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Haggis (at a Scottish festival)?

Greetings, folks. In mid-January, they always hold a Scottish festival near my home in the Orlando 'burbs, the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games:

http://www.flascot.com/vendors.htm

I've never made it there before, but I have always been curious about trying haggis. I know, it's weird and there are jokes about it, but I'm a big fan of lamb, sausages, and offal, so I think I would like it. Since this is the U.S., would any haggis they sell there be authentic? What exactly does it taste like? Is there any other Scottish food I must try as long as I'm there? I figure as long as I have to pay an admission fee, I'll try anything that looks interesting and exotic.

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  1. Haggis is actually not bad at all, as long as you don't think too long on what's in it. It's something like a spicy sausage. I've only had it in Scotland, so I'm not sure what the domestic versions might be like. I believe the use of lights (lungs), which are part of the traditional recipe, is not allowed in the US, but the final product is so highly seasoned that there may be little difference because of that.

    1. There's no standard recipe for haggis, so what you get there may be called just as "authentic" as the McSween's haggis I buy in my local supermarket in north west England or the haggis I've eaten in Scotland.

      The main meat content is offal and it's distinctly flavoured of it. Predominent spicing is pepper. Enjoy.

      As for other Scottish delicacies, you might look out for smoked salmon or an Arbroath Smokie. There may be Aberdeen Angus beef.

      1. Much haggis comes canned, and you're as likely to be served a fried-up slice of it in Scotland as in Orlando. The dramatic versions that come in a sheep's stomach for ceremoniously slitting open are not as common as the canned versions. Either way, the stuff is basically ground-up meat, oats and fat, and tastes just fine, sort of like a fine-grained corned beef hash. Certainly no weirder than, say, a Philadelphia Scrapple or a North Carolina Livermush. Some versions have the full range of offal, including sheep heart, liver and lungs (lungs are not permitted in the US by USDA regulations), and others include offal to lesser degrees. But it's all finely ground and not at all offensive looking or tasting. I've seen versions in the US that are purely lamb and oats, and some that are lamb, liver, oats and beef fat, etc. Any of it can be considered authentic, since as I already mentioned, even what you get in Scotland can vary from brand to brand and may even come right out of a can. Don't fear the haggis.

        1. I've been to quite a number of Scottish Games and I don't think you'll find much "authentic" dishes there. Of course, when we were in Scotland, I'd have to say the most "authentic" dish we came across was the oatmeal.

          Haggis isn't so bad... LorenzoGA is correct in that a) most of them come from a can (i.e., no one's making it from scratch) and b) it's mainly fine ground with oats and grains in it. I've seen varieties made with beef or lamb, and I've also seen a vegetarian version (mainly grains and beans and spices). Even the restaurants in Scotland admit that their haggis comes from a can (but is served on the tastiest potatoes I've ever had).

          You won't find much exotic foods at the Highland Games, but they are tasty (and probably mostly fried). Scotch eggs, fish & chips, meat pies and sausage rolls. It's may be one your easiest options for finding haggis to sample, but I don't think many people go for the food. If you do go, the dancing competitions are fun to watch, as are the athletics (caber tossing and the hale bay). Some Highland Games have sheepdog trials, too, which I find fascinating.

          4 Replies
          1. re: leanneabe

            I take issue with the claim that most haggis eaten comes from a can. That may be the case in the US but I've never had canned haggis. Not when Iived in Scotland or now in Canada. When I lived in Scotland it was sold at every butcher shop and supermarket meat counter, either whole or pre-sliced for frying.

            1. re: haggisdragon

              Don't forget the deep-fried haggis at every chip shop.

            2. re: leanneabe

              "Even the restaurants in Scotland admit that their haggis comes from a can"

              Would you like to name some, please?

              I have never seen canned haggis in the UK. It is ALWAYS fresh - usually in the traditional shape but occasional in slices.

              Canned haggis does exist - usually in gift packs for export.

              (EDIT: Wikipedia indicates that America does not allow the import of British haggis so, assuming that's accurate (and who knows with Wiki) then whatever you get isnt going to be "authentic")

              1. re: Harters

                <<America does not allow the import of British haggis>>

                Probably true if they don't allow lungs. Incidentally lungs are OK in Canada. And to the OP, beware the cheaper ones that have a surfeit of Oats that suck the mouth dry.

            3. It's livery. I like it. Have you ever had scrapple? It taste a lot like haggis.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KTinNYC

                I'm thinking that goetta, which is a scrapple variant using steel-cut oatmeal instead of cornmeal, should be pretty close to haggis. Main difference would be mutton instead of pork, so you'd get that sheep-y thing in there, which some folks might have a problem with.

                No point mourning our not being allowed to include lungs; it's my understanding that they were used just because, well, they were THERE, dammit, ya gonna just throw'em away? But apparently they contribute neither flavor nor nutritive value, so what the hell.

              2. I agree with Haggisdragon that I have never had canned haggis anytime I go to Scotland. As for fresh haggis in the U.S there is a Scottish bakery, in the Detroit suburbs, that makes fresh haggis and ships all over the country. I'm a haggis lover for the peppery taste!! It's probably one of the few authentic spicy items of Scottish cuisine.

                1. To me haggis tastes like peppery scrapple. I think what puts people off is the whole EW GUTS thing, but it's very tasty. Then again my grandfather was from Paisley so it might be a genetic thing. ;)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: MandalayVA

                    Could be genetic - the only "guts" stuff I encountered as a child was canned pepper pot soup, which used to have dice-sized pieces of tripe all through it - invisible in the stuff you get now, dammit - but we did eat heart and tongue and liver regularly, and I have since branched out happily into bun bo Hue and menudo and chitlins and stuff. But my grandpa's family's main source of prosperity was a huge pig operation, and they were a bunch of thrifty Mennonites, so I'll bet they knew what scrapple was all right. Just didn't serve it to company...

