There's not a lot of bacon on lamb breast; we must wait until we have enough to justify the expense of kindling the hickory wood. But enough is enough and this week we've been smoking the house down and tomorrow the New York wait is over.
Catskill Merino has been granted a 20-C license by NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to make lamb sausage and lamb bacon in the kitchens of Quaker Creek, which happens to be about 2 miles, as the crow flies, from where the sheep graze.
We are proud to have the skilled guidance of proprietor and chef Robert "Bobby" Mateszewski in his kitchens. There, we will continue to make the Catskill Merino lamb sausages that you have come to enjoy; and we will make sausages from recipes that have made Quaker Creek renowned.
Bobby has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, a garde manger chef who came from Poland to cook at the 1939 World's Fair but was stranded here by the outbreak of war. In 1947, the reunited family moved upstate to the Polish farming community that grew vegetables in the Black Dirt region. His grandfather opened a tavern and store that specialized in home processed meat on Pulaski Highway. Bobby was connected to the old world by family; but he grew up in the land of opportunity. Years later, at the Culinary Institute of America, he studied the old and new methods of fine charcuterie to become a garde manger himself. Below the store, he installed the finest kitchen equipment: he has Koch stainless-steel smokers controlled by micro-processors and he has a state-of-the-art sausage stuffer.
Quaker Creek is family run; Bobby's mother, wife and other family members help around the store. Quaker Creek is a local insitution too; as Bobby says, “I use the best quality ingredients, all available in this region. I get my herbs fresh from a grower right here in Pine Island, and mix the seasonings myself...like my grandfather, I am a gourmet; and what I do here at Quaker Creek is the fulfillment of his dream."
People travel from miles around for charcuterie made by Quaker Creek.
Here are three new sausages available at the stand in Union Square made from Quaker Creek recipes:
Cajun Andouille is a spicy lamb sausage made with onion and garlic that is smoked and ready to eat. Nitrate free. In a natural sheep casing.
Mexican Chorizo is a lamb sausage made in the traditional Mexican way with chilies and garlic. In a natural sheep casing.
Apple & Maple is a lamb breakfast sausage made with Granny Smith apples and New York maple syrup. In a natural sheep casing.
New York City's annual Dance Parade (2009), so proclaimed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, came down Broadway and passed Union Square last Saturday. This year there were 5,291 dancers in 60 dance styles from Algerian to Zydeco. I kept my eye on the belly dancers.
I worried that Fatima from Astoria would be in the parade still nursing a grudge—awhile back, Tasting Table NYC had proclaimed a new "hottest belly in town": lamb bacon—and I feared she might hold my sheep responsible for such disrespect and try to get even by terrorizing my customers with her "nihilistic belly rampage" in and around the stand. Stranger things have happened in Union Square.
In 1916 anarchist Emma Goldman rallied a crowd of garment workers for birth control in the North Plaza of the Square, long set aside for political gatherings, and now where Greenmarket farmers unpack their produce 4 days a week.
Behind Emma, in the very rear of the photo, you can see the Decker Building (2nd from the left) where, in the 70's, Andy Warhol made art inspired by tomato soup cans in The Factory which was located on the 6th floor. The building is directly across the street (which the dancers paraded down) from where I set up my stand on Saturdays. Ghosts are everywhere in Union Square.
Castradina is smoked leg of mutton in a soup made by adding cabbage, onions and wine.
Venetians traditionally enjoy Castradina on the feast of the Madonna della Salute as a tribute to the loyalty of the people of Dalmatia who, during Venice's plague-induced isolation (1347-1348), were the only neighboring state (located on the coast of modern day Croatia) to provide Venice with food: mutton sheep were readily available in Dalmatia.
During those eighteen months of isolation the Venetians ate almost nothing else; in memory of that time, the tradition of eating smoked mutton soup on November 21 has been carried forward to this day and age.
Chop a leg of smoked mutton into pieces and leave it to boil for about two hours. After the first half-hour of cooking, throw away the water (and the fat), replace it and continue to boil. Then add some Savoy cabbage, previously chopped and browned in a pan with plenty of onion. Continue cooking for another hour. Add salt and pepper.
I learned of this dish on that rainy Saturday before Easter when an un-umbrella-ed Edwin Yowell, who flies often to Venice for lunch and who is also a grand devotee of Greenmarket, strolled by the stand with a red snapper from the fishmonger and stopped as he noticed the lamb bacon in the cooler. Interested, he was. In our ensuing conversation I mentioned that I had smoked mutton too: his eyes lit up as he uttered "Castradina," properly rolling his "rrr's" like a man who knows his gondolas "Tell me more..." I said. He did, and the rest is history.
I emailed Edwin informing him that I'd published a recipe for Castradina on my sheep blog. What follows is our correspondence of Thursday afternoon as the pot thickens.
Well done, I am going to try it (the recipe) today, I'll let you know how it goes. Btw, do you think it is really necessary to dump the water, or just skim the fat from it?
Taste the broth, then decide to skim or throw, or how much to throw; the recipe comes from the City of Venice website and I omitted the recipe's coda: "It is an extremely tasty dish: it is advisable to let your guests know what you are cooking, because its strong flavour is not to everybody's taste."
