Mutton Mutterings

"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)



"Never you mind about the piece of needlework, the tambouring and the maps of the world made by her needle. Get to see her at work upon a mutton chop, or a bit of bread and cheese, and if she deal quickly with them, you have a pretty security for that activity, without which a wife is a burden instead of being a help."

Cobbett, Advice to Young Men,
(Hartley p145)



"The supper was an excellent one too...the tea service was extremely plain...but the bread and mutton chops, and the butter, and even the tea, were such as Mrs Powell's china was never privileged to bear."

Susan Warner's description of a Welsh farmhouse, about 1850,
(Hartley p143)



Some commercial firms pushed an oil-bound, lead-basis red paint upon hill shepherds, to use in place of the old mutton fat and earth raddle. As a result the chamois leather and skiver workers were worried by curious stains which appeared in the sides of their sheepskins - invisible till the skins had been far processed towards leather, when it showed up as a stain within the texture of the skin. The explanation was that the bought 'paint' had worked up the wool and, unlike the reabsorbed mutton fat and sedimentary colour, the paint stain had penetrated the skin and left a deposit therein.

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p150)

 

 



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)



If you use mutton fat for cake-making (and it makes farmhouse gingerbread, apple cake and the homelier kinds of cake very well), beat it to a cream with the lemon juice, or a spoonful of cider, till it whips like snow.

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p64)

 



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)



"Nowadays the hirsels upon the mountains keep the natural grouping and it is sometimes possible to buy the genuine lamb and elderly mutton, but the bringing down of the castrated rams to the lower pastures and finishing them off for meat is much more general...

Even under this rearrangement the mountain breeds never put on fat like the Lowland mutton, and the spicy thyme and herb fodder of the hills makes them much the best mutton obtainable."

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p136)



Very fat Mutton may be salted to great advantage, and also smoked, and may be kept thus a long while. Not the shoulders and legs, but the back of the sheep. I have never made any flitch of sheep-bacon, but I will, for there is nothing like having a store of meat in a house. The running to the butcher's daily is a ridiculous thing.

Cottage Economy,
William Cobbett, 1822



"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)



Events and News

MUCH ADO ABOUT MUTTON

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