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Pinhead Oatmeal - the right idea

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Oats have been the staple grain of Scotland because oats are better suited than wheat to Scotland's short, wet growing season. Samuel Johnson disparagingly referred to oats: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”  Sir Walter Scott is said to have retorted, "Yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?”

Today, the benefits of eating oats have made headline news so maybe the Scots had the right idea back then!!

Lowering cholesterol, high (soluble) fiber, low fat, low GI, are just a few benefits from eating oats.  Oatmeal can be eaten in many different ways starting with breakfast and served as a dinner dessert.

The traditional recipe is known as porridge (porage) and eaten like grits in the Southern States (perhaps due to the early Scottish immigrants using corn in lieu of oats)

One of the main ingredients of Scotland’s infamous dish, The Haggis, is made from pinhead oatmeal. This dish was immortalized by Scotland’s ploughman poet, Robert Burns, in his Address to the Haggis (circa 1786).  The oatmeal is combined with finely chopped sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) and mutton, onions, suet and pepper and stuffed into a casing, tied off at both ends and steamed until “warm, reekin’ rich”. In the old days a sheep’s stomach was cleaned and blanched and made for an ideal casing.

Pinhead oatmeal is also used in making a breakfast favorite in the UK called black pudding, fried and served with bacon and eggs.

The “Oatcake” is a traditional Scottish cracker made entirely from oats. These can be eaten with marmalade, cheese, pate etc. Nairn’s is a household name for oatcakes and available in the US. Nairns also produce a range of wheat free oat cookies, flavored with fruit, spices and chocolate.

Cranachan” is a traditional Scottish dessert made with from a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky.

Caboc is Scotland's oldest cheese, dating from the 15th century in the Scottish Highlands.  Similar to mascarpone it has a coating of pinhead oatmeal. Legend has it that the oatmeal coating was an accidental afterthought.

Hamlyn’s is Scotland's leading brand of oatmeal producers and the only one guaranteed to be entirely Scottish from seed to mill to finished product. Hamlyn’s is part of a family food business, owned and managed by a family with 14 generations of history in oat milling.

In 1991 Hamlyn’s opened their newest mill near Banff on the Northern coast of Aberdeen shire and in close proximity to the heart of Scotland’s oat growing countryside and land of infamous malt whisky distilleries. The climate in the north east of Scotland is ideally suited to growing oats. The mill is one of the most modern oat processing mills in Europe, combining the latest oat milling techniques with traditional customs.

There is something distinctly different about the taste of Hamlyn’s oatmeal from other Scottish brands. Clearly it must have something to do with the oats grown in that region of Scotland that imparts a natural nuttiness and sweetness to their oatmeal.

One of our regular customers in Charlottesville VA states “I have sampled them all -- Scottish, Irish, American.  Hamlyn's Pinhead Oatmeal beats them all for texture and flavor.  Indeed, rather like a fine wine, Hamlyn's has a lovely aftertaste.”

About author:

Peter Wilson is the President  of Great Scot International Inc. in Charlotte, NC. For more information please visit www.thescottisggrocer.com

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