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Cooking Lamb

Meat is a relatively expensive item in the food budget.  A good cook, therefore, recognizes the need to buy meat wisely, care for it properly and prepare it so as to conserve the nutrients and enhance the flavor.

APPEARANCE
High quality lamb has a smooth covering of clear, white brittle fat over most of the exterior.  The lean meat is pinkish red in color.  Mutton meat is deep red (similar to beef).  The texture of the lean meat is fine grained and velvety in appearance.
The bones in young lamb are porous and red in color, in older lamb and mutton they become harder and white.  Sheep are considered “lamb” up until they are 1-1/2 years old.  After that age they are considered “mutton”.  Hence the origin of the expression “Mutton dressed as lamb” to describe an older woman dressing up like a teenager.
The thin paper-like covering over the outside of the carcass is known as the “fell”.  It does not affect the flavor unless the meat has been aged for some time.  Under normal circumstances, the fell should not be removed from the leg, since this cut keeps its shape better, cooks in less time and is juicier when the fell is left on.  On chops, however it is desirable to remove the fell before cooking.

AGING OF MEAT

The purpose of aging meat is to improve tenderness and flavor.  The two meats most frequently aged are beef and mutton. Sometimes lamb meat is aged.  Aging does not improve veal and pork.
To be suitable for aging the meat must have a fairly thick covering of fat to prevent discoloration of the lean meat and to keep evaporation to a minimum.  This means that only the higher grades of beef, mutton and lamb have a sufficiently thick fat covering to stand aging for the necessary period of from three to six weeks at temperatures of from 34 -38 degrees F.  Usually only the ribs and loins are aged.  After aging, they are carefully trimmed, then cut into roasts or steaks, or in the case of lamb, into chops.

GUIDELINES FOR MEAT CARE

Place fresh meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator.  The temperature should be as low as possible without actually freezing the meat. If fresh meat is to be kept for three or more days, it should be frozen quickly. Wrap in freezer wrap or bags, but not in waxed paper.  Pieces of freezer paper (two sheets thick) placed between individual cuts permits easy separation before thawing.  Be sure to label the package, including the number of portions.
Frozen meat should be stored at 0 degrees F or lower. The frozen food and ice cubes section of most household freezers is not designed for rapid freezing and will not substitute for a home freezer when the meat is to be frozen and stored for more than one week.
The maximum frozen storage time for lamb is 6-9 months and for ground beef or lamb 3-4 months.

METHODS OF COOKING LAMB
Most cuts of high quality lamb are tender, therefore roasting, broiling and pan-broiling are the cooking methods most used. The meat from the neck, shanks and breast may be cut into small pieces for stew, which is cooked in liquid, or it may be ground for patties and cooked by dry heat.
Lamb is cooked until medium or well done.  Ideally it is still slightly pink on the inside so that there will be less shrinkage and the meat will be very juicy and delicious.  Lamb should be served very hot or cold, but never served lukewarm.


RECIPES

EASY AND DELICIOUS

Marinage for lamb
Especially for Shish Kabob/BBQ lamb: Blend ¼ cup oil, ¼ cup wine vinegar, 2 tsp crushed rosemary, ½ tsp black pepper, 2 tsp salt and ½ cup sliced onion.  Marinade lamb cubes or chops overnight in refrigerator or 2-3 hours standing at room temperature, turning meat occasionally.

Orange Glazed Lamb Chops

Brown 4 lamb chops quickly in a skillet.  Remove and place in a baking dish and pour drippings and 4 TBLSP frozen concentrated orange juice over the top.  Bake uncovered is moderate oven (350 degrees), basting frequently with pan drippings.  Cook 30-40 minutes for desired degree of tenderness.

New Zealand Curry and Rice
In a heavy pan, sauté 1 onion in oil.  Add 1 lb mutton or lamb, cubed and fat removed, which has been coated with flour. Add 1 apple cubed, 2 tsp curry powder, 2 tsp Chutney and 1 tsp salt.
Add ¾ pint of stock or water.  Bring to a simmering point and cook gently for 2 hours.  Coconut or raisins may also be added.  Serve over boiled rice.

Tender Roast Leg of Lamb (basic)
Preheat a heavy roaster for top of stove roasting. Rub crushed garlic all over the leg (with “fell” layer intact). Slowly brown the meat on all sides, then cover.  Reduce heat to low and cook 35 minutes per pound. Season with salt and pepper near end of cooking.  Serve with mint jelly.

A BIT MORE EFFORT

Roast lamb shoulder
Mix together: ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, 1TBLSP dry mustard, 3 TBLSP flour, ½ cup cold water. Blend and spread over the 4-5 lb shoulder roast.  Roast uncovered in a slow over (300 degrees F) for about 3 ½ hours (30-35 minutes per pound). Baste every 15-20 minutes. Spread with red currant jelly the last hour.