Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” ~ January 25

January 25 – Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis”

Burns 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
beef gravy
450 g (or 1 lb.) beef suet
lemon juice

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.
Fair fá your honest, sonsie face, Is there that owre his French ragout
Great chieftan o’ the pudding-race! Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place, Or fricassee wad make her spew
Painch, tripe, or thairm: Wi’ perfect sconner,
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’
As lang’s my arm. View on sic a dinner?
The groaning trencher there ye fill, Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,  As feckles as wither’d rash,
Your pin was help to mend a mill His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash
In time  o’need His nieve a nit;
While thro’ your pores the dews  Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
distil, Like amber bead. O how unfit!
His knife see rustic Labour dight But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight, The trembling earth resound his
Trenching your gushing entrails tread. Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
bright, Like ony ditch; He’ll make it whissle;
And then, O what a glorious sight, An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will
Warm-reekin’, rich! sned, Like taps o’ trissle.
Then, horn for horn, they stretch Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your
an’ strive: Deil tak the hindmost! care, And dish them out their
on they drive, Till a’ their bill o’ fare, Auld Scotland wants
weel-swall’d kytes belyve nae skinking ware
Are bent like drums That jaups in luggies;
Then auld Guidman, maist like But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
to rive, Bethankit! hums. Gie her a haggis!      (1786)
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.
This work is released under CC-BY-SA

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, food and drink, legends and myths, poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” ~ January 25

  1. After the 3 hours remove from pot throw into garbage bin and open a can of baked beans. O_o o_O 😀

  2. MaryAnn Nagy says:

    I don’t think I could ever eat this dish! Plus I wonder how it smells while cooking it. However, if you start eating when you are small, they probably don’t even know what it is made of andgrow to like it?????
    Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

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