Mutton Mutterings

"Sante Julyane, in til his tyme was ne glotonne Na wont was moch to ete motone."

Legends of the Saints (1375),
(Hartley p1)

“Meat in mincemeat survived longest in the sheep-rearing district of Cumbria, where lamb or mutton was used in preference to beef. Recipes are quoted by the Women’s Institute (1937), Joan Poulson (1979), and Peter Brears (1991).”

Traditional Foods of Britain: a regional inventory (2004) p306,

"A select company of the Bath footmen presents their compliments to Mr Weller...a friendly soiree consisting of a boiled leg of mutton, with caper sauce, turnips and potatoes."

Pickwick Papers,
(Hartley p151)

"Never you mind about the piece of needlework, the tambouring and the maps of the world made by her needle. Get to see her at work upon a mutton chop, or a bit of bread and cheese, and if she deal quickly with them, you have a pretty security for that activity, without which a wife is a burden instead of being a help."

Cobbett, Advice to Young Men,
(Hartley p145)

"Nowadays the hirsels upon the mountains keep the natural grouping and it is sometimes possible to buy the genuine lamb and elderly mutton, but the bringing down of the castrated rams to the lower pastures and finishing them off for meat is much more general...

Even under this rearrangement the mountain breeds never put on fat like the Lowland mutton, and the spicy thyme and herb fodder of the hills makes them much the best mutton obtainable."

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p136)

Some commercial firms pushed an oil-bound, lead-basis red paint upon hill shepherds, to use in place of the old mutton fat and earth raddle. As a result the chamois leather and skiver workers were worried by curious stains which appeared in the sides of their sheepskins - invisible till the skins had been far processed towards leather, when it showed up as a stain within the texture of the skin. The explanation was that the bought 'paint' had worked up the wool and, unlike the reabsorbed mutton fat and sedimentary colour, the paint stain had penetrated the skin and left a deposit therein.

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p150)



If you use mutton fat for cake-making (and it makes farmhouse gingerbread, apple cake and the homelier kinds of cake very well), beat it to a cream with the lemon juice, or a spoonful of cider, till it whips like snow.

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p64)


Rolled Loin of Mutton (Very Excellent)
INGREDIENTS. – About 6lbs of a loin of mutton, ½ teaspoonful of pepper, ¼ teaspoonful of pounded allspice, ¼ teaspoonful of mace, ¼ teaspoonful of nutmeg, 6 cloves, forcemeat, 1 glass of port wine, 2 tablespoonfuls of mushroom ketchup.

Mode. – Hang the mutton till tender, bone it, and sprinkle over it pepper, mace, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg in the above proportion, all of which must be pounded very fine. Let it remain for a day, then make a forcemeat, cover the meat with it, and roll and bind it up firmly. Half bake it in a slow oven, let it grow cold, take off the fat, and put the gravy into a stewpan; flour the meat, put it in the gravy, and stew it till perfectly tender. Now take out the meat, unbind it, add to the gravy wine and ketchup as above, give one boil, and pour over the meat. Serve with red-currant jelly; and, if obtainable, a few mushrooms stewed for a few minutes in the gravy, will be found a great improvement.

Time – 1½ hour to bake the meat, 1½ hour to stew gently.
Average cost, 4s. 9d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

Note. – This joint will be found very nice if rolled and stuffed, as here directed, and plainly roasted. It should be well basted, and served with a good gravy and currant jelly.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) (p181),

“This homely, but capital English joint…”

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) (p184),

Lanoline and mutton fat were used as ointments on hill farms just as hog's lard or goose-grease were used on valley farms. On account of the extreme hardness of well-clarified mutton fat, when used as a basis for ointment it was usually warmed before being applied. For shepherds' or milkmaids' chapped or badly cracked 'winter' hands the sovereign cure was to warm the fat, when the hands were dipped in bodily, and the grease worked well in. The hands were then held under the cold tap and gently wiped. This treatment made it possible for the worker to carry on with his job without his hands being too sticky, and the ointment did not melt off easily during the day.

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p159-60)

Events and News


Latest newsA new book has been published telling for the first time the story of mutton.
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