David Lishman gives a butcher’s lowdown on seasonal lamb; explaining the differences between Lamb, Hogget and Mutton
We start our journey with Spring Lamb; obviously!
Real Spring Lamb is milk-fed and comes straight from the mother. Very young, possibly about 16 weeks old. Season is April and May. Milk-fed Spring Lamb is very much an Easter dish.
Very pale salmon pink colour, very delicate flavour. Think of it as the veal of the lamb world.
Most people also class this as Spring Lamb – but this is a different type; this is the one that has been outside eating the late spring/ early summer grass, and has enjoyed the sun on its back.
The meat darkens a little; and whilst it is still subtle and delicate, it has more flavour than the milk-fed spring lambs.
As the season goes on, the diet changes and as we get into the autumn months the flavour develops more. By the start of the new year we go onto Hogget. It’s purely an age thing – officially a lamb turns into a Hogget when it has pushed two adult teeth though. Hogget season starts around January/ February/ March, and these are Hoggets which have been fed on stubble turnips.
The flavour becomes more robust, the flesh is darker and firmer (but not tough), and they’ve seen a winter. Hoggets stop by late Spring, when we start again with the new season Spring Lamb which has been out on grass.
Mutton is generally at least two years old. It is often the cull ewes: i.e. the mother sheep that have been around for three/four/five years who may have had lambs each season and are no longer productive. They retire from breeding and are killed for mutton.
Mutton usually comes from the mother sheep – they have a stronger flavour, darker texture.
Mutton is very popular in Caribbean and Asian cultures for curries etc.
In late summer/ early autumn we get Salt Marsh Lambs in our shop.
These are lambs which are born in the spring of the year and have been raised on the salt marshes eating a diet of marshland which affects the flavour.
Ours are raised around the Holker Hall/ Morecambe Bay area. It gives it a fragrant, more rounded, distinct flavour. When the tide goes out the lambs graze on the salt marshes. It is a delicacy, with a very short season.
They have a different flavour again and goat is very popular in Caribbean, Middle Eastern, African and Turkish cuisine.
Recommended cuts – Diced for a Curry, or Chops with Harissa.
So what do we sell, and when?
It is very different to chicken, beef and pork as the flavour of Lamb changes dramatically depending on what they have been eating, the season, and how they are raised.
Lamb is inevitably very much a seasonal product and changes as it goes on.
What do we stock which will complement these meats?
Our shelves are loaded with stocks and gravies, mint sauce, redcurrant jelly and pickles. It’s well worth experimenting by glazing your Lamb , as you would a ham. Just slather yourlamb in redcurrant jelly for the last ten minutes of roasting time.
You can also stud the lamb with garlic and anchovies; try piercing it and inserting slithers of garlic or sprigs of rosemary into the slits.
What’s David Lishman’s favourite of them all?
David loves slow cooked Shoulder of Lamb served with Boulangère Potatoes. The best bit is when the spuds and the lamb drip into each other! It’s the ultimate homely, satisfying roast.