Let me know how it cooks up...the recipe is peasant simple and probably will leave your guests craving more.
Yes, the Italian caveat was a good one.
There is great variation in mutton's strength of flavor from sheep to sheep...much more so than from lamb to lamb; there is mild mutton too, only a taste will tell.
Geez Do you know what boiling smoked mutton smells like?
Kinda, I know what bacon made from mutton smells like frying which is indistinguishable from lamb; I had the butcher discontinue mutton bacon as it was jerky-chewy rather than smelly.
My guess is the smoked smell is noticeable while cooking. Note: the mutton soaked in a brine of brown sugar and salt for almost 4 days before it was cherry smoked for 12 hours where it lost a third of its weight, mostly water I would suspect.
But if you're getting cold feet, throw the broth rather than skim the fat from it. Just wait though, until you add the cabbage to the boiling mutton…your tenants downstairs will think about moving out.
"Ooh, ooh that smell, Can't you smell that smell?"
Ok, I tasted the broth and will put the already sautéed cabbage and onions in it after skimming fat. I figure your smoked mutton is probably higher quality than what the Dalmatians sent the Venetians.
The Doge wanted the oldest sheep the Dalmatians could find; he figured those strong muttony odors wafting along the canals kept the plague at bay.
Well, I added the cabbage to the reduced stock that I did not toss. It is terrific!
Gramercy, mammon, said the gentle knight. --Spenser
Let me pretend to be the gentle knight and say great thanks for your many orders that came from the Lamb Bacon mention in Food Stuff, Florence Fabricant's column in the New York Times on April 8, 2009. The response was at first overwhelming: I had to modify my procedure for handling orders but now I can take them in good stride, or so I hope.
And gramercy Florence.
"This Easter, you do not have to wait for dinner to serve lamb. For breakfast or brunch, there is lamb bacon, made and smoked over hickory wood by Eugene Wyatt at Catskill Merino Sheep Farm in Goshen, N.Y. The bacon...in the pan, sizzles to proper crispness (see photo), though with a slightly gamier flavor than the usual rasher. It is sold Saturdays at the Union Square Greenmarket...it sells quickly...It is also sold at www.catskill-merino.com."
Florence Fabricant in her Food Stuff column for the New York Times, Wednesday April 7, 2009.
She is the author of New Home Cooking: Feeding Family, Feasting, Friends, named the best general cookbook by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the best special occasion cookbook by the James Beard Foundation and was elected to Who's Who of Cooking in America and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier.
Buy Lamb Bacon from the Lamb Store.
We listen. Responding to "more lamb belly," a cri de gastronome for the coming year by New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni who is an outspoken omnivore devouring all manner of offal, we're doing something with lamb belly that may appeal to his appetite: we've come out with a lamb bacon, made by curing the belly in a brine of brown sugar & salt (with no nitrates) for several days then smoking it over a cherry wood fire before slicing it thickly; and—clankingly with a pot-and-pan fanfare—we brought our new lamb belly to the stand in Union Square for the first time last Saturday.
According to the Tasting Table editors; well versed in the culinary arts, but lacking when it comes to Hellenistic saltations, specifically ignoring how mascara-eyed Fatima, wiggling her umbilical, drives the blonde, blue-eyed patrons of Plato's Cave—Zagat Rated—the most famous belly-dancing club in Astoria Queens wild; "lamb bacon is the hottest new belly in town," the TT editors say. But O woe, Fatima doesn't like to hear that she's no longer the top banana of New York bellies. Because lamb has less fat than pork, lamb bacon stays more tender when crisped. It is preferred for its meaty texture and rich flavor. Now Fatima's sipping ouzu and really getting pissed; she will soon take the stage dancing in what will be described as "nihilistic belly rampage" by the LIC/Astoria Journal.
Go to midtown for the evening and order dishes made with lamb belly at Anthos, the Greek spot on 52nd St., as you mingle with the ghosts of Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and other jazz musicians who played in the nightclubs along "Swing Street" between 5th Ave. & 7th Ave. in the 40's & 50's.
When you're safely home and after a good night's sleep, Daniel Meyer will tell you how to make lamb bacon in your own kitchen—to start from scratch you'll need half a belly (called a lamb breast)—you can find his recipe in Bitten, Mark Bittman's blog on food in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times.
The Catskill Merino Lamb BLT
- 4+ thick slices of lamb bacon
- 2 slices of white bread
- 1 juicy tomato
- 4 crunchy leaves of Iceberg lettuce from near the heart
- 1 tbs. mayonnaise (homemade recipe)
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add lamb bacon slices and fry until lightly crisped.
- Drain lamb bacon on paper towels.
- Lightly toast one side of bread until golden.
- Brush un-toasted side of bread with skillet drippings, then spread with mayonnaise.
- Layer the lettuce, lamb bacon and tomato on one slice of bread and top with second slice.
- Gently press the sandwich together until the tomato drips.
Makes one sandwich, but who could stop there.
We will have lamb bacon at the farm stand every Saturday—get to Union Square as early as you can to bring home the bacon.