Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Straying from the flock

Midwesterners adding more lamb to mealtime menu

Lamb producer Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm raises the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, shown here.

Lamb producer Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm raises the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, shown here.

March 19, 2008


Raising lambs

Debbie Yarnell of Homespun Hill Farm talking about lamb and of her lambs. Enlarge video

Lamb producer Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm breed raises the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, which she settled on after trying six breeds.

Lamb producer Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm breed raises the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, which she settled on after trying six breeds.

Maureen Osborne loves a good bit of lamb. Sure, she's probably going to have it on Easter as part of a traditional holiday supper. But she's not a one-lamb-meal-a-year type of girl. After Easter Sunday, lamb still has a place on her table.

"It kind of holds to be an Easter treat because of the time of year, but in our family it's not," says the Lawrence resident. "I don't keep it special just for Easter. I truly do not - we'll have it several times during the year.

"If I want to have lamb at Christmastime, I'll have lamb at Christmastime."

Osborne has loved lamb all her life, but she's in the minority of Midwesterners, says her lamb producer, Debbie Yarnell of Lawrence's Homespun Hill Farm. Yarnell says the customers seeking her out to buy lamb mostly are from elsewhere and have moved to the Midwest, or they're like her: They went on a trip and came back with a love of lamb.

"I hadn't had it until about 10 years ago," Yarnell says. "I was on a trip back East, and I guess I just had never been exposed before. I was on a business trip and went out to eat, and I splurged on it. And, oh, my goodness, what I've been missing all my life."

Not mutton

Yarnell says that from what she understands, lamb has been missing from the lives of many Midwesterners since the days after World War II, thanks to a culinary translation problem.

"Lamb used to be really, really popular throughout the country way back before World War II," Yarnell says. "From what I'm told, in World War II, a lot of the servicemen overseas, our USA servicemen, were served mutton, and it was a cheap meat at the time. And they didn't like it. And so they say that was kind of the beginning of the demise of lamb meat back in that day, because they came back from the war going, 'I don't want to eat that stuff.' But they weren't eating lamb; it was mutton."

For the record, lamb, according to the American Lamb Board, is meat from a sheep less than a year old. Mutton comes from a sheep older than one year.

"It's a totally different meat," Yarnell says. "Mutton is meat from an older animal, like an older ewe. And it has more of a stronger flavor, and people would say it has more of an 'off' flavor."

Osborne describes true lamb as being almost sweet in flavor and a nice alternative to beef in her kitchen.

"To us it's very mild. To some people it has just a little different taste than beef," says Osborne, whose husband, Bill, and three of her six children also enjoy the meat. "So, you know, it's like anything else, it's like eating bison, buffalo burgers - it's just a little bit different flavor, but we just enjoy it."

Osborne's beef comparison is one Yarnell says is spot on - and the perfect way for lamb novices to test out the meat.

"A lot of folks don't know what to do with it," Yarnell says. "You can do anything with lamb that you can do with beef."

Yarnell says lamb can be ground, used in beef-heavy meals like shepherd's pie, or pressed into burgers, like the one served at Local Burger, 714 Vt., which is made using Homespun Hill lamb.

Yarnell's lamb of choice is the slow-maturing Katahdin sheep, which she settled on after trying six different breeds following her East Coast business trip. Because the Katahdin grows slower than other sheep and because Yarnell's animals are grass-fed, it takes nearly a year for her 50 head of sheep to become big enough to bear 30-40 pounds of meat per animal.

"It ends up being a good fit because then it's ready for the Easter, Passover, spring season," she says. "I get quite a few requests then. Even for Mother's Day, I get quite a few. I certainly sell a lot at Christmastime and even throughout the summer at the Farmer's Market, too. But I tend to get more folks that I hadn't heard of before, every year, that just want it for their special spring get-togethers."

Though leg of lamb is considered the most traditional cut, Osborne prefers lamb "shanks" for any time of year, which she describes as looking somewhat like turkey legs. She braises them in vegetables, tomatoes, wine and chicken broth using the "by guess and by golly" method - no matter the season.

"I don't keep it special just for Easter," she says. "It's a very fun thing to have, fun thing to cook. I don't know, we just like it."

Lamb recipes

Carmelized lamb roast with stuffing

1 lamb leg, longed and trimmed

2/3 cup dried apricots, snipped into 1/4-inch pieces

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 teaspoons ground pepper

1/3 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

Salt and coarse ground pepper

Butcher's string to tie roast

Lay lamb flat on a cutting board. Trim off visible fat. Use meat mallet to flatten pieces of meat so that all of the lamb is about 2 inches thick. Wrap up meat and refrigerate.

