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Mutton


The Hersch
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I'd begin by searching for local sheep farms, particularly farms raising "dual purpose" breeds of sheep such as Corriedale. If there is a local sheep farmer in your area, chances are they have animals each year that aren't suitable for breeding. Usually those become lamb, either for the farmer's freezer or for sale. If you make an arrangement with the farmer, you should be able to get some of those animals raised for mutton. I'd expect that if the farm doesn't specialize in mutton, that you'd likely need to buy the whole animal. If a whole sheep sounds like a daunting amount of freezer meat, focus your search on small sheep like Icelandic, Shetland and Soay.

As with breeds of pig, different varieties of sheep have different cooking characteristics. Most lamb sold in the US is from "meat sheep" breeds like Suffolk or Dorset. If you can find a farmer who specializes in selling wool to the handspinning market, you may be able to find unusual sheep, and a farmer who is more interested in unusual requests.

The Oklahoma State Breeds of Livestock site has a quite good section on sheep. If you poke around some, both on and off the internet, you should be able to find a sheep farmer near you.

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Thanks for the detailed response. I have to confess I wasn't looking to put a lot of work into finding mutton, and I certainly have no way of using a whole animal, even a smallish one. What I was hoping for is something like "sure, just click this link and order up a few pounds of mutton chops!" I love lamb, and I gather that mutton is like lamb only more so; I don't think I've ever knowingly had any. It seems odd that there's so utterly not any market for it in the US.

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There is a market. It's a popular meal among near eastern and middle eastern populations. Some Brits also enjoy it. The trick is, people who are from those backgrounds aren't spread evenly across the country. So unless there's a large population in your area, it's simply not going to be readily available.

If you're in an area where buying the whole animal is the best option for mutton, a better alternative if you're interesting in "lambier lamb" is selecting a lamb from a rare breed. *That* is a much more manageable problem. A lamb isn't going to run anywhere near the sheer volume of meat. It's also much easier to find culled lambs than it would be to talk a farmer into keeping a cull alive til it's mutton. Most areas of the country have at least some sheep farming going on.

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I am curious as to why you want mutton? Mutton has a very strong taste that in my opinion ruins the dish it is in. Spring lamb is something maybe you should think about instead. I guess it is a matter of taste and what you are familiar with. Being half Middle Eastern, I have only ever used spring lamb for anything. The tongue and kidneys of spring lamb are also wonderful because they are so young and tender.

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I am curious as to why you want mutton? Mutton has a very strong taste that in my opinion ruins the dish it is  in. Spring lamb is something maybe you should think about instead. I guess it is a matter of taste and what you are familiar with. Being half Middle Eastern, I have only ever used spring lamb for anything. The tongue and kidneys of spring lamb are also wonderful because they are so young and tender.

I'm afraid I don't have any information about where to get mutton in the US, being on the wrong side of the pond, but I just couldn't let this comment go. Yes, mutton does have a strong taste, stronger than lamb, but also just different, and quite different from spring lamb, which will obviously have a far milder taste. That is the point. I have to utterly, utterly disagree with the idea that mutton 'ruins the dish it is in'. It's simply not true. I find mutton delicious, treated right.

Yes, it is partly a matter of taste, but it is also a matter of choosing the right meat for the right dish. I love mutton, but i find it comes into its own in more highly spiced dishes, the depth of flavour standing up to and balancing the strong spicing. The gentle flavour of spring lamb, on the other hand, is drowned out by strong spices.

As it happens, I am also half middle eastern, and grew up eating, and now cooking for myself, a lot of middle eastern dishes. For these, I do tend to choose lamb over mutton, though I will often use older, 'end of season' lamb, which is a year old, since I like the greater depth of flavour. For, say, an Indian curry, I'll choose mutton every time - the result is just far superior to the same dish made with lamb.

Oh, and on the flavour of mutton, I actually find that mutton tastes something like a cross between lamb and beef, rather than simply 'lambier lamb'.

In the end it's obviously a matter of personal taste, but, if someone wants to try mutton, spring lamb is clearly the opposite of what they are after!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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I am not sure where you live but you can buy the best mutton all over the southwest US at tribal grocery stores ...here in the Pacific NW I just ask my butcher for it and usually he can find some when I do ...

also Caribbean ...most Halal ...and some Hispanic markets carry it or you can ask there as well ...just ask for "sheep meat"

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Just chipping in with my vote for mutton as well. Cook it well and it is superb. It may not be best suited for some of the dishes for which spring lamb is good, but slow cook it in a Lancashire hot pot, tattie pot or even serve it on its own with capers and it is delicious.

Can't help with US sources though - I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic again.

PS

Edinburgh

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In the end it's obviously a matter of personal taste, but, if someone wants to try mutton, spring lamb is clearly the opposite of what they are after!

Indeed. As to Middle Eastern markets, it was my impression that they carried lamb (perhaps the older lamb you refer to) and not mutton. As it happens, I live in Washington (the city), which is surrounded by suburbs brimming with Arab and other middle eastern and halal butcher shops. There's a place called the Lebanese Butcher in Virginia that I've been meaning to check out for ages, but for whatever reason I never thought to connect that intention with my desire to find mutton. Perhaps I'll pay them a visit this weekend.

As to cooking mutton, I imagine that, as with beef, the shoulder and breast cuts (and perhaps the rump) would be good in braises, perhaps highly seasoned ones, and the loin would be good simply roasted or grilled?

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Try Somali markets if you have them ....I know I have gotten mutton there...

