The Other Red Meat
by Paula Marcoux
Last October, I was lucky enough to spit-roast a whole lamb, a meaty 80-pound carcass from a Hampshire/Dorset cross, which had been raised by Lynda Hutchings for Colchester Farm in Plympton. Born in early March, this lamb still had the tenderness and mildness of a young animal, but it had put on plenty of good weight, according to Lynda, thanks to excellent pasture and lots of it. It was succulent and delicious.
For readers who are interested in cooking some local lamb—whether it’s a wee chop or the whole critter you’re after—there is an amazingly broad spectrum of options available in our area. It takes some flexibility and initiative and a little research, but the lambs are out there, from Rehoboth to Hingham and everywhere in between. Very few farms offer lamb packaged for retail sale, partly because presently there is no local slaughterhouse inspected for that service. Until this situation changes, the consumer gets to chat all the other options over with the farmer, a great opportunity to learn about lambing time, pasture qualities, breeds and their characteristics, and a host of other ovine topics.
Full-grown lambs are usually available in September, October, and November, depending on lambing time. Some farmers like early lambing, in the dead of winter, either to have very small lambs for the Easter market, or because they show a competition flock of sheep and size does matter to the judges at blue-ribbon time. Others don’t mind a late lambing, because the ewes’ milk is so wonderfully fattening for the lambs when the grass gets lush in May, or because, as one farmer told me with a twinkle in his tone, he’d just gotten lazy, and had no intention of spending January nights crawling around a frozen barn at lambing time.
And, of course: always be sure to ask around at your local farmers’ market—all the producers say that their lamb sells quickly, so it may be there one week, gone the next.
Resources: (updated march 2015)
Begin your search at the SEMAP Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership website (www.SEMAPonline.org), which locates nearby producers and furnishes contact information. The listings below are just a small sample of the many local sheepfarmers listed by SEMAP.
41 Steven Street
Hanson MA 02341
781-290-6360 (preferred method of contact)
Round the Bend Farm – Meat CSA
90 Allen’s Neck Road
Dartmouth, MA 02714
1506 Drift Road
Westport MA 02790
Whole Lambs (Icelandic, no less!), Cut and Wrapped:
Your Full-Service Sheep Farm, specializing in ethnic butchering, as well as older animals for fuller flavor, if desired:
482a Smith Neck Road
S. Dartmouth, MA 02748
Another great option is to call a slaughterhouse directly;
sometimes they’ll buy a farmer’s entire flock and market the meat themselves. As they are in contact with many farmers, they may furnish a tremendous shortcut to finding meat available when you want it.
Den Besten Farm and Custom Slaughterhouse
8 North Street
Bridgewater, MA 02324
Once you’ve scored a pound of prime local ground lamb at the farmers’ market, how to cook it? One place to look for inspiration for this, and most any, culinary topic is a burgeoning online recipe network called how2heroes. A quick search lands not only the tasty recipe that follows, but a video of it being cooked in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium. (Yes, we get the tailgating thing, but there is something irresistibly absurd and wonderful about Chef Matthew Maue of Tastings (note:closed in 2014), standing in his whites in the middle of a vast blacktop, grilling lamb skewers according to a recipe popular in the time of Ghengis Khan.)
Turns out that how2heroes, although its videos originate far and wide, is the brainchild of East Taunton native Lynne Viera. Her how-to “online destination” is an ever-enlarging web of stories from the world of food—where the “heroes” are anyone who is willing to share, and are as likely to be a Texas grandmother with some knockout-looking tamales as the aforementioned professional type with prep staff. Lynne has tapped her mom (Bea Viera, trained as mother of 7 hungry kids) for some regional delicacies, including Portuguese sweet bread and a classic version of stuffed quahogs, as well as for family favorites like cinnamon buns (“every Sunday!”) and apple pie (“world’s best” and “most viewed video!”).
Each of the over 2000 video recipes on the website is posted in written and printable format, along with more information about the cook-hero and handy links to related recipes and topics.
www.how2heroes.com: Grilled Spicy lamb Meatballs
Grilled Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dressing and Red Onion Salad
Adapted from a recipe provided to how2heroes by Matthew Maue, chef de cuisine at Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro.
You’ll want a nice hot fire in the grill. And if you are using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water while you prep the food.
Mix up, and let flavors marry (for 20 minutes):
• 1 pound ground local lamb
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 small shallot, chopped
• 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
• 1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
• 1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground
• 1 teaspoon (or to taste) ground hot red chile or cayenne
• 1 teaspoon pepper, ground kosher or sea salt, to taste
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cup plain yogurt
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 4 tablespoons white vinegar
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• salt to taste
¼ red onion, thinly shaved, soaked in ice water for 15 minutes, and drained
4 sprigs of dill or cilantro or mint, torn up a bit
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Form walnut-sized meatballs and spear on soaked wooden skewers. Grill (or broil) 3-5 minutes, turning to cook all sides, until deep brown, sizzly, and great-smelling.
Place a dollop of yogurt dressing on a plate and top with skewered meatballs and onion salad. Serve at once.
Makes 12-16 meatballs.