Hag­gis

How a fran­co­phone butcher in the Glebe be­came the go-to guy for Scot­land’s most iconic dish

Ottawa Magazine - - CITY BITES -

Stephane Sauve is the cur­rent owner of the Glebe Meat Mar­ket, a high-end butcher shop on Bank Street that is nearly a cen­tury old — and that has cul­ti­vated a niche in the world of hag­gis.

The main in­gre­di­ents of hag­gis are sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs. Those parts are boiled, ground, and mixed with plenty of onions, spices, pin­head oats, suet (fat), and stock. The soft-tex­tured con­coc­tion is then stuffed into an an­i­mal cas­ing (the beef bung) and boiled again.

When Sauve first started pro­duc­ing hag­gis, he was sell­ing about 400 pounds for Scot­tish com­mu­nity events in and around Ot­tawa. The dish is tra­di­tion­ally eaten on St. An­drew’s Day (Novem­ber 30) and Rob­bie Burns Day (Jan­uary 25).

Nowa­days, he says, he’s sell­ing 3,000 pounds of hag­gis for Rob­bie Burns Day alone! De­mand has in­creased so much, he’s cook­ing it up all year at a rate of 100 pounds a week.

“It’s my sig­na­ture dish now,” he says. “It’s quite in­ter­est­ing to see all the peo­ple who are buy­ing it. Wed­dings — you get calls for a wed­ding. They want hag­gis on each ta­ble.” Sauve sup­plies hag­gis to Le­gions, the House of Com­mons, and lo­cal pubs, as well as for armed forces din­ners. He has shipped hag­gis to New­found­land, Bri­tish Columbia, and Nu­navut.

“They kind of find it funny, that the French guy has the best hag­gis. There was ac­tu­ally a guy who came three years ago from a lit­tle vil­lage in Scot­land. He came to the store and said, ‘Are you the French guy that makes hag­gis?’ He said he never would have thought that. It was hard to un­der­stand him with his [heavy] ac­cent and what­not, but I gave him some and he came back a few days later and said, ‘God, that is even bet­ter than at home.’ ”

Sauve, 48, started pro­duc­ing hag­gis when a whisky so­ci­ety in Ot­tawa ap­proached him; they had been get­ting hag­gis from a Scot­tish butcher in Corn­wall, but the busi­ness had re­cently closed.

At first, Sauve man­aged to pur­chase large amounts of hag­gis from a sup­plier in Mon­treal. He says ev­ery­thing was go­ing well un­til the sup­plier be­gan jack­ing up the price. That is when he de­cided to make it him­self.

“It was a very big learn­ing process,” says Sauve. “Took me about 14 months to get the per­fect recipe.

“When you boil hag­gis, you have to punc­ture it ev­ery 15 min­utes, which I didn’t do the first time, so the pots looked like vol­ca­noes. They were just blow­ing up ev­ery­where. So that didn’t work.”

He reached out to Scot­tish cus­tomers, ask­ing for feed­back af­ter ev­ery batch.

Sauve says he eats hag­gis ev­ery week when he makes a fresh batch, but I was cu­ri­ous to know what he thinks of the dish. Af­ter all, many peo­ple turn their noses up at it be­cause the thought of eat­ing of­fal turns them off.

“I didn’t like it when I first started be­cause it tasted aw­ful, but now it’s very savoury and it’s really good, so I’m pretty happy with it,” he says.

You can’t go wrong by pick­ing up hag­gis from the Glebe Meat Mar­ket. Be sure to serve it with turnip and potato, great mashed to­gether. Oh, a good Scotch whisky also helps. —Si­mon Gard­ner

Sauve’s way Glebe Meat Mar­ket has per­fected a recipe for hag­gis that in­cludes oats, onions, and spices

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