Mutton tasting at Abergavenny Food Festival
Nick Miller, of Black Welsh Lamb, and a member of the PFLA, used the Abergavenny Food Festival to launch lamb tasting three years ago, taking the approach of a wine tasting to help people appreciate the differences in taste between different samples of lamb; based on breed, location, approach to rearing and length of maturation. This year mutton was the meat on test.
Celebrity chef and an Advisor to HRH The Prince of Wales’ Mutton Renaissance, Cyrus Todiwala, was on hand to compere the event that saw mutton from four different farms in Wales and England being compared.
Participants enjoyed the chance to taste the four samples of mutton, from different breeds of sheep reared exclusively on pasture by Nick and three other PFLA farmers. Each famer presented their mutton and talked about their farm and the suitability of the breed they have on their farms and the management systems they employ.
All four of the samples had been killed on the same day and hung for three weeks and each sample (the cut was shoulder) was slow-cooked at the Festival. Although they varied in size and needed cooking for different times, everything else was the same. In fact, the joints were not cooked in anything and had no seasoning added. There was enough flavour on its own.
Farmer Simon Cutter talked about the hanging process and why it was necessary to have a good coating of fat on the carcass to preserve moisture, but also add flavour in the cooking process.
The tasters were generally quite surprised at how tender and flavoursome the samples were – much better than lamb – contrary to what they had expected. All agreed that mutton has a poor reputation, when in fact it was a superior product.
Chef Todiwala is already buying mutton from Black Welsh Lamb and says pasture-fed meat is so important for creating the flavour in his dishes, not because of the spices he adds!
You can find out where to buy mutton from a certified Pasture for Life producer here.
So what is mutton?
Well it all depends on how many teeth a sheep has.
Lamb comes from a young sheep under 12 months of age, which does not have any permanent incisor teeth.
Hogget is a sheep of either sex having no more than two permanent incisors – usually between one to two years of age.
Mutton is from a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) having more than two permanent incisors and is over two years old.