City Bites

‘Are you the French guy that makes haggis?’ Glebe butcher prepares ‘signature dish’ for Robbie Burns Day

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.

From his smile, it's obvious Stephane Sauve can stomach the work. Photo: Simon Gardner
From his smile, it’s obvious Stephane Sauve can stomach the work. Photo: Simon Gardner

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.

The Frenchman who's signature dish is a Scottish national dish. Photo: Simon Gardner
The Frenchman who’s signature dish is a Scottish national dish. Photo: Simon Gardner

“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.’ ”

Oat you glad someone else has to make this? Photo: Simon Gardner
Oat you glad someone else has to make this? Photo: Simon Gardner

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.

Tying the knot... Photo: Simon Gardner
Tying the knot… Photo: Simon Gardner

“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.

Offal-ly close to finished. Photo: Simon Gardner
Offal-ly close to finished. Photo: Simon Gardner

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.

The finished product. Photo: Simon Gardner
The finished product. Photo: Simon Gardner