In small bowl, combine apricots and cranberries, set aside. In small skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Add orange juice and cinnamon, bring to a boil. Pour over dried fruit, mix and let stand for 15 minutes.

Lay meat flat on board, cut-side up, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut meat in half, making two rectangles. Divide filling between the two pieces of meat. Evenly spread fruit mixture over meat. Start at the smallest end and roll up meat as tightly as possible. Place seam-side down on board. Tightly tie string around roast at 1-inch intervals. Tie string around roast from end to end. Repeat process making two roasts. Place roasts on a rack in roasting pan. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place roast in oven, immediately turn down temperature to 325 degrees. Baste roast with corn syrup every 15 minutes. Roast for about 50 to 60 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from oven, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

New York Gyro with yogurt topping

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground sage

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 to 2-1/2 pounds lamb leg, boned, rolled and tied

4 whole-wheat pita bread rounds, split

2 tomatoes, sliced

2 cups spinach leaves

Yogurt topping

1 cup (8 ounces) plain, low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or cilantro, snipped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 3/4 teaspoon dried mint, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For gyro: Combine salt, thyme, sage, paprika and pepper. Rub spice mixture into roast. Place roast on rack in roasting pan. Roast at 325 degrees for 1 hour or to desired degree of doneness: 145 degrees for medium-rare, 160 degrees for medium or 170 degrees for well. Remove from oven; cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees. Line pita pockets with spinach leaves and tomato slices. Thinly slice lamb and fill pitas. Dollop generously with yogurt topping when prepared.

For topping: In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and chill until serving time. If desired, topping may be prepared for 6 to 8 hours ahead and chilled until serving time.

Lamb Loin Marinated in Guinness and Clover Honey with Braised Cipollini Onions and Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

6 cans (14.9 ounces each) Guinness beer or other dark beer

2 1/4 cups clover honey

6 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

6 tablespoons black peppercorns

6 (about 1 pound each) boneless lamb loin, trimmed of surface fat and silver skin

3 tablespoons, divided, olive oil

6 cups lamb or veal broth prepared from demi-glace

3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into chunks

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

3 bunches chervil for garnish

Braised Cipollini Onions

6 tablespoons, divided, olive oil

48 Cipollini onions, peeled

4 1/2 cups reserved Guinness marinade

6 cups chicken stock

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons clover honey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

12 to 15 large Yukon Gold potatoes

9 tablespoons, divided, unsalted butter

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

6 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

For lamb marinade: In saucepan, combine beer, honey, thyme and peppercorns. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until honey dissolves; chill. Reserve 4 1/2 cups marinade for Cipollini onions, and reserve 4 1/2 cups marinade for sauce. Place lamb in nonreactive pan and pour remaining chilled marinade over lamb. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove lamb from marinade and discard marinade.

To cook lamb: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Quickly brown lamb on both sides in batches, adding additional oil as needed. Place loins in shallow roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or to desired degree of doneness: 145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium or 170 degrees for well-done. Cover and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Internal temperature will rise approximately 5 to 10 degrees upon standing.

To make sauce: Pour reserved marinade for sauce and juice from cooked onions into a saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about 3 3/4 cups. Add the lamb broth from demi-glace to heat through. Add butter and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, keep warm.

For Cipollini onions: In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook and stir until browned on all sides. Cook in batches adding oil as needed. Using slotted spoon, transfer onions to roasting pan. Pour off excess oil and deglaze the skillet with reserved Guinness marinade. Cook until liquid is reduced to 3 cups. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil; pour over onions. Cover and bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove onions from juice and keep warm. Reserve juice for lamb sauce. Just before serving, melt butter and honey in large skillet, add onions and cook over medium-high heat until glazed; season with salt and pepper.

For Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes: Cut potatoes into neat 3/4-inch squares. Melt 4 1/2 tablespoons butter in large skillet; add half of the potatoes and cook over medium-high-heat, tossing gently until lightly browned on all sides. Repeat process preparing all potatoes. Spread on full-sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until tender, about 10 minutes. Keep warm and toss with parsley just before serving.

To serve: Divide potatoes among 12 warm plates. Carve lamb loin and fan over potatoes; top with onions. Drizzle sauce all around the plate and garnish with chervil sprigs. Serve with remaining sauce.

