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)



“Although we have heard, at various intervals, growlings expressed at the inevitable ‘saddle of mutton’ at the dinner-parties of our middle classes, yet we doubt whether any other joint is better liked, when it has been well hung and artistically cooked.”

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)



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)



To dry a leg of mutton like a ham:
"Cut it like a Ham and take 2 oz salt-petre and rub the Mutton all over and let it lie a day and make a Pickle of Bay Salt and spring water and put the Mutton in and let it lie 8 days and take and hang it in a chimney for 3 weeks, and then boil it till it is tender.

The proper time to do this is in cold weather."

Eighteenth Century Recipe,
(Hartley p159)



“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,



"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)



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)

 

 



"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)



"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)



Events and News

MUCH ADO ABOUT MUTTON

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