Saturday, December 3, 2011

Just right!

Tonight's dinner was one of those that reminded me why we do what we do. We had shepherd's pie made with meat from the spring lambs. It had a deliciously mild lamb flavor, and I could have eaten until I painfully regretted it, but luckily my son came out with the left-over containers and started putting it away.

After trying a couple of times, we finally got this one right. The first time we butchered lambs, they were a year old and had been castrated. They were 25 to 30 pounds, hanging weight, which is not big.  I remember the woman at the locker saying, "Those chops are going to be dinky!" But they were yummy! We did that for a couple of years, but I knew that without testosterone, they just don't grow that fast.. Last year, we butchered some intact yearling rams, which were 45 to 50 pounds, but had a strong lamb flavor. I was not crazy about that. In fact, the more I ate it, the more I disliked it, and the past few months I've been saying that we should sell the sheep. Then we butchered the spring lambs, which were only about six months old and had not been castrated. Jackpot! They weighed 24 to 29 pounds hanging weight, which is about the same as the yearling wethers, but we didn't have to feed them over the winter. And the flavor of the meat was, I think, even more mild than the yearling wethers.

This is a win-win for the the humans and the rams. They don't have to get castrated. We don't have to feed them over the winter. And we get just as much delicious lamb as if we had put them through that unhappy ordeal and spent the money on feeding them hay over the winter.

I announced at dinner tonight that we'd be continuing to raise sheep on Antiquity Oaks. I'm glad I didn't have time to advertise the flock and sell them all. I'd have been terribly disappointed if I had tasted this delicious meat and realized I couldn't have more next year.


Nancy K. said...

Another almost-ex-shepherd changes their mind!


Have you tried any Guinea Hog yet?

Mary Ann said...

I have never had lamb cooked right, but I would love to try it!

Callie said...

Thanks for the great information. It will come in handy if I ever decide to raise some lambs. I love roast leg of lamb.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Nancy == haven't tried the guinea hog yet. The piglets are still too small. They were born in August. I've heard people talk about butchering between 8 months and a year, so that's what I'm thinking we'll do.

Mary Ann -- I don't think there was anything special about the way we cooked the lamb for the shepherd's pie. It was just perfect timing on butchering them.

Callie -- I don't have anything to compare the Shetland meat to because it's the only lamb I've ever eaten, but it sounds like the lamb meat is actually far more mild than most lamb. We've served mutton to guests, and they've been happy with it and said that it tastes just like any other lamb they've had. On the other hand, when people have told us they don't like lamb, we made sure to serve the castrated yearlings before, and they loved it. Now I'm just thrilled that we can get the same amount of meat six months earlier without having to castrate the boys! So, that's a long way of saying that different breeds taste different! If you decide to raise sheep, see if you can taste the breed you're considering before you decide to buy. Also, if you're planning to grass feed, find a shepherd that grassfeeds because that affects the quality and taste of meat. Grain feeding is one reason a lot of people don't like lamb because it's so fatty.

LindaG said...

Congratulations on learning and thanks for teaching us! :-)

Theresa said...

Grassfed Shetland lamb - the gourmet's choice! No wonder it sells for upwards of $30/lb in Europe!

Old Home Crawford Farm said...

This is the second year we've put our 6-month-old Shetland rams in the freezer. I was excited to learn we started out the right way! Thanks for keeping and sharing data. It's always nice to know when you're doing things efficiently!


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