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"What exactly is it that they put into haggis?
I've often wondered about that."
P. G. Wodehouse, 'Right Ho, Jeeves'

Lancashire Haggis
Image: http://www.lancashirehaggis.co.uk

The minced pluck (the heart, lungs ('lights'), and liver, sometimes with the tripe and chitterlings) of a beast, nowadays usually a sheep but historically a calf, with suet and oatmeal, seasoned with salt, ample pepper, onions, spices (commonly ground coriander seed), boiled like a very large sausage in a skin.

Although there are many known old receipts for offal and oatmeal puddings, such as Hackin or Hogs Pudding, the earliest reference to haggis ('hagese') is in the Lancashire verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum (Liber Cure 1430). This is about 50 years before the first reference in Scotland. It continued to appear in English texts up to the 19th Century, and was clearly as loved or loathed as it is now, for Markham's 'English Huswife' of 1615 has, "That pudding which is called the Haggas or Haggus, of whose goodnesse it is in vain to boast, because there is hardly to be found a man that doth not affect them."

Original Receipt in the verse cookery book 'Liber Cure Cocorum', 1430 (Liber Cure 1430);

For hagese.
the hert of schepe, the nere thou take,
tho bowel nowt thou shalle forsake,
On the turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,
Isop, saveray, thou schalle take then,
And suet of schepe take in, I ken,
With powder of peper and egges gode wonne,
And sethe hit wele and serve hit thenne,
Loke hit be saltyd for gode menne.
In wyntur tyme when erbs ben gode,
Take powder of hom I wot in dede,
As saveray, mynt and tyme, fulle gode,
Isop and sauge I wot by the rode.

Both Rundell 1807 and the vast Victorian cookery reference book, Cassell's, distinguish between English Haggis, which adds bacon to the minced sheep pluck together with breadcrumb and strong flavourings, and Scottish Haggis which uses beef suet as the fat and oatmeal as the binder with more spicy flavourings of pepper and nutmeg.

Original Receipt in 'A New System Of Domestic Cookery' by 'A Lady' (Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell) (Rundell 1807);

Take the heart, the tongue, and a part of the liver of the sheep, with a third of its weight in fat bacon, two anchovies chopped small, and the crumb of a penny-roll grated, a salt-spoonful of grated lemon-peel, pepper, salt, two eggs beaten, and a glass of wine; mix all well together; butter a mould; put in the mixture, and let it boil for two hours; or it may be boiled in a veal caul.

TT Wilkinson's 'Lancashire Folklore' of 1867 explains how haggis was the favourite food of witches; "The village of Singleton (in the Fylde) is remarkable only for having been the residence of "Mag Shelton," a famous witch in her day. Her food, we are told, was haggis (at that time commonly used in the district) made of boiled groats, mixed with thyme or parsley."

Although, of course, haggis has a continuing popularity in Scotland, there are several makers in northern England.

For Sweet Haggis, see: Hackin
See also: Nettle Haggis, Kew Haggis

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