Mutton Mutterings

"Now the small Welsh mutton is acceptedly the best. The herds are free-ranging, and on most of the hills there is an abundance of wild thyme, the spicy herb which gives the Welsh mutton its characteristic flavour."

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p139)



"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)



"Alice sat down, rather uncomfortable at the silence, and longing for someone to speak.
At last the Red Queen began. 'You've missed the soup and fish,' she said. 'Put on the joint!' And the waiters set a leg of mutton before Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never had to carve one before.

'You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,' said the Red Queen. 'Alice - Mutton; Mutton - Alice.' The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and she returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.

'May I give you a slice?' she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.

'Certainly not,' the Red Queen said, very decidedly:' it isn't etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to. Remove the joint!' and the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place."

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Through the looking-glass, Lewis Carroll (1872)



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)



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),



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)

 



Of the sheep is cast away nothing,
His horns for notches-to ashes goeth his bones,
To Lordes great profit goeth his entire dung,
His tallow also serveth plastres, more than one,
For harp strings his ropes serve everyone,
Of whose head boiled whole and all
There cometh a jelly, and ointment full Royal.
For ache of bones and also for bruises
It is remedy that doeth ease quickly
Causing mens stark points to recure,
It doeth sinews again restore to life.
Black sheeps wool, with fresh oil of olive,
The men at armes, with charms, they prove it good
And at straight need, they can well staunch blood.

Thirteenth-Century Verse,
(Hartley p135)



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

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



"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)



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



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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