Thursday, 18 February 2010

Big Lamb and Little Lamb

I collected our lamb carcases today. They have hung in a friend's chiller for 8 days and were ready to break down for the freezer. I worried that I would get as upset as I did when I dropped them off to the abattoir, so to steel myself I took a valium. I expect real farmers don't self-medicate either. 

I didn't want to show any weakness in front of Peggy, the local butcher who agreed to supervise while I processed my two lamb carcases. I needn't have worried. In truth, once I carried the first carcases into the butchery room, I didn't even associate it with my lambs. Now it was simply food.

And not healthy food - you want to see the layer of fat on those lambs! Mike admitted that, as their days were numbered, he was giving them extra rations. A kind of last supper for the condemned. But as I kept putting off the inevitable, their last supper turned into a month-long feast of rolled barley and sugar beet.

I started to cut my first half lamb at 11am. I finished cutting up, bagging and cleaning the butchery at 4.30pm. For 5 hours I stood at the block cutting, sawing, removing excess fat, de-boning, rolling, and cleaving. Peggy brought me a cup of tea that I drank while I worked.

By the last lamb half, I could finally remember the sequence of cuts for myself and I was getting into a rhythm, aided by being overtired and hungry ( I'd missed breakfast). I stopped overthinking and just cut. In a kind of Karate Kid 'wax-on-wax-off' epiphany I learned a few things:
1) When you're tired enough to finally give into the task, you relax - you don't try and force your knife into the meat and the whole process goes more smoothly. This also makes you less likely to slip and drive the blade into your own hand.
2) A fatty lamb is a waste, not only because it means you fed them more costly inputs than necessary but because it takes a bloody long time to remove all that fat from each joint.
3) Lamb fat is a miracle cure for chapped hands

I also learned some things from the carcases themselves. My feeding programme was too concentrate heavy; they would have thrived on more grass or haylage. Their glands were all clear, no infections so they were healthy. However, one lamb had its liver rejected at vet inspection due to liver fluke so I must include a flukicide in the ewes' worming programme.

Had I turned around and rescued my lambs from the abattoir, the lamb with liver fluke would have died relatively soon and none of that meat would have been fit for consumption. Fluke is usually associated with wet grazing; my lambs only grazed a dry paddock so I was unprepared for a fluke problem.

Here's the result of my 5 hours' work, still in the back of the truck. I'm just off to see Paul our estate stalker. He's kindly let me use his vacuum-packing machine to prepare this meat for the freezer. It will last 12 months this way; I don't want to waste any of it. And I'm paying Paul in lamb meat - a shoulder for his Sunday roast. I don't think I'm ready to eat any lamb just yet, but I think we will be enjoying it sooner than we expected too. I'm proud of our first lambs.


Poppy Cottage said...

So you should be, and very proud the you have prepared them yourself too. Well done you. Isn't it odd how the go in as 'pets' (well almost) and return to you as meat for the freezer. I guess it is because deep down you know that is why you raised them in the first place. What else can you use lamb fat for?

Me xx

Terry Scoville said...

Well done and I don't blame you for the medicating prior. You ought to be proud of yourself. You have learned a lot about all phases of "farming" and I can really use your help come Elk season learning all the cuts.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Ta da! If that's how you butcher on Valium, I can't wait to see how you do sober!

Well done, Jen. Well done.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - You can take the girl out of America, but you can't take the American out of the girl. Black coffee & valium - breakfast of champions.

Jennifer Montero said...

Thanks Terry - it will help my deer butchery alot. I've never tackled anything as big as an elk though!

Colette - There was a lot of extra fat. I've saved the solids to put in bird feeders. Too rich for the dogs at the moment, though they'll have the offal.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

That's a lotta lamb! Better haul out your best Greek recipes. Lamb souvlaki, stifado, gyros... aw hell, just roast a whole one next time you get it back from the slaughterhouse. Salt, olive oil, rosemary and lemon. All you need!

Almost lamb season here in California, too. Looking forward to it!

Jennifer Montero said...

Hank - I need more inspiration and technique in my cooking to do them justice. Am studying the Julia Child classic French cookbook to improve my sauces, but I prefer your idea of a whole roast lamb. I think I might trawl your website for a greek influence too!