I guess I have always considered mature sheep "mutton" and when I ask for "sheep meat" in many markets I get what is in my taste "mutton"

Mutton imho holds up to green or red chile stews and curries ..like no other meat ..I just love it and use it often ..

lamb is wonderful on it's own and best with little done to it ..but when it comes to a well seasoned slow cooked dishes I will always go for mutton ..or even a grown goat...and both I have been able to find every place I have lived ...just ask around.

good luck to you and enjoy it when you find it ..I think it is a fantastic meat and worth looking for ..

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Here is a source of barbecued mutton, available sliced or chopped: Moonlite Bar-B-Q. They ship. I can't vouch for this stuff as I haven't ordered it yet, but it sounds delightful and was written up in a food magazine, maybe Chile Pepper, I don't remember.

Edited by Jennifer Brizzi (log)

Jennifer Brizzi

Author of "Ravenous," a food column for Ulster Publishing (Woodstock Times, Kingston Times, Dutchess Beat etc.) and the food blog "Tripe Soup"

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Update: I visited the Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church VA on Sunday. Very nice people. I was certainly the only non-Arabic speaker among the customers and staff while I was there, but though I felt sort of like I was in a foreign country, I also felt totally welcome, which was very nice. For those of you in the Washington area, I certainly recommend this place.

As soon as I approached the meat counter, I was very nicely asked what I'd like, and I asked "do you have mutton?" Yes, they said. What do you have available, I asked. Anything you'd like, they said--leg, shoulder, chops, whatever you want. I said I'd like some chops, about two pounds. One of the butchers got to work cutting them. After a moment, he showed me one, which was a beautiful little rib chop, and said like this? I said great. Once he had fixed the chops, he said what else? I said could I have some shoulder. He asked, for soup? I said stew. He said you want me to cut it up for stew? I said yes, two or three pounds. So then he cut up some shoulder for stew.

It was at this point that I noticed the large white-board over my head that had their meats and prices listed. There was beef, veal, lamb, and goat, but no mutton. However, I later noticed that the price I was charged for mutton chops and shoulder were the same as were listed for lamb. So I'm wondering did I really get mutton, or is this lamb? I'm still not sure.

Last night I had four of the beautiful rib chops pan-broiled. Wonderful. Still not sure if they're lamb or mutton, since I've never had mutton. A little chewy for lamb, but about the same size chops, with a wonderful flavor. I dressed them with a little butter and lemon, and salt and pepper. They were just delicious, and at $6.99 a pound less than half what I would expect to pay for similar lamb chops at Whole Foods. (Accompanied by boiled potatoes browned in butter, and a salad of roast beets, Belgian endive, goat cheese, and toasted pine nuts.)

I also braised the shoulder for a navarin, which I finished this evening with carrots, potatoes, turnips, and green peas, largely following Julia Child's recipe in Volume I of Mastering. Also pretty delicious, and here the meat seemed definitely stronger in flavor than I'd expect for lamb. I read on some web-site something from a long-ago Fannie Farmer cookbook that says you can distinguish lamb from mutton by the color of the bones--red in lamb, white in mutton. But it didn't say whether that applied to the raw or the cooked article. The raw rib-chop bones were kind of pink, and the cooked shoulder bones were certainly white.

So-whatever I got, at $6.99 for rib chops and $3.99 for shoulder, whether it was really mutton or really lamb, it was excellent, and a bargain. I don't think I'll ever buy lamb chops anywhere else.

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It was at this point that I noticed the large white-board over my head that had their meats and prices listed. There was beef, veal, lamb, and goat, but no mutton. However, I later noticed that the price I was charged for mutton chops and shoulder were the same as were listed for lamb. So I'm wondering did I really get mutton, or is this lamb? I'm still not sure.

To remove any doubt next time, go for the goat. I love goat and next time I'm near Falls Church I will have to stop in and get some.

Sounds like a neat market. That area has the best of everything: Vietnamese shopping center, Korean barbecue everywhere and Great Wall, the best Asian supermarket south of Flushing and 3,000 miles east of the Bay area.

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It was at this point that I noticed the large white-board over my head that had their meats and prices listed. There was beef, veal, lamb, and goat, but no mutton. However, I later noticed that the price I was charged for mutton chops and shoulder were the same as were listed for lamb. So I'm wondering did I really get mutton, or is this lamb? I'm still not sure

Last night I had four of the beautiful rib chops pan-broiled. Wonderful. Still not sure if they're lamb or mutton, since I've never had mutton. A little chewy for lamb, but about the same size chops, with a wonderful flavor.

Probably you got lamb. There are sheep breeds where a mutton chop would be close in size to a lamb chop, but they're not common in the US (Shetland and Soay are the only 2 I can think of).

Most meat sheep breeds are pretty large animals - solidly over 100 lbs, and about hip high on an adult human. I'd expect a mutton chop to be around the size of a pork chop.

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To remove any doubt next time, go for the goat. I love goat and next time I'm near Falls Church I will have to stop in and get some.

Sounds like a neat market. That area has the best of everything: Vietnamese shopping center, Korean barbecue everywhere and Great Wall, the best Asian supermarket south of Flushing and 3,000 miles east of the Bay area.

I love goat too, but I was on a Quest for Mutton.

The Falls Church area definitely has a lot going for it in the ethnic food department. To add to your list, a bunch of excellent Chinese restaurants (Mark's Duck House, Fortune, Miu Kee, Full Kee, others), Peruvian chicken places, pho houses everywhere.

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I'd expect a mutton chop to be around the size of a pork chop.

Hm. Thanks for the info. These were certainly about the size of lamb chops.

Maybe what New Zealanders call hogget, i.e. a 1 to 2 y.o. sheep ?? Very popular meat and it is much more tasty than lamb...well, to me, anyway :smile:

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