- Recipes from the American Lamb Board


love2eat 10 years, 1 month ago

This article makes me SAD -- to see those beautiful sheep, knowing that soon their lives will be prematurely and violently ended for no other reason then to satisfy someone's palate.

If this paper had published a picture of a litter of kittens or puppies, and then followed that with recipes that would necessitate their violent deaths and dismemberment, readers would be outraged. Why consideration for one species and not another? Do sheep suffer any less then cats or dogs?

Where is our humanity? It's not like we humans even need meat to survive -- in fact the best science out there shows that most of our chronic disease (cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease and diabetes) is more likely the more meat one eats. The China study for example ( read the book by T Colin Campbell) the largest health and nutrition study ever conducted, found that for optimum health the ideal amount of animal protein (and this includes dairy and eggs) was ZERO.

Then there is the environmental issue-- animal agriculture produces way more greenhouse gasses (and sheep and cows burp and fart a lot of methane) uses way more land, and way more water (for the usuable protein produced) then a plant-foods diet.

Danielle Brunin 10 years, 1 month ago

Funny, I thought it was a picture of America five years ago being led to war in Iraq by President Bush!

(Aw yeah! I managed to bring up the Iraq war and Bush in an article about the unknown joys of lamb meat.)

justthefacts 10 years, 1 month ago

Ah...which is it - don't eat lambs (meat) because they are so cute and we should be humane - or they cause too much methane (so we should not keep them at all)? Either way, death for the animal is in store.....

Personally, I do not get attached to my food items. I can look at a baby cow and think "Veal" every time! To each their own though... I don't care if you don't eat meat. Just please don't assume you are a superior human being b/c you don't eat it; especially if you believe that being mean to human beings is justified to prevent being mean to animals.

I eat lamb a lot. It's easy to fix and very tasty. Checkers often has good prices on it. Easy recipe for leg of lamb - mix marinade of minced garlic, prepared mustard (any kind you like), salt, pepper and lots of basil. Slather that mixture on all sides of the meat and refrigerate over night. Next day, let meat assume room temp. Then roast (which means in an oven, on a pan where the fat drips to another level) at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes per pound. Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving. Easy and delicious every time.

Confrontation 10 years, 1 month ago

We eat lamb meat several times per month at our house. I'll actually take more pleasure in eating it now that I know it makes love2eat sad.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 1 month ago

Don't eat all of them or I'll never get to sleep.

Lori Tapahonso 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm on vacation and as I sit here, there is a nice big pot of lamb stew on the stove...mmmm...

Then, before i hit the road back to larryville, i plan to grab a nice big roast mutton and green chile sandwich for the road trip!!

I agree with "justthefacts" each their own. Me and my family grew up eating lamb and mutton. But, we also learned how our dinner came to be on our table. We learned the traditional way to prepare our food from butchering to serving. Makes you appreciate the food and the sacrifice (you can define how "sacrifice" relates).

So "me and mine," will continue to enjoy and give thanks for every opportunity we get to enjoy this wonderful food.

Thanks for the great article...makes me even hungrier!

RedwoodCoast 10 years, 1 month ago

Indeed, to each their own, love2eat. I have a feeling that the difference between you and meat eaters is this: When someone says they're eating lamb stew, they are referring to a substance (lamb) that comprises the main component of the stew. However, when you think of lamb stew, you think of it not as a substance but pieces of a cute little lamb all steamy and floating around.

Anyway, sheep are one of the oldest domesticated animals on the planet. They have provided us with clothing and meat for millennia. I generally don't eat meat, but sometimes I just can't get it out of my head.

hawklet21 10 years, 1 month ago

justthefacts (Anonymous) says: "To each their own though: I don't care if you don't eat meat. Just please don't assume you are a superior human being b/c you don't eat it; especially if you believe that being mean to human beings is justified to prevent being mean to animals." I concur! Well said.

Danielle Brunin 10 years, 1 month ago


You're correct. I think lemmings would probably be more appropriate.

H_Lecter 10 years, 1 month ago

"They were slaughtering the spring lambs?"

"Well, Clarice - have the lambs stopped screaming?"

"You still wake up sometimes, don't you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs"

"Clarice. You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won't you?"

lovemyaunt 10 years, 1 month ago

I think what Debbie is doing is great! She is an awesome women and hard worker. We all love food and need our meat and that is why Debbie is so neat!:) I love supporting her products! We all work hard at things we enjoy in life and this fine lady is one of them. So all you tree huggers quit picking on her!

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