The mutton the cook Mrs. Patmore so proudly served on the Downton Abbey table is of a higher order rarely available to us, but it will be on the Oliveto menu tomorrow and Friday.
According to Mac Magruder, from whose ranch these animals have come, mutton (sheep over 1 year old) was once prized. But it suffered some unjust criticism during WWI and WWII, when sheep was raised primarily for wool, and some of what was sold as mutton was very old – several years, even. It was a time when all sheep was sold and eaten, due to the food shortages during that period.
After the wars, meat became the primary product again, and wool became secondary, so sheep began to be processed at a younger age. Mutton became rare, and its high regard was lost (a casualty of war).
So what we have here is an uncommon treat. The flavor will be deeper, the omega fatty acid content higher – the sort of meat that was once cherished over a century ago.
We’ve recently received four sheep from Magruder Ranch, one of which is particularly special and delicious. It’s a “wether”, a neutered male that’s been kept in the flock for a year and a half. Magruder’s sheep is generally processed at 6-8 months – a bit younger.
Here’s what we’re planning:
Chef Jonah will be smoking and curing the legs of the wether – like prosciutto – and they will be ready in five or six months. The rest of the wether – along with the three other Magruder yearlings we recently acquired – will be served in a trio upstairs. A portion of leg muscle from the younger yearlings will be cooked rare and served alongside tenderloin or loin and lamb chop.
Tortellini of lamb in lamb brodo will be featured on our menu too.