Why is mutton addressed as lamb?

Hogget, mutton – nowadays it’s all lamb in some quarters

Roast leg of lamb. Photograph: iStock

Roast leg of lamb. Photograph: iStock

 

What has happened to mutton? You know the meat that I’m talking about. The one you more than likely had in your lamb stew – if you’re over the age of 35. It seems to be a growing trend that all mutton, and hogget for that matter, is labelled as lamb.

I don’t know if this follows US practice where all sheep products are labelled lamb, or if something else has made us rule out the distinction. Is it to do with the simplification of our food culture: the reduction of every type to a single thing? Beef is beef, lamb is lamb. Except when it’s not.

Traditionally, lamb is the meat from a sheep which is under one year old. Hogget is meat from a sheep that is more than a year old. I would guess most hogget is sold as lamb nowadays. It’s a pity, because the subtle difference is worth exploring. It’s a larger animal with more developed meat, which to my mind is better.

Spring lamb is a fatuous marketing tool. Most spring lamb arrives in the summer. Is it time to rename it? Don’t get me wrong, whatever we want to call it, I love lamb, whether it’s hogget or mutton. But let’s call it what it is. 

Hogget baked in seaweed and cider

Lay a large handful of fresh (or rehydrated, if dry) seaweed on the bottom of an oven tray. Oil and salt a leg of hogget and pour in 500ml of cider. Place a little more seaweed on top of the leg. Roast at 160 degrees for approximately one and a half hours or until the temperature at core is 50 degrees . This is for rare meat at the centre of the joint.

Often I cook the core to just 45 degrees. The reason for this is that parts of the lamb will be well done even when the core is rare. But whatever way you like to eat it, make sure you ask your butcher if it’s really a lamb.

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