Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Rabbie Burns!

I must re-post!

Today, I hope my readers, you faithful lads and lasses, will all join me in celebrating the 258th anniversary of Scottish poet Robert Burns' birthday. Born January 25, 1759, he was known as The Bard.

Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favorite son, was the embodiment of Scotland. He was a scamp, a womanizer (He fathered 12 children by 4 women.), and a hearty believer in that there was never a bad time to drink Scotch. He was a man with a gifted tongue and anyone who finds artistic inspiration in boiled sheep's stomach stuffed with guts and oatmeal certainly gets my respect. With that said, I offer you Burns'Address To A Haggis. 

Address To A Haggis


 Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain 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 hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', 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 Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak 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 gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Oh great.

Now I'm going to be talking like Mel Gibson in Braveheart for the rest of the day.
Without further ado,
being of Scottish descent myself,(There's my tartan.)
 I raise a toast to Rabbie Burns (Scotch, of course) and prepare haggisin celebration of the life of this iconic Scotsman.

My mise en place: the pluck coarse oatmeal 
lamb suet 
ox bung
Not shown are my seasonings:
 In case you're wondering, the pluck is the "heart, liver, windpipe, and lungs of a slaughtered animal." Slaughter regulations call for food-safe pluck to have the windpipe removed and the lungs cut across for inspection. In traditional recipes, the windpipe was hung over the edge of the pot to remove any "impurities" (i.e. sheep snot) and was not used in the actual stuffing. Do keep a close eye on the bubbling pot of offal, as these "impurities" can cause a visually disturbing brown froth to form if you boil too vigorously but not in any way detrimental to the finished product. Traditionally, haggis was packed into the sheep's fourth stomach or rumen, the largest of the stomach compartments which serves as a fermentating vat. However, these are difficult to obtain, due to possible fecal contamination, so my alternative is ox bung, which is the last yard or so of the large intestine of a cow, cleaned and salted.
I washed the pluck and simmered it gently in unsalted water for about an hour and a half, until tender, then let it cool overnight in its own cooking liquid.
And here's my boiled pluck which has contracted into a tight, condensed wad.
The heart is at top right, then the two lungs, and the two lobes of liver.

I chopped the heart and lungs finely and grated the liver. Remember, you don't want a pate. 
You want a gravelly texture.
I chopped my onions.
And toasted my oatmeal.
Here are my seasonings: chopped onions toasted oatmeal salt pepper sage thyme rosemary savory
Mix heart, liver, and lungs with lamb suet and seasonings.

I thoroughly cleaned and salted my ox bung, rinsed it out with cold water, then laid it out on a tray so I could giggle at a 2 foot long condom.
Then I started spooning the stuffing into my bung, expelling any air left inside.
Tie off tightly with butcher's string

Work the filling into the full length of the casing. The stuffing will expand during cooking as the oatmeal absorbs the fat and meat juices, so you need to allow space for the expansion while preventing any air bubbles from turning this into a nasty disaster of Hindenburgesque proportions.
Suture the open end of the bung with butcher's thread.
Half pack the casing, expel the air, and suture close.
Work the stuffing along the casing.

I gently lowered my haggis into simmering water. The stuffing will swell and the casing will contract so use a skewer to pierce and release any trapped air.
I simmered the haggis for about 1 1/2 hours.
Lift the bulging, burgeoning masses onto a plate and pat dry.
I cut the haggis while still piping hot, letting the casing retract and the stuffing ooze out attractively.

Ahhhh. The texture... velvety and mouth-coating like foie gras, yet with a nutty edge. The taste ... richness like you'd never imagine. The oatmeal absorbs the fats and flavors and the powerful aromas of the meat are dispersed throughout. It's a completely astonishing and comprehensive sensory assault and I can totally understand how this dish, a veritable festival of offal could inspire poetry and ritual in a nation less emotionally constipated than the English. Eyeeee, Rabbie, I raise me glass in a wee toast to ye mon. 

ETA: OK, OK. Before I get in trouble, I'll give you the link since I probably shouldn't have done this little hoax on my readers, plus, it was probably wrong to blatantly plagiarize. OK, totally wrong. I'm sorry. But I couldn't resist.

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