In his "Address to a Haggis," the great Scottish poet and patriot Robert Burns hailed this traditional peasant dish as a symbol of national identity. Today, the poem and the food are synonymous with celebration dinners on Burns Night, Jan. 25, the anniversary of the poet's birth.
The ingredients of haggis help explain why it's not served much outside that one day. Haggis is a sausage of sorts. Sheep organs, including the liver, lungs, heart and tongue, are chopped fine and mixed with suet, oats, onions, and herbs and spices. The mixture is stuffed into a cleaned sheep stomach, which is sewn shut and boiled in water for several hours.
To get a genuine Scottish haggis, you'd have to go to Scotland. The USDA outlawed the import of Scottish lamb and mutton after an outbreak of BSE (mad cow disease) in 1989. Although the agency is reconsidering that rule, its ban on sheep lungs remains. Domestic haggis makers have stepped in with a nearly identical recipe, minus the lungs. Some even use imported Scottish oats, which are coarser and chewier than the rolled oats used in American foods. Their version comes in a synthetic fiber casing or canned.
Following the Burns Dinner tradition, serve the haggis with mashed rutabagas or turnips and mashed potatoes. If you like, toast the poet with Scotch whisky, splashing a wee bit on your serving of haggis.