The growing demand for Lancashire Haggis
- Credit: Archant
Just whisper it, but the Scots can’t get enough of Lancashire haggis. Emma Mayoh reports
IT’S enough to make any Scotsman weep into his porridge. The news that the kilt was invented by Lancastrian Quaker Thomas Rawlinson must have been hard to take. Now, it looks like the beloved haggis also has its origins in the red rose county. It was first mentioned in a cookbook called Liber Cure Cocorum dating from 1430 and it is still in production here.
The family-run Brown’s Butchers in Chorley produce huge quantities of Lancashire Haggis - and they love it north of the border.
‘We believe the Liber Cure Cocorum is the earliest record of haggis,’ said Tim Brown, who runs the business with his father, John, brother, Chris and the next generation, Tim’s son, Sam. ‘It was written in a north Lancashire dialect and it predates Robert Burns by a long way. The Scots took it as their national dish and some don’t like it when we say haggis was invented in Lancashire!’
The Brown family started producing haggis more than 20 years ago. They were disappointed with what he saw as mass-market, off-the-shelf haggis. When he discovered a recipe in one of his dad’s books, he set about creating his own.
It wasn’t a quick process. John spent days and nights making hundreds of batches until he was happy. Chris admits he wasn’t convinced at first and thought his dad was just “messing around when he should have been helping us in the shop”. But the hours of experimentation paid off.
Demand for their Lancashire Haggis has boomed with customers wanting it all year round. As you might expect it gets really busy in the run up to Burn’s Night in January. In fact so good is their haggis, which comes in many flavours including smoked and mixed game, that they sell it in droves to Scottish dining establishments and individuals as well as to many eating places across the country. They have also won a bumper haul of awards in England and Scotland and their products have been recognised by top chefs as well as being featured in the New York Times.
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‘We’re making 1,200lb of haggis a day in January,’ said Tim. ‘It’s busy all year round but Christmas and January just go absolutely crazy.
‘Our recipe is a modern interpretation of an old classic. It’s lighter and more lightly seasoned than those produced in Scotland and is better suited to today’s more discerning palate. It shows that we’re doing the right thing and that people love it. Chris really did think at first Dad was wasting his time when the shop was busy but he’s done a great job.’
Such has been the popularity of Lancashire Haggis that they had to extend the back of the building to make enough room to produce it. But even that didn’t meet the demand and they are currently looking for a separate unit where the product can be made.
But haggis is a recent addition but the family business dates back many decades. Brown’s Butchers was first set up in 1932 by Tim and Chris’s great grandfather, Arthur. When the butcher was first set up there were many others in the market town, now they are one of the few traditional butchers left.
Their success is certainly down to the quality of produce they supply. As well as Lancashire Haggis they also produce black pudding, white pudding, roulades, speciality sausages and many other products in the shop. They certainly know their stuff.
But success is also down to their ability to reinvent themselves. Tim, 51, is at the forefront of this part of the business and has built his own drying room in the basement of the shop.
There, he cures meats making everything from chorizo to bresaolas. Not only are they snapped up by customers but they also supply numerous other businesses including the multi award-winning Port of Lancaster Smokehouse in Glasson Dock. They also produce a black pudding firestick, which is flavoured with Scotch Bonnet chillies.
The brothers like to nurture new talent through the business and are currently teaching young members of the team the tricks of their trade. The business has been going for generations and it is clear the Brown family have plans for it to continue for many more.
‘We’ve been here this long and we don’t plan on stopping,’ said Tim. ‘We feel we’re producing much better quality food than you can get in a supermarket and at many other butchers. Butchers in Scotland buy our haggis from us.
‘What we do is hard work but we also love it. We couldn’t really imagine doing anything else.’