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,



"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)



"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)



"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)



"If you wish mutton tendere it must be hung as long as it will keep; then a good eight-tooth (ie four-year old) mutton is as good eating as venison."

Enquire Within,
1858 (Hartley p142)



“From Scriptural authority we learn many interesting facts as regards the sheep: the first, that mutton fat was considered the most delicious portion of any meat, and the tail and adjacent part the most exquisite morsel in the whole body; consequently, such were regarded as especially fit for the offer of sacrifice.”

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) (p176),



"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)



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)



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)



"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)



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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