Lamb, hogget and mutton: what to know, when to buy and how to eat
Lamb, hogget and mutton are some of the most ethical choices available for meat eaters. As a recent article in The Independent put it: “Sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields. They’re also traditionally grazed on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor quality hillsides – which means it also makes economic sense to allow them to roam free.”
Our organic animals at Daylesford are from pedigree and heritage breeds chosen for their ability to thrive in an organic farming environment and produce super quality, tasting meat. They spend their entire lives out on the lush green pastures of our farm enjoying a 100% grass-fed diet.
Although lamb is often eaten at Easter, our own Senior Farms Manager Richard says that the time to eat lamb at its absolute best is in the autumn of the year, once they have had a chance to mature a little, fatten up and develop good flavour.
So this spring, why not try the richer, more mature flavour of hogget or mutton (see guide below) and choosing cuts suited to long, slow cooking and braising such as shoulder, neck and shank.
For an even deeper understanding, sign up to our Butchery Half-Day: Lamb course at our Cookery School on 30th March to learn more about this fantastic, versatile ingredient and all the ways it can be prepared. The course covers various breeds, nose-to-tail cookery, seasonality as well as key butchery skills including work with the knife, saw, boning and tying. You will learn all about different cuts and the best cooking methods for each, from high temperature cooking to “low and slow” braises and making flavourful stocks.
Lamb: a sheep up to 14 months old that hasn’t given birth, most commonly eaten from five months upwards.
Milk lamb: 2 weeks-3 months old. Soft, tender texture and little flavour.
Spring lamb: 3-7 months old. Tender texture and mild flavour.
Winter lamb: 10-12 months. Widely thought to be the best eating quality.
Hogget: 15 or 16 months old. Darker meat, stronger flavour. Needs slow cooking (although hogget loin can be quickly pan-fried). The telltale sign of a true hogget are the first two teeth emerging.
Mutton: 2-5 years. Very strong flavour and needs long, slow cooking to break down the tougher meat fibres. Best to ask how old the mutton is.