Mutton Mutterings

“McNeill (1929) quotes a St Andrews professor describing the pies of his childhood which were made by the pie-wife: ‘Delightful as were her pigeon and apple pies, her chef-d’oeuvre…was a certain kind of mutton-pie. The mutton was minced to the smallest consistency, and was made up in standing crust, which was strong enough to contain the most delicious gravy… There were no lumps of fat or grease in them at all… They always arrived piping hot… It makes my mouth water still when I think of those pies.”

Traditional Foods of Britain: a regional inventory (2004) p212,



"But Mutton! Thou most nourishing of Meat!
Whose single joint may constitute a treat,
When made a Pudding you excel the rest
As mush as that of other food is best."

King,
(Hartley p147)



"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)



"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)



“This homely, but capital English joint…”

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



Very fat Mutton may be salted to great advantage, and also smoked, and may be kept thus a long while. Not the shoulders and legs, but the back of the sheep. I have never made any flitch of sheep-bacon, but I will, for there is nothing like having a store of meat in a house. The running to the butcher's daily is a ridiculous thing.

Cottage Economy,
William Cobbett, 1822



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),



"The supper was an excellent one too...the tea service was extremely plain...but the bread and mutton chops, and the butter, and even the tea, were such as Mrs Powell's china was never privileged to bear."

Susan Warner's description of a Welsh farmhouse, about 1850,
(Hartley p143)



"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)



"For dinner we had salmon and leg of mutton; the salmon from the Dee, the leg from the neighbouring Berwyn...As for the leg of mutton it is truly wonderful; nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had never tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Certainly I shall never forget the first Welsh leg of mutton which I tasted, rich but delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble Berwyn, cooked to a turn, and weighing just four pounds."

George Borrow,
Wild Wales (Hartley p141)



Events and News

MUCH ADO ABOUT MUTTON

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