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Nothing To Be Afraid Of: Haggis at Ackroyd's Bakery

Allan Ackroyd and Anne Johnstone making Haggis at Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery.
Allan Ackroyd and Anne Johnstone making Haggis at Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery.
Photo: All photos courtesy of Joe Hakim, The Hungry Dudes

Haggis. The very word invokes a variety of reactions in people, most of them negative, but ask if they have tried it, or even if they know what's in it, and they fall silent. Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery, in Redford, would like to change all that, and based on their homemade version of the traditional Scottish meat dish, they just might.

According to Allan Ackroyd, son of Al Ackroyd, who founded the business in 1949, the word is part of the problem. While French organ meat dishes are seen as delicacies, people balk at the Scottish equivalent. As Allan puts it, "Haggis is a guttural sounding name, it doesn't sound as sweet as Paté".

Scottish paté might be the most accurate description of the dish, made at Ackroyd's from lamb heart, liver, and rib meat, mixed with ground oatmeal, onions, spices, and suet (beef fat). This mixture is cooked inside of a beef casing, and the resulting dish is eaten warm, most commonly spread on crackers or toast.

Traditionally the dish is served in a sheep stomach casing, but that's a bit hard to come by in the United States, and that also limits the size. Using beef casing means that they can make a range of sizes, so not everyone has to bring home 8 pounds of it at a time. As for the filling, in Scotland it is made from the "sheep's pluck" which includes not just the heart and liver, but the lungs as well. In the United States, lungs are not allowed in the dish, which is why Haggis produced in Scotland isn't imported. Its reputation as a "banned" food made from organ meat has given the dish a bit of a bad rap, but as Allan explained, theirs is made in the shop from US products, and it is 100% legal.

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So who is eating this somewhat unusual treat? According to Allan, groups like The Saint Andrews Society or the Burns Club, (named after Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet who wrote Auld Lang Syne) purchase it seasonally for New Years and around Robert Burns' birthday, both times when it is commonly eaten back in Scotland. But while the clubs order more seasonally, Allan now makes it year-round due to popular demand from individual customers. He has locals who seek it out specifically, but he notes that out of town visitors buy it and bring it back to their families all over the country.

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What does it taste like? Joe Hakim, of the Hungry Dudes, is quite fond of it. He is married to Allan's daughter Megan, the third generation Ackroyd to work in the bakery. For the uninitiated, Joe says it's "really savory, salty, with a lot of onion. It's not overwhelming, it tastes like a saltier pate".

The mild taste pleasantly surprised a few customers at the bakery, who agreed to try some after a lot of nervous laughter. They ate a few bites, and said they couldn't wait to tell the kids that they had eaten lamb heart and liver! But as Allan said, "people eat hot dogs all the time" and nobody seems to bat an eye (or really think about what's in them). But for those who really refuse to eat it, all is not lost. Every year in Scotland the dish takes center stage in another way entirely. According to Allan, "at The Scottish Highland Games they have a thing called a Haggis Toss. They have to stand on a small whiskey barrel and toss the haggis as far as they can without falling off". Eat it or throw it, but love it either way.

As for Ackroyd's, Haggis isn't the only meat available. They also sell traditional Scottish meat pies, Bridies (ground beef in puff pastry), pasties, black pudding (blood sausage), and more. And when it comes to sweets, there is no shortage of options there either, though the fern cake, made with almonds and strawberry jam, is almost everyone's favorite.
· Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery [Official Site]
· UK Government Bids to Overturn US Haggis Ban [BBC]
· The Five Days Of Meat All Posts [-ED-]


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