To use every single bit

A couple of months ago me, my wife and my daughter went to a couple of friends’ place in the deep forests of Småland. We had a terrific time, had lots of apples from their plantation, had great meals and hung out with the sheep at the place. A couple of days ago, Katarina visited, kinda late. And she brought at body wrapped in black plastic bags. I put the blinds down, and started to cut the body in pieces with a saw. It was quite bizarre – a regular thursday evening I stood in my kitchen with an apron, hair pointing in all directions, with a saw put to a sheep’s body.

Today, Sunday, my dad visited, to help me butcher the sheep into good, choice meat. And then I had an idea. I have never tried to cook Haggis, so I dug up an old recipe I had when I worked in Scotland. Magnus and Katarina (special thanks to Katarina’s mother for being a relentless slaughterer – she emptied the sheep’s stomach, and put heart, liver and lungs into bags for me).

First step when making haggis, is to soak the stomach of the sheep in really, really salt water over night. The same day, you can also cook the liver, the heart and the lungs. They are to boil slowly in nothing but pure water for 1,5 hours. Make sure that the windpipe of the lungs are always above water – impurities are ventilated through it, and, if possible, put the liver on top of the lungs. As the lungs are filled with air, they have a tendency to float to the surface, which means that only about 60% of the lungs are in the boiling water. If this happens, try to turn the lungs from time to time. In this picture, note the windpipe hanging over the edge of the pot. Top up with water if necessary.

When the boiling is finished, remove the pluck (lungs, liver and heart) from the pot, and pour the water into a container – it is going to be used later in the process.

The next step is the yuckiest one. Put your hand in the sheep’s stomach, and use a table knife to scrape of the ”fluff” on the outside of it. Make sure not to pierce it. I found that it is best to work in small circles, and to have lots of water nearby. This is a stiff work.

I guess the experts have no problem doing this, but I am quite certain that i spent at least 1,5 hours scraping the surface completely clean. The lowermost picture show the difference between unscraped stomach and scraped.

When it is good and clean, turn it inside out and wash it thoroughly, scraping if necessary – this is the surface where the sheep’s shit is produced (hey – it is a stomach!), so you would like to be really meticulous when cleaning this. It has been soaked in salt, and that would take care of most (hopefully all) harmful micro organisms, but that is no excuse to be sloppy about it – work-work, as the peon said.

A stomach is peculiar, by the way. Really stretchy. Really smelly. Really yucky. It is fascinating. And you find yourself amazed by what you are doing a regular evening, with your arm half way into a sheep’s digestive system, scraping frantically with a table knife.

Great experience, despite of the smell and the ”oh-so-gross-factor”.

I learn a lot these days, and I am pretty positive no one of my friends have ever done this.

Tomorrow’s the big day, when the actual making of the Haggis is taking place. I will of course report on every disgusting detail. Stay tuned for next episode of ”Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race”!
And by the way – the smell still hasn’t gone of my hands…

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