PEI

'It's actually really delicious': Cooking up haggis for Robbie Burns Day

Students at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown are doing their part to bring a bit of Scottish tradition to the Island for Robbie Burns day this year — they're cooking haggis.

'It's part of our Scottish culture and it's an important part'

Haggis is traditionally made by stuffing a variety of meat in a sheep's stomach, but this year they're using beef bladders says chef instructor Hans Anderegg. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Students at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown are doing their part to bring a bit of Scottish tradition to P.E.I. for Robbie Burns Day this year — they're cooking haggis. 

Students spent the last week gathering and preparing ingredients for the meal — everything from sheep hearts and livers to cow bladders — and now they're learning what it takes to put it all together. 

Robbie Burns Day is the celebration of the Jan. 25 birthday of one of Scotland's best-known poets, and a day many Islanders celebrate Scottish heritage and traditions. Many on P.E.I. can trace their heritage to Scotland as well as Ireland. 

Roasted oats are an important ingredient in haggis. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Hans Anderegg, a chef instructor with the culinary institute, said haggis is a dish the institute prepares only twice a year. He said it is a great opportunity for students to explore a traditional dish they otherwise wouldn't. 

Once it all comes together with the ingredients it's actually really delicious.— Kassidy Arsenault

"It's interesting for the students to see what else you can use besides the tender cuts — you also use the secondary cuts and the organ meats and all that," Anderegg said. 

Finding the right ingredients

Anderegg said the hardest thing about making haggis is finding the right ingredients, since they're not often found on a regular menu.

Students at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown are doing their part to bring a bit of Scottish tradition to the Island for Robbie Burns day this year. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Haggis is traditionally made by stuffing various meats in a sheep's stomach, but this year they're using beef bladders, he added. 

"You need the heart, you need the liver, actually originally the lungs would go in it as well, and then you have some lamb shoulder," Anderegg said.

The entire cooking process takes about five hours. Students took turns prepping the meat and stuffing the haggis. 

'Pretty proud of it'

Many said their approach to cooking food is very much like their approach to eating it — they'll never turn down the chance to try something at least once.

People who have eaten this traditional Scottish dish swear it is delicious. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"To try something new and to say like, 'Oh have you ever made haggis?', it's like 'Yes, yes I have,'" said second-year culinary student Jamie Venton. 

"To put that ... on your verbal resume is awesome." 

Kassidy Arsenault said making haggis was an extra-special way to explore her own family's heritage. 

"I'm pretty proud of it. My grandmother was very, very Scottish and she was very proud of her heritage, so it's nice to be able to honour her in that way."

"Once it all comes together with the ingredients it's actually really delicious," Arsenault said.

'It's part of our Scottish culture' 

The Caledonian Club of P.E.I. celebrates Scottish heritage and relies on the culinary institute to create haggis every  year for its Robbie Burns dinner. 

Roddie MacLean gives the address to the haggis at a past Robbie Burns Day celebration of the Caledonian Club of P.E.I. (Submitted by Eleanor Boswell)

"The haggis [recipe], probably came over with our … ancestors and I think that tradition has carried on. I think everybody, especially Scottish people, I think they have that, they want to try it. It's part of our Scottish culture and it's an important part."

Boswell said everyone at the club's celebration will have a chance to try the haggis and it will be presented with a traditional parade and address of the haggis.

She said the celebration will also include live music and dancing, bagpipes and fiddles.

Eleanor Boswell says the Caledonian Club of P.E.I. relies on the culinary institute to prepare haggis every year for Robbie Burns Day. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Boswell said the event isn't just for Scottish Islanders — anyone interested in attending can find more information on the club's website or Facebook page. 

Boswell said each year she's glad to have the culinary institute to help carry on the community's cultural traditions.

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About the Author

Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: brittany.spencer@cbc.ca

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