Mutton Mutterings

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



"For dinner we had salmon and leg of mutton; the salmon from the Dee, the leg from the neighbouring Berwyn...As for the leg of mutton it is truly wonderful; nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had never tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Certainly I shall never forget the first Welsh leg of mutton which I tasted, rich but delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble Berwyn, cooked to a turn, and weighing just four pounds."

George Borrow,
Wild Wales (Hartley p141)



“From Scriptural authority we learn many interesting facts as regards the sheep: the first, that mutton fat was considered the most delicious portion of any meat, and the tail and adjacent part the most exquisite morsel in the whole body; consequently, such were regarded as especially fit for the offer of sacrifice.”

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) (p176),



"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)



"Now the small Welsh mutton is acceptedly the best. The herds are free-ranging, and on most of the hills there is an abundance of wild thyme, the spicy herb which gives the Welsh mutton its characteristic flavour."

Food in England,
Dorothy Hartley (p139)



"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)



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)

 

 



“McNeill (1929) quotes a St Andrews professor describing the pies of his childhood which were made by the pie-wife: ‘Delightful as were her pigeon and apple pies, her chef-d’oeuvre…was a certain kind of mutton-pie. The mutton was minced to the smallest consistency, and was made up in standing crust, which was strong enough to contain the most delicious gravy… There were no lumps of fat or grease in them at all… They always arrived piping hot… It makes my mouth water still when I think of those pies.”

Traditional Foods of Britain: a regional inventory (2004) p212,



“This homely, but capital English joint…”

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) (p184),



To dry a leg of mutton like a ham:
"Cut it like a Ham and take 2 oz salt-petre and rub the Mutton all over and let it lie a day and make a Pickle of Bay Salt and spring water and put the Mutton in and let it lie 8 days and take and hang it in a chimney for 3 weeks, and then boil it till it is tender.

The proper time to do this is in cold weather."

Eighteenth Century Recipe,
(Hartley p159)



Events and News

MUCH ADO ABOUT MUTTON

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