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        I mean they didn't serve it to US when we came to visit. But what with the lovely pork roast and fried chicken and fresh-picked corn and all I didn't really miss it...

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Lol, there should be a whole thread about what was served at home vs. what was served to company. I always liked home cooking better.

                  2. haggis is delicious! you don't have to be in scotland to make haggis or eat it; a number of choice restaurants in nyc feature it. it has a bad rap because it is cooked in a sheep's stomach and it deals with organs but you know, if you eat meat, you might as well eat the organs too! think of it as a spicy savoury hearty oatmeal.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bigjeff

                      I'd love to have a good recipe for haggis. Part of my deeply buried heritage is Scottish. And I mean, what's the problem? It's a sausage. Ordinary sausage or a hot dog is various body parts of food animals and filler stuffed in intestines. When you describe it like that, it sounds awful, but it turns out to be one of the most delicious dishes. It is all in what you are used to.

                      1. re: EmJayC

                        "I'd love to have a good recipe for haggis"

                        Easy to find a recipe online. Depending on where you are, it might not be as easy to find a sheep's stomach.

                        1. re: Harters

                          You can make haggis in an wide sausage casing - the type they use for salamis etc.

                    2. I used to go to highland games all the time and don't recall seeing much, if any, haggis at the games. Now I was competing in the highland dancing, so food was not at the top of my priority list, so I may have missed it. Most of the food you'll see will be food vendors serving fried food that tends to be more British. My favorite are the meat pies. Don't know how authentically Scottish they are, but I love them.

                      When I was a kid I was dragged to all the games and Scottish American events. Haggis was something I only saw brought out for the more special, elegant events like Burns Night (Jan. 25). That would probably be your best bet. See if there are any local Burns Night dinners in your area open to the public.

                      I don't remember what haggis tastes like. I remember it disgusted me as a kid because one year my step-mom cooked it at our house for some event. It smelled awful. I'm a much more adventurous eater so I'd try it now.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ivanova

                        "Most of the food you'll see will be food vendors serving fried food that tends to be more British."

                        I'm trying to think of which traditional British foods are fried - apart from fish & chips, of course.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            Mars Bars: The "traditional" food that started as a joke about the Scottish will to deep fry everything.

                            As for "authentic" Scottish:

                            A few tins of Tennants with too many cigarettes. Irn Bru the next morning.

                            Fudge doughnuts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellypop...

                            Anything battered.

                            A Chicken Tikka Masala: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_...

                            ETA: The claim that all haggis is tinned is completely bogus. A visit to most butchers around here will demonstrate otherwise.

                            1. re: Lizard

                              Apparently the deep fried Mars Bar dates all the way back to 1995.

                        1. re: ivanova

                          that is as great suggestion; especially since its coming up.

                          this is the official site:
                          http://www.scotland.org/burns-night/i...

                          the video is great; be sure to catch it at about a third through

                          we celebrated last year and it was great.

                          1. re: bigjeff

                            on second thought; check the picture on this site, with tips for hosting your own Burns Night in your own home:

                            http://www.friendsofscotland.gov.uk/s...

                            uhhh . . . . trust me, it's still good.

                        2. You can make haggis without too much trouble. We did a couple of years ago and served to non-believers as a type of pate. Just find some butcher that specializes in whole animals and he'll have all the parts you need, save the lights which are not allowed in the good ole USA. You own is so far beyond the can...

                          1. I'm so glad you all keep mentioning scrapple. For twenty years I've been telling people how good haggis is and how it's as delicious as scrapple, and for twenty years I've been getting suspicious or -- worse -- completely blank looks in response. Philistines!
                            Alas, I wouldn't count on the food at the Scottish fair being anything to write home about. While I've had acceptable meat pies and fish and chips, it's still just fairground food. But I hope you enjoy the pipes, and the drums, and the big guys in kilts throwing stuff. Go Scotties!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: youngconstance

                              The food? If you are lucky you'll be able to say "Fares fair".

                              In terms of catering, think Coney Island fairground.

                            2. We have haggis at our Scottish Society Burns Night. One of the members makes it each year. instead of a sheeps stomach he uses a cooking bag like you would use for turkey. I really like it. Also served are neeps(rutabager) and tatties. With a glass of Glen livet cant be beat. Especially piped in. a lot of fun. Grand Rapids Michigan Scottish Society.

                              1. If any is interested in ordering McKean's Scottish haggis in the US, look at the attached web site for WA Beane's meats in Bangor, Me. Scroll down to the poen "to Haggis".

                                http://www.beansmeats.com/Haggis.htm

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  One of my favorite poems.
                                  Although I'm not Scots, I lived with one for many years and we frequently hosted Burns Night; it was great fun, the Scots are the best to party with. Haggis included.

                                2. Hey Lou - Ken Hulme, over in Venice. As a Personal Chef called The Kilted Cook, I often get asked about haggis recipes.

                                  I make a pretty tasty faux haggis (fa' aggis) that doesn't use any organ meats. Start with a pound of ground lamb. To that add a diced onion, a teaspoon of nutmeg, one of salt, 3/4 cup uncooked steel cut oatmeal (not that flat Quaker stuff), and an egg to bind. Mix it all together with your Mark I Mixer (hands). Form it into a log about 8" long and roll it up in a couple layers of cheesecloth. Tie off the neds to firm up the loaf and make it look like a fat sausage. Take a loaf pan and put the loaf and fill the pan with beef broth until the meat can be submerged. Set the pan on the stove top, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45minutes, turning periodically. Unwrap and slice. Basically a poached meatloaf.