Tuesday, 10 December 2013

It's time for the Lambs - How I butcher lamb

Winter is just about here now, the grass has stopped growing, we have had to supplement their usual food intake with grain for the last weeks so it's time for this year's lambs.

Since slaughtering them last week, we have been hanging the 3 carcasses in the basement for about 5 days now, over the next two evenings, it is time to butcher them and get them into the freezer.  The Lambs have already been feeding us for the last few days, the liver, kidneys and other bits of offal have been a real treat.

I have put this quick photo guide together to show how I butcher lamb.  There are some differences between how I do this and how I would do it if I was selling the meat for profit.  Some parts of the animal would usually be cut divided up into smaller cutlets, but I like to leave pieces that I know will make a good curry or stew on the bone.

Here is one of the whole lambs, untrimmed, after being hung for 5 days.  First I halve this, usually while it is still hanging on hooks from its rear legs, by separating between the 13 and 14th ribs.  This leaves the rear end hanging up in the cold room while I deal with the front end.

The front feet followed by shanks are removed at the elbow joint, this can be done by cutting around the joint to separate the two bones, but I like to use a bone saw, its much faster and because it cuts through the bone. This will allow the bone marrow to escape during cooking.  Whenever the saw is used it is very important to remove, by scraping with a knife or plastic scraper, and bone dust that the saw leaves behind.  The bone dust/fatty residue left by the saw is not nice to eat, it has a gritty texture and can cause the meat to spoil quicker if left on.

Next I separate the fore-saddle from the shoulder and neck, this is done between the 4th and 5th ribs. A knife is used as much a possible here and the saw is only used when really necessary.

This is a close look at the cut through the fore-saddle.  I've very happy with the quality of the meat, there is a very good proportion of fat to lean meat and there is a good level of marbling of fat within the leaner muscle mass.

Next, the shoulders are separated from the neck by following the natural separation between the upper fore-leg and ribs. By gently pulling the cut leg section, shown above, away from the ribs, it is easy to see where to separate.  I like to leave as much meat as possible on the shoulder removing some of the neck meat in the process. 

 The ribs, still attached to the neck section, are trimmed off using the saw and the neck section I cut in to 3 or 4 good 'Curry recipe' size pieces.  These could be cut into neck cutlets, but I like to leave them like this.

The ribs are then trimmed off the fore-saddle.  After removing the spine using the saw I will then cut this section into individual cutlets or larger loin roasts, or a combination of both.  All the bones that are removed go to make stock.

The saddle is separated from the legs about 4 cm above the end of the leg muscles. 

Below I am removing the tenderloin, it runs along ether side of the spine on the inside of abdominal cavity.  

The tenderloins, I have left a little fat on them.  I recommend removing the outer membrane before cooking as it will shrink causing the tenderloin to curl up in the pan.  This is the most tender, delicate part of the animal, I like to fry them gently in a butter with a little salt and pepper, just a couple of minutes, left very pink in the middle.  Dorothy can eat this cut of lamb and she only has 2 teeth.

The belly is trimmed off the sides of the loin.  I will probably slow cook these between two baking sheets, sliced, then added to a salad or couscous.

The loin then has the back-bone removed using a saw, I usually then leave this in one piece, I will probably stuff it with herbs, roll it up and tie together, brown in a pan and then finish off in the oven for 10 mins.  Again, this is a very tender part of the lamb and needs very little cooking, I always server rare.

The leg is then removed from the pelvis by cutting leaving as much meat as possible on the leg.

This pointed bit I then trim off the top of the leg.  I like to colour in a pan, then cook sous-vide slowly for a few hours and then finish of by browning for a second time.

Rear shanks are then removed by cutting around with a knife and then through the bone with a saw.

The finished trimmed legs, the shanks will be slowly pot-roasted with lots of root vegetables and fennel, tonight probably!

Now the lamb is all in the freezer, I hope this has been of some interest.  I will be posting some recipes and results soon.