This weekend brought the annual Celtic Classic to Bethlehem. The kids and I went for one of the opening ceremonies, the Piping of the Haggis and Haggis Eating Contest. I try to get there each year to watch these men and women eat that thing without losing it. I don't know why it's such a novelty but we love watching.
This year's winner was the same as last, Darren Lucey of Brooklyn, N.Y., beating the 22 other competitors out in one minute and twenty seconds. (I'm not sure I could get one down in 24 hours though I am of Scottish descent.) The contest was emceed by Neville Gardner, the owner of Donegal Square here in Bethlehem, purveyor of all things Celtic. Prior to the actual downing of the Grand Grey Lump, Art Charlton of Easton recited the Robert Burns poem, ''Ode to A Haggis'':
Ode to a Haggis
All hail your honest rounded face,
Great chieftain of the pudding race;
Above them all you take your place,
Beef, tripe, or lamb:
You're worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your sides are like a distant hill
Your pin would help to mend a mill,
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distil,
Like amber bead.
His knife the rustic goodman wipes,
To cut you through with all his might,
Revealing your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, what a glorious sight,
Warm, welcome, rich.
Then plate for plate they stretch and strive,
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all the bloated stomachs by and by,
Are tight as drums.
The rustic goodman with a sigh,
His thanks he hums.
Let them that o'er his French ragout,
Or hotchpotch fit only for a sow,
Or fricassee that'll make you spew,
And with no wonder;
Look down with sneering scornful view,
On such a dinner.
Poor devil, see him eat his trash,
As feckless as a withered rush,
His spindly legs and good whip-lash,
His little feet
Through floods or over fields to dash,
O how unfit.
But, mark the rustic, haggis-fed;
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Grasp in his ample hands a flail
He'll make it whistle,
Stout legs and arms that never fail,
Proud as the thistle.
You powers that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare.
Old Scotland wants no stinking ware,
That slops in dishes;
But if you grant her grateful prayer,
Give her a haggis.
So, just what IS haggis? Roughly, heart, liver, lungs of a sheep, oats and spices all stuffed into a sheep's stomach and simmered for hours. Mmmmm...
This is Jeff Smith's recipe from his book "The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors":
"Traditionally, a Haggis is made from the lung, liver, and heart of the sheep. These are mixed with oatmeal and a few spices and stuffed into the sheep's stomach. After being boiled, the Haggis is brought to the table with a great deal of ceremony. A piper ushers in the Haggis and all raise a glass of Scotch whiskey and "brrreath a prrayerr for the soul of Rrrobbie Burrrns!" It is then served with "neeps and nips," mashed turnips and nips of whiskey. I think you have to drink a lot of Scotch before you can truly enjoy this dish, but a party of Scots without a Haggis is simply not heard of.
I prepared this recipe for the Medinah Highlander Pipe and Drum Band of Chicago. They piped the Haggis into the dining room, the boiled sheep's stomach being carried on a silver tray by Craig, my assistant. The Pipe and Drum Major cut the Haggis in the sign of the Cross and the party began. These pipers ate everything in sight ... so I am willing to offer you *MY* version of Haggis.
THE MAJOR INGREDIENTS:
1 pound beef heart, cut into 2-inch-wide strips.
1 pound beef liver.
1/2 pound lamb stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes.
1 1/2 cups peeled and finely chopped yellow onion.
4 tablespoons Scots whisky.
2 cups oatmeal, toasted on a cookie sheet in a 375F oven for 10 minutes).
2 teaspoons salt.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
1 teaspoon dried thyme, whole.
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary.
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.
3 beef CAPS (Talk to a sausage shop about these).
1 cup distilled white vinegar.
1/2 tablespoon salt for soaking.
Place the beef heart in a 4-quart covered pot and just cover with cold water. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Add the beef liver and lamb stew meat, and cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the contents of the pot and cool. Reserve 1 cup of the liquid. Grind everything coarsely.
In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients, except for the beef caps, vinegar, and salt for soaking. Mix well and set aside.
Rinse the beef caps in cold water. Turn them inside out and soak them in 2 quarts of cold water with the salt and vinegar for 1/2 hour. Drain them and rinse very well, inside and out.
Divide the meat mixture into three parts. Fill the beef caps with the meat mixture and tie the ends off with string. Two will have to be tied on just one end, but the third piece will be tied on both ends. Prick the Haggis all over with corn holders or a sharp fork. Place in a steamer and steam for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Serve the Haggis, sliced, with beef or lamb gravy."