Connemara Mountain Lamb
They all say that theirs is the best lamb you’ll ever taste. Every sheep farmer I’ve ever met will look you square in the eye and spin you the same sceál .. “Certified organic, free range over several hundred acres of mountains, by the sea, fed on a healthy diet of bog heather and organic meal” this is the best Lamb you are ever going to taste.
And most of the time, it appears, they are right.
A few weeks ago we sampled a few lamb chops from the Calvey family farm in Achill, County Mayo, which was pretty spectacular. That spurred another farming man from Leenane, named Bernard King, to track me down at work the other day asking if I’d consider trying a bite of his late season hogget; A beautiful leg of lamb indeed.
When I stole a few minutes to chat with Bernard about his sheep rearing and lamb selling business, I could tell from the look on his face that he was not overly excited about the way things were going. That same afternoon I read this article about Beef farmers getting into Sheep farming because they can command a higher price but it kind of left me feeling like we are dangerously close to heading back to ‘rip off Ireland’ and we need to make smart choices now more than every with the limited amount of weekly income we have, not to mention show our support for the existing Sheep farmers who are not ripping us off.
“I’ve nearly 900 ewes roaming around 500+ hectares of IOFGA certified organic mountain land out near Leenane. I can tell you now, you are going to love this Lamb, because it is a beautiful animal.”
Bernard stressed his frustration at trying to sell to restaurants as all they want is the rack of lamb or leg of lamb. Well, the chefs are ordering those cuts just to cater to what the public are demanding, right?
When was the last time you saw and ordered a piece of lamb on a menu at a restaurant? Other than the standard three chops on the plate or Sunday roast, you’d be hard pressed to find a lamb shank, or even a stew with a succulent hunk of lamb simmering. I’ve seen lamb meatballs once on a menu in Mayo and Kai Cafe in Galway here just recently started serving a Lamb Burger (it’s a beautiful thing) but for the most part … we seem to be leaving the rest of the lamb out in the cold, so to speak.
And the butchers are no better. I remember, when living in the US, we could purchase rolled lamb neck (very inexpensively) on a daily basis, no special order needed and lamb shanks were available all year round too, and also quite cheap. A shout out here to John Tormey’s Butcher shop in Galway as he does carry Lamb shanks almost all year round.
But again, if there is no demand, and we are not using the cheaper (and obviously less popular) cuts of lamb at home then there is no point in the butchers stocking up on items they will have to creatively cast aside later due to lack of interest.
Offering up this beautiful protein source at €9 per kilo (cheaper than any and all the grocery stores) Bernard works with a local butcher, Tommy Lydon from Maam, and can fit a whole lamb into ‘the three drawers of your freezer’. They operate on a kill-to-order basis so its not like you need to save your pennies for any specific time of the year, you can call him up and place your order whenever you want. Bernard has not yet started using a courier service so I told him to connect with the folks over at OldFarm Pork in Tipperary because they have been using a courier for the last year with great success. Incidentally, if you are looking to buy yourself a bit of free range pork then look no further. They even offer pig rearing courses and have a few extra beds at their farmhouse so you can make a little mini-break out of it.
“I know this is the best tasting Lamb in the country. I know that once people taste it, they will love it. I hope that people will recognise the value for money in what they are getting when they order this meat.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Bernard. At €9.00 per kilo for certified organic lamb raised outdoors in a completely free range mountain environment .. well its a no brainer. Product labelling, transparency of food origins, knowing and trusting that the food you are eating has not been injected with growth hormones or fed a diet of crap ….. all of this matters.
We decided to throw our leg of lamb on the big green egg. A quick rub down with very coarse salt and black pepper, a bit of smoky Spanish Paprika, some citric acid (available at all pharmacies) and raw cane sugar, we left it sitting out for about two hours (to come to room temperature) before throwing it on the glowing coals.
At 2 kilos in weight it took just under one hour to cook. The citric acid and sugar (both small amounts and equal parts) gave the char that extra special zip. It was the kind of stick-to-your-teeth yum …. and with a piece of meat like this, you really do not want to overcook it. The outer pieces work well for those who like everything well done and by the time you get a third of the way in … well, it’s just gorgeous.
From the above referenced article in the Irish Independent earlier this week “…. Last week, a leg of Irish lamb in Tesco cost €12.99 per kg and Irish lamb loin chops cost €18.99 a kilo. In Dunnes Stores, a leg of Irish lamb was priced at €9.29 per kg and Irish lamb loin chops per kg were €15.99. In Lidl, a New Zealand-sourced leg of lamb cost €8.99 per kg and its Irish Lamb loin chops were priced at €16.19 a kilo … “
So what are you waiting for … clear out your freezer guys and dolls.
That’s all for now folks.
PS – I have a few other ‘cooked’ photos but due to the fact that the internet is an absolute nightmare here at the house – they will have to wait unlit later to upload. Hard to imagine that we live only 4 miles from Galway city – it is 2014 – and we have a non-existent broadband service. First world problems, I know.
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