Cumberland Hackin, Cumbria
Only those interested in historic foods are likely to eat Hackin these days, which is perhaps understandable, though it is a fascinating dish in itself, and ideal for American guests who seem to imagine we live solely on outlandish mixtures. Add to this the likelihood that it is the direct ancestor of the Christmas pudding, and it is a thing worth knowing, even trying if you have a sense of culinary adventure.
The word Hackin has the same origin as Haggis - they are derived from the French word hache, meaning chopped. Haggis was indeed far from a Scottish monopoly until relatively recent times, and sweet versions were to be found alongside the well-known savoury ones. As Cumbria is Scotland's near neighbour it is not surprising they shared certain gustatory pleasures.
A hack pudding was, and for special occasions still is, made from a mixture of oatmeal (cheap, plentiful and used for about half the weight of the filling), minced lamb or sometimes beef, currants, plenty of suet to fill hungry stomachs, apples chopped small, and flavourings of coarse sugar, nutmeg, pepper, mace and maybe others if they were to hand. This cornucopia is then all mixed and bound with beaten egg, stuffed in a calf's stomach, or for grand occasions a horse's, and boiled until done all the way through.
Legend has it that in some Cumberland towns if the cook or maid in charge of making it failed to have the dish on the kitchen table before first light on Christmas Day, she would be publicly if playfully humiliated by being paraded through the centre of the place, a male servant at each arm.
Some may back away in horror at the mixture, but those same people will probably enjoy French dishes like pork with prunes, or North African lamb with currants and spices, or Peking Duck with plum sauce.
At one time our puddings were the envy of Europe, and adventurous versions like the Hackin would have been thought delightful. We can be our own worst enemies, doing down our gastronomic heritage. Let's hope that roly-poly pudding and spotted dick aren't bound for the culinary limbo already occupied by the likes of Hackin.
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