By Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley
Haggis is traditionally made with sheep’s lungs, liver and heart, which is then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach. Due to U.S. food laws and lack of demand, it’s impossible to find sheep lungs and stomach. So this is my wild game version, which utilizes a deer’s heart, liver and ground venison. Thankfully, some research pointed me to using a beef bung cap instead of sheep’s stomach, and I found it worked very well.
The intestine imparts no flavor to the edible part of the haggis. It simply serves as a cooking vessel. I’ve had real haggis in Scotland, and I’m proud to say that this recipe rivals the real thing. If you’re up for a different challenge in the kitchen and looking to make good use of a deer’s “wobbly bits,” try this venison haggis recipe.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 5 hours
- 1 beef bung cap, 4 to 4 ½ inch diameter
- 1 deer heart
- 1 pound of deer liver
- 1 ½ pounds of ground venison
- 2 large onions, minced
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ pound ground suet
- ½ pound steel-cut oats
- 1 teaspoon ground mace
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- The night before you make the venison haggis, rinse the beef bung cap and place in a bowl of lukewarm water to soak overnight. This will remove preserving salt and allow the bung to rehydrate. Rinse and flush with water again before you use it.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Open up the deer heart and remove any hard vessels/valves.
- Add the heart and liver to the boiling water and cook for 2 hours. Meanwhile, toast the steel-cut oats in a skillet until slightly browned and aromatic. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, heat ½ tablespoon of cooking oil in a large skillet and sweat minced onions with a pinch of salt until translucent and soft, about 7-10 minutes. Pour the onion into a large mixing bowl.
- In the same pan, add the rest of the cooking oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add ground venison and brown, breaking up the meat as finely as possible with a wooden spoon. Add the cooked ground venison to the onions and set aside to cool.
- After 2 hours, remove the liver and heart from the pot and pulse in a food processor until it’s about the same texture as the ground venison. (Reserve cooking liquid.) Add the minced heart and liver to the bowl of ground venison and onion. Next, stir in mace, nutmeg, coriander, allspice, toasted steel-cut oats, thyme, freshly cracked pepper and 1 tablespoon of salt. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings as desired. Then stir in the ground suet.
- Next, mix in 1 ½ to 2 cups of leftover cooking liquid from the heart and liver. The mixture should be moist and slightly hold its shape if squeezed between your hands, but it should still be crumbly and not watery.
- Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the haggis. Allow as much water to drip out of the beef bung as possible, and then carefully fill the bung with the cooled venison haggis mixture. The mixture should be snug, but not too tight. Twist the open end of the beef bung close and tie off tightly with cooking twine. Tie off the actual bung after the cooking twine knot, and then tie another piece of cooking twine directly after. This will ensure that the bung does not open during cooking.
- Cut off and discard excess lengths of the beef bung. Use a sharp toothpick or tip of a sharp knife to poke small holes all around the haggis – this will keep the haggis from exploding. Wash off the haggis to remove stray stuffing.
- Add the haggis to the pot of boiling water, making sure it’s fully submerged. Any areas that inflate, poke to deflate it. Cook the haggis at a medium boil for 3 hours. Keep an eye out, adding more water as necessary and poke any bubbles or inflated areas that appear. Flip the haggis halfway through.
- After 3 hours, carefully transfer the venison haggis from the pot to a platter. Allow outside moisture on the haggis to dry off before presenting. Cut haggis open with a knife and serve by the spoonful with mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas and Scotch whisky cream sauce to drizzle.
About this Venison Haggis Recipe
This venison haggis recipe was quite the project, but I think Scottish hunters will be pleased. It was made in honor of Burns Night – a Scottish holiday to celebrate poet Robert Burns. If you’ve heard of “Auld Lang Syne,” then you are familiar with his work.
In the U.K., Burns Night is celebrated on January 25 with Burns supper, which traditionally includes haggis, neeps (mashed rutabagas), tatties (mashed potatoes) and whisky cream sauce.
Before being presented at the table, the haggis is paraded around the room while a bagpiper plays. Then upon reaching its destination, the host will recite Burns’ “Address to a Haggis,” and with knife in hand, slices open the “great chieftain o the puddin'-race!”
We didn’t have a piper, so we made do with Google and our iHome. My husband did a fantastic job reciting the poem, and when he cut open the haggis, all around the table marveled at the steaming innards of spiced minced venison and oats. But you don’t have to wait until Burns Night to make this recipe. In Scotland, haggis, neeps and tatties is enjoyed year round.