Are alternative meats becoming more popular or am I just noticing them more? At my local market, smack in the middle of New York City, I can buy bison, ostrich and elk, none of which were roaming the markets a few years ago. The sheep vendor (still pretty novel for the beef and poultry set) seems downright mundane next to these guys. But it’s his lamb’s meat that has won me over, and you can buy it online which is what I would do if I ever found myself one Saturday not able to get to his stand.
Sheep’s meat still lags in popularity and its mainly because we don’t have a tradition in America of raising sheep (as they did (and still do) in the Mediterranean Middle East or Africa) and because we have grown accustomed to milder (or as many non-Americans would say) flavorless – meat. But this perception that lamb is a strong, gamey flavor is not entirely true, it’s more the age of the sheep that affects flavor. Which is where the term hogget comes in … lamb is under a year, hogget is meat from a sheep 1-2 years old and mutton is from a sheep 2 years plus.
My absolute favorite way to eat lamb is in sausage form, and the vendor Catskill Merino Sheep Farm, makes the most incredible sausages that I buy each week. (They always have samples of their just-grilled sausages and I stand there tossing more than my share into my mouth while I chat with the chief griller). As lamb is a popular meat in North Africa it’s not surprising that one of their most popular sausages (and my favorite) is the Merguez – a spicy mix of crushed red peppers, cayenne, minced garlic and cinnamon. (There are 12 other varieties to choose from.)
Health-wise lamb is super dense nutritionally. It’s similar to other red meat in being very high in iron, zinc and B12. (A very quick aside on iron — though iron is also found in non-meat, there are two forms of iron: haem and non haem. Haem is what’s in meat and seafood and absorbed easily by the body. Non-haem iron is found in vegetables, bread, beans, and eggs, but a much smaller percent of the iron in this form is absorbed (hence the need to consume much more of these foods to absorb the same levels.)
If the lamb is pasture raised (which it often is since the factory farming business for sheep in the US is tiny), then the fat content will be low. Slightly more than half the fat will also be unsaturated. It will also contain high levels of Omega 3 (again, far higher than factory raised animals), and will be unlikely to contain remnants of antibiotics and steroids.
If I ever come back to Earth as a sheep….
…may it be on this farm.
Some tips for cooking lamb:
- If the lamb is pasture raised (and hence low fat) don’t overcook, as it will dry out (true for the sausages as well).
- If cooking frozen sausages, no need to thaw first. Simply drop onto the saucepan and cook – the casing retains the heat and thaws the meat very quickly.
- If you’re thawing a bigger piece of meat, use the cold water bath method (which is the best technique for all meat). If you leave it on the counter you risk having it get too warm and hence bacteria forming. Cold air, on the other hand (by placing it in the refrigerator to thaw) is very inefficient and can take days. Best is to place the wrapped meat in a bowl of cold water (ice water if you wish) and let it thaw on the counter in the cold water.
- If you suspect the meat might be a stronger flavor than you like, stew it with other flavors and it will soften and mellow.
Get the recipe (pictured above) for Sausage with Quinoa, Swiss Chard and Apricots. If you don’t want to use lamb, any kind of sausage will do.
This is the link to the Catskill Merino Sheep Farm, where you can buy the sausages online. They also sell at the Union Square Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Your thoughts on alt-meats? You into any these days?
PS: As I mentioned in the prior post, there will occasionally be “Sponsored Emails” that I will send but are from a partner food site. I will always label these so you can choose to not read them if you wish. I take it as a huge honor to be allowed into your Inbox – a privilege I respect deeply.
Get Posts By Email