had few other uses. In a way, I suppose, that makes my haggis more authentic, in a market where lamb and mutton are pricier than beef.
A lot of the recipes I found online started with “buy a haggis from your local butcher or specialty store,” or similar, which was really frustrating to me, and if you’ve found you way here through the same frustration, I feel your pain. I won’t say I didn’t refer to Alton Brown when coming up with my recipe, but in the end it’s so much a blend of the different recipes I did find that I can’t fully accredit it to him.
Yeah, it ain’t much to look at, is it?
- 1 beef heart, boiled and minced
- 1-2 lb beef liver, boiled and minced
- 1/2 lb fresh suet, minced
- 1 c steel-cut oats, toasted
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 c stock
Mix all ingredients together and wrap with cheesecloth (traditionally, a sheep’s stomach is used instead.) Not too tightly, because the oatmeal will expand as it cooks. Put into boiling water to cover. Simmer for 3 hours, uncovered, adding more water as needed to maintain water level. Serve with bashed neeps and tatties (turnip and potatoes, respectively) and a finger or two of a decent Scotch whiskey (optional.) I also like mine with HP sauce.
To make haggis dogs, buy sausage casings from your local butcher and use in lieu of the cheesecloth or stomach. Serve on a roll with a healthy dollop of turnips and HP sauce.