Farm to Market: Preserving Hog Island Sheep
We hope you’re all enjoying all of the adorable #latteswithlambs content both on your screens and in person at the park! Today, though, it is both #endangeredspeciesday and #foodiefriday and though it might be hard news to um, swallow, the truth is that our farm animals are not pets. Farm animals have a long history of providing nutrition, clothing, and a source of labor to the farmers that care for them. There are campaigns such as The Livestock Conservancy’s Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em which highlights the usefulness of Hog Island Sheep’s wool. But it does come down to the fact most livestock is bred to eventually become food.
Yes, the sheep are cute and cuddly, but if we want to truly be conservationists and save Hog Island sheep from extinction, we need farmers (and not just historical organizations like the National Colonial Farm and George Washington’s Mount Vernon) to breed them. To be perfectly honest, this applies to American Milking Devons, Ossabaw Island hogs, and all of the breeds at the farm. We work with fantastic farmers such as Keith Ohlinger at Porch View Farm, Jeff and Ginny Adams at Walnut Hill Farm, Amie Herrera at Franchesca’s Dawn Farm, Abundance Farm and Sylvanaqua Farms, all of which work with our heritage breeds. But for farmers to want to breed these animals, they need to be profitable, and to be profitable, restaurants and butchers need to be able to serve them to the public. Still with us? Good!
Some of the lambs featured this year at the farm during our Lattes with Lambs celebration are available for sale, both as food and for breeding stock. If you are interested in purchasing Hog Island sheep, please contact our Livestock Manager Maryn Jordan.
So, if you’re going to eat some lamb, what parts are good? Depends on what you want! Parts of the animal that are strong muscles are going to be a bit tougher, parts that aren’t used as much are going to be more tender.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the cuts:
For more information on how to choose just the right cut for your meal, check out this guide from Jamie Oliver.
Now that you know the cut you want, how do you choose the sheep? Well, as Jamie Oliver mentions in that guide, always try to purchase locally sourced organic or free range animals if at all possible. (Check out the farms we listed above!) Not only is it more humane, but sheep (and all animals, actually) that have lived a good life just taste better. It’s a win-win. Perhaps you have the choice of lamb, spring lamb, hogget, mutton lamb, or mutton. What does it all mean? Lamb usually refers to a sheep that was younger than 1 year old. Spring lamb just means it was born between March and October (like ours!) which is typical. Since they haven’t gotten a chance to develop adult muscles yet, lamb/spring lamb is going to be your most tender option. Hogget or mutton lamb refers to a sheep that was between 1-2 years old, and mutton refers to a sheep that was older than 2 years. As adult muscles develop the meat gets tougher, but that doesn’t mean mutton can’t be absolutely delicious! It’s especially great in stews. (Or as Billy Crystal would argue, on a nice MLT when it’s nice and lean.) Armed with information, let’s get to the kitchen!
In honor of He-Man, who was the flock sire this year and hails from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, we thought it might be fitting to pull a recipe from The Martha Washington Cookbook by Marie Kimball. This book is based on Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats but gives a more easily followed interpretation of the original recipes with modern measurements and directions. Both are available at your local library, or if you would like to support us, use the above Amazon Smile links and make sure you’ve designated the Accokeek Foundation as your supported organization. You can download the recipe card here. We chose a recipe for baked shoulder of lamb which requires few ingredients to keep things relatively simple. If you’re up for more of a challenge and want to try your hand at an original, here’s Martha’s recipe for a stuffed leg of lamb or mutton.
Let us know how your Baked Shoulder of Lamb (or Forsed Legge of Lambe or Mutton) turns out and of course continue to visit the park all of May to celebrate #latteswithlambs! Let’s get cooking!