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Recommended Book: Much Ado About Mutton

imgresMutton? No not the remains of a 10 year old sheep but a fantastic meat full of flavour and great texture.

Ever since eating ‘lamb’ in Australia I have been very keen on mutton. What they call lamb is mutton in the UK due to regulations on the age of the sheep. I think English lamb is too young, sinewy and rather tasteless, a sheep that is older and classed as ‘mutton’, I think is miles better. So here is more on a book about it, from friend, and author, Bob Kennard;

I guess if I was taking just one point from the book, it would be that in its Victorian heyday, mutton was an icon of British food – more popular than beef, and so there is every reason why it should become popular once again.

It was discussed in great detail, and many people had strong views on what made the best mutton. Breed, feed and environment, hanging period and slow cooking, were the main criteria people judged quality on. Mrs Beeton (1861) was a great fan of mutton “Mutton is undoubtedly the meat most generally used in families. And, both by connoisseurs and medical men, it stands out first in favour, whether its fine flavour, digestible qualifications, or general wholesomeness be considered.”

Bob and his book

Bob and his book

Literature is sprinkled with comments about mutton. John Galsworthy in the Forsyte Saga of 1906 wrote “No Forsyte has given a dinner without providing a saddle of mutton. There is something in its succulent solidity which makes it suitable to people ‘of a certain position’. It is nourishing and tasty; the sort of thing a man remembers eating. It has a past and a future, like a deposit paid into a bank; and it is something that can be argued about.”

Charles Dickens mentions meals of mutton 92 times in 27 of his works, such as “’Go further away from the leg of mutton, or you’ll be picking it, I know,’ said Miss Sally.” (The Old Curiosity Shop).

mature meat with texture and flavour

mature meat with texture and flavour

So, just as wine drinkers have a choice of grape varieties and terroirs which add to the pleasures of tasting different wines, so with mutton. As I say in the book, there is much interest and enjoyment to be had from comparing the differences in flavour and texture of the meat reared in different environments, the breeds of sheep, and the periods of hanging.images-2

The Victorians considered some breeds superior to others in the quality of mutton which they produced. Generally, Hill & Mountain breeds, Down breeds, and Primitive island breeds were considered to be superior. The book contains a full directory of sheep breeds, with indications of what the Victorians considered to be the best for mutton, a Suppliers’ Directory, and a How to Choose your Mutton section as well as a collection of traditional and contemporary recipes. Cooking mutton today is easy and produces tender, really tasty meat every time using a modern slow cooker.

For more about the book and mutton click here. To buy the book now here is a link to the publishers shop. If you are a shop and would like to sell the book call Joanne at Merlin Unwin Books on 01584 877 456 and mention BigBarn for a discount.

To buy mutton ask your local butcher using our local food map or see our mutton map and buy online by clicking on the red icons.

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