The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Columns

April 20, 2013

COOKING WITH SIMON: The secret to great tasting spring lamb

Spring is in full swing and pretty soon summer will be on our doorstep. But while we still have some mild temperatures and cooler nights, now is the time to plant some vegetables and herbs.

One that I particularly like, for many purposes, is mint. Its sweet smell fills the air, and as I walk past the garden and notice the scent my mouth begins to water because it reminds me of lamb.

Many believe they don’t like lamb. They associate it with a strong, gamey flavor and early attempts at trying it have been not so good. Well here’s the secret that I figured out with my good friend Rob Bass, a lamb rancher in Palestine. It’s not the age of the lamb that affects the flavor, it’s the weight.

Once the lamb reaches 100 pounds the meat will be tougher, the flavor strong and the fat content goes up. Rob makes sure he gets the lamb to the processor at about 90 pounds to ensure the best flavor in the meat.

Rob and his wife Joy have been raising St. Croix sheep at The Just Right Ranch since 2006. They use their flock for breeding, stud services and sell the meat for sheep designated for processing.

I have been lucky enough to receive a whole lamb from the Basses on a few occasions. The processor, or butcher, will create chops, roasts, loins, ground meat – whatever cut you like.

Typically, I will pick mine up whole and butcher it myself in whatever cuts I want to have. One of my favorite cuts is a bone-in leg of lamb. It’s very easy to cook and is just like doing a roast.

If you can’t get your lamb meat from The Just Right Ranch, Sam’s Club in Tyler carries New Zealand lamb. They almost always have loins, chops and legs in stock. The flavor is wonderful and if you haven’t had lamb in awhile I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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