You all undoubtedly remember the Bible story most often told to demonstrate the wisdom of King Solomon. Two women were fighting for custody of a child, each contender claiming to be the child’s mother. King Solomon had the unenviable task of deciding which woman should prevail. How did he go about doing it? He suggested dividing the child in two. One woman accepted his judgment. The other, clearly horrified at the thought, retracted her claim and asked that the child be entrusted to her rival. The woman willing to give the child up, King Solomon decided, must be the actual mother, as proven by her devotion to her child’s welfare. He awarded custody to her.
I, acknowledging there is much we can learn from the Bible, would like to follow King Solomon’s example. This is the week the first group of the lambs born last season goes to market. Many of you purport to love lamb, and indeed will go to great expense in restaurants to order such fashionable dishes as braised lamb shanks – perfect winter fare. To you professed lamb lovers, I am offering to divide a lamb in half. Only in a twist on the Biblical story, those who take up my offer will actually receive the half lamb, cut to your order by a butcher. Because I know your willingness to take half a lamb is not evidence of your disregard for the lamb’s welfare.
Indeed, I know that one of the reasons you prefer to order lamb from a farm like ours is precisely because you care for the lamb’s welfare. You recognize that our lambs freely roam in open pastures, and take shelter at their will in our enormously comfortable and brightly lit new barn on cold snowy winter days. You know their diet is principally grass and hay, the food their digestive system is designed to handle, with grain given only as a small daily treat. You are aware that they are processed humanely at a local facility that is certified as Animal Welfare approved. Finally, you understand that for heritage breeds like our American Karakuls, the only way to ensure that the breed is perpetuated is if there is a market for its meat.
So why have you hesitated to order one of these lambs, whose availability has been known for weeks? In my Solomonic wisdom, I recognize that the issue for many is a very mundane one: freezer space. You look at one of our sleek fat lambs out there on the pasture, and you think, “I could never fit the meat from one of those creatures in my freezer.”
Yet the fat woolly lamb that weighs in at perhaps 80 pounds when placed live on the scale goes through a number of steps on the way to being carved into freezer packages. It is first of all skinned of its heavy wool pelt. (Troy and Victoria, under the tutelage of our former farm hand, Peter Siegenthaler, are planning to process the pelts into tanned sheepskins this year). Its head and lower legs are then cut off, it is eviscerated of its guts, and the blood is drained out. What remains, the meat, bones, tail and some organs, comprises the animal’s “hanging weight”. It is called “hanging weight” because it is in that form that he meat is hung up in a cold room and aged for several days before being butchered
With pastured animals, the hanging weight will be about 50% of the live weight. That 80 lb. lamb will hang out at about 40 lbs. (We charge by hanging weight, at $7/lb. ) The amount that goes into your freezer, however, is further reduced by the butchering process which, depending on your instructions, removes a great deal of fat and bone, as well as tendons and glands. The 40 lb. hanging weight is likely to translate into 30 lbs of actual cuts of meat. And if you order half a lamb, the approximately 15 lbs of actual meat you get from half of a live 80 lb. lamb is something any normal freezer compartment, including normal New York City apartment freezers, can handle.
What do you get as part of that half lamb? Much depends on how you direct the butcher to cut your meat up. Rather than be intimidated by the process, I recommend you spend some time looking at a lamb butchering chart, taking the process as an opportunity to understand what part of the lamb your meat comes from and why it has the quality it does, and then walk through your choices with the folks at Hilltown Pork, where we process our lambs, and who are accustomed to helping people make their choices. I recommend watching a you tube video of an expert butcher like Justin Williams butchering a whole lamb (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq_GB3ldQW8), reading the Hilltown Pork lamb cut sheet (https://storage.googleapis.com/wzukusers/user-27121835/documents/5ad0ff7d909a9aLnBzcQ/LambCutSheet.pdf)
and looking at a chart of lamb cuts like the one I borrowed from clovegarden.com, above,
Suffice it to say in that 15 lbs. half of a lamb you may include a couple of lamb shanks, a leg roast, eight lamb loin chops, a rack of lamb, rib chops and/or spare ribs from the saddle, riblets from the lamb breast, a shoulder roast, some stew and a couple of pounds of ground lamb, and a kidney. Cooking your way through that delectable selection as the spirit moves you can be enormous fun.
Offering half lambs does present some dilemmas. Lambs, like other animals, are largely symmetrical with two identical halves. But there are certain parts, treasured by some, that are singular. These include the neck (highly desired by some for stews), the fat tail (much sought after by our Uzbeki and Kazakh customers, among others, for cooking fat) and the liver. By splitting an individual lamb between a customer who doesn’t want such delicacies and one who does, the matchmaker in me can generally manage to reach an amicable division of the animal, proving again that, in matters of dividing up the goodies, I have the wisdom of Solomon.
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:
Egg production continues at a low ebb, again a couple dozen available this week, first come first served.
This week the first lambs go to market. Two are already reserved by a butcher shop, the others are up for grabs. See the bulletin below to understand how an order works, and let us know if you want to reserve a whole or half lamb.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish pounds
EGGS: $5/doz – just a couple of dozen available
MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer. See below.
GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.
ROASTING CHICKENS – Nice fat Freedom Rangers, frozen, largish (4 to 7 lbs, a few smaller), $6/lb.
LAMB: Whole or Half $7/b (hanging weight), Riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb,
PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs),
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
Email us your order at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.