Two days ago I butchered a lamb… a whole lamb…really! This was not just “any” lamb, it was a former neighbour of ours. Bjørn Erik is a farmer who lives 1 km down the road (I know because I run this route often and when I arrive at his farm, my iPhone app tells me that I have completed my first kilometre). He runs an organic sheep farm and we often make a point of stopping by in May during the lambing season. Yes, the babies are very, very cute!
This year, Bjørn Erik asked if he could let some of his flock graze on Hans Einar’s pastures, since Hans Einar and his brother have become organic farmers and this was the first year that the pastures were certified organic. In return for the right to graze, Hans Einar asked for a lamb. We have taken to buying more organic meat (and eating less of it) so we looked forward to a years’ worth of organic lamb.
Hans Einar brought home the slaughtered lamb and two days later, while Hans Einar was busy at the college celebrating Christmas with his colleagues, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and, with saw and knife in hand, set out to confront the challenge. I was squeamish about the task but figured that I really should be a more responsible cook and see close-up the source of my meals.
This is the lamb as we received it from the abattoir:
Not visible in the picture:
2 newly sharpened butcher knives
1 meat cleaver
1 Macbook Pro with a series of YouTube videos on how to butcher a lamb queued up.
This is the result of watching 5 videos and 2 hours of sawing and cutting and trimming…
I ended up with 1 kg of lamb mince, 12 lamb chops (French-cut, of course!), 2 legs of lamb, 2 lamb shanks, 2 breasts, 1 rack of lamb, 2 lamb shoulders, 1 neck, 2 tenderloins and a bunch of bones were boiled and made 6 outside cats very happy.
What I Learned
The process was more physically demanding than I imagined and I would have liked a better saw (maybe an electric one!) however, the most difficult part was keeping track of the various cuts so that I could label them correctly before freezing.
The most surprising bit was that, during it all, I experienced genuine feelings of gratitude for the lamb that I had certainly crossed many times while it was out grazing and I was out running…my neighbour.
Tonight we ate our first “very local” dish, a slow-cooked lamb shank in red wine with cannellini beans. It was delicious.
Happy holidays and may you all be grateful for whatever you will be enjoying at table.