Ottawa butcher churns out Scottish haggis with a French-Canadian accent

Stephane Sauvé, owner of the Glebe Meat Market, will make more than 1,500 kilograms of haggis for Robbie Burns Day events across Ottawa.

Learning to make traditional Scottish dish a trial-and-error process for owner of Glebe Meat Market

Stephan Sauvé, owner of the Glebe Meat Market in Ottawa, stands in front of some of the hundreds of haggises he prepares each year for Robert Burns Day events. ( Jessa Runciman/CBC )

Scots across Ottawa will recite Robert Burns's Address to a Haggis Thursday night to celebrate the famous poet, and Scottish culture in general — but there's a fair chance the offal-stuffed delicacy before them came from a French-Canadian butcher.

Stephane Sauvé, owner of the Glebe Meat Market, has been cooking up the distinctly Scottish dish for years. In an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, Sauvé said it began with a request from a local whisky society.

"They were in kind of a jam and so they approached me, and I said, 'I will see what I can do,'" he said.

Haggis, described in Burns's poem as the "Great chieftain o' the pudding-race," is a mixture of lamb organs and other meat, stuffed with oatmeal into in sheep's stomach.

'They all exploded'

Sauvé said he used to fulfil customers' requests by ordering haggis from a butcher in Montreal, but as the orders multiplied the cost of importing it stopped making sense.

"I did that for about three or four years, but each time I was ordering it, I was ordering a bigger order, but he was charging more."

Sauvé decided to learn how to make haggis himself, and solicited recipes from local members of the Scottish diaspora. He even invited experts in for taste tests as he tweaked his recipe.

"It took 14 months, but at the end they were saying, 'Stop it, stop it right now, don't touch anything."

It was a trial-and-error process, Sauvé said, and the errors were sometimes spectacular: for example, he learned the hard way that as haggis cooks, the oats expand and there needs to be a small hole in the skin to let the air escape.

"They all exploded, all 40 pounds of it."

When he started, Sauvé ordered about 45 kilograms of haggis each year, but he said now, after 15 years, he makes more than 1,500 kilograms of the stuff.