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Dec 7, 2009 01:18 PM

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:

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 Reply
        1. re: LorenzoGA

          Haven't tried liver mush yet but I love a good scrapple, if you can eat cajun head cheese and scrapple you can eat anything, well except for the rotten,oops I meant fermented shark meat they eat in ....oohs I can't remember but you'll get my drift.

        2. 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.