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!
The cherry wood smoked taste of lamb or mutton* shoulder with the sweet tartness of green apple in a fresh tomato sauce.
- 2 Smoked shoulder lamb or mutton chops, ~1.5 lb. cut into large bite-sized chunks
- Olive oil, ¼ cup
- Onion, 1 large diced
- Ginger paste, 2 tsp
- Garlic paste, 2 tsp
- Chili powder (medium), 2 tsp
- Green apple, 1 thinly sliced
- Tomatoes, 2 sliced
- Coriander leaves (fresh), chop
- Fry smoked mutton or lamb with onion in oil lightly.
- Add 1 cup of water, ginger paste, garlic paste, chili powder, salt and stir.
- Cover pan and cook over moderate heat until water is almost gone.
- Add apples, tomatoes and more water as needed, re-cover.
- Continue cooking until apples soften and tomatoes begin to sauce.
- Uncover and stir/fry until water is almost gone.
- Garnish with small amount of coriander on the side.
*Mutton is from sheep over 1 year of age; lamb is from sheep under 1 year of age. The recipe works well using lamb or mutton, and either smoked or unsmoked shoulder.
"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.
"I purchased your Mergueza sausage...It was DELICIOUS! We made some couscous and chickpeas and whipped up a cooling yogurt sauce on the side. YUM!!!"
Sounds wonderful Dara, tell us how you prepared everything.
"We rinsed one can of chickpeas under cold running water until all canning residue was removed. We simmered them in a bit of chicken stock on low heat. We cooked the mergueza in chunks in a hot pan and then tossed the chickpeas in with the lamb. Would be good to toss in a Spanish onion, too and caramelize it.
1 Cup strained Greek yogurt (we use 2% Fage)
2 Tbsp minced mint leaves
Hothouse cucumber, diced
Juice of one half lemon
On the side we prepared a 5-minute couscous with pine nuts and added in our own golden raisins then tossed in a handful of chopped cilantro."
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.
When Ryan works the stand, sometimes he wants to be paid in lamb. What impresses me is that Ryan brings his lunch in Tupperware on a screaming black Ducati as if New York didn't have places to eat.
Maybe Ryan knows something we don't; maybe New York dines dumb; maybe Ryan's that good a cook.
Here, he enjoys a thick slice from a boneless leg of lamb that he baked with the root vegetables of winter: potatoes, carrots, turnips, rutabagas and seasoned with garlic, rosemary and a splash of vino blanco.
In Bitten, Mark Bittman's blog on food in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times, Daniel Meyer tells you how easy it is to make lamb bacon in your own kitchen. Photo by Daniel Meyer.
Blade Chops with Saffron
This recipe comes from Yuri Raginov and a book he loaned me, Azerbaijan Cookery, with each recipe published in English, Russian and Azerbaijani.
"Salt, pepper and fry mutton (or lamb) blade chops (the topmost part of the shoulder that includes the rib) in butter with shredded onion. Add mutton broth & saffron* infusion and stew until ready. Cut tomatoes into halves and brown in butter. Serve kourma garnished with the tomatoes."
Two weeks ago Kyle came by the stand and asked for lamb suet. “What’s that,” I asked. Suet is the hard fat found around the kidneys & loins of beef or sheep, he told me,
“I use suet for cooking in place of other fats. I prefer the taste of lamb fat and find that it compliments most vegetables well. The other thing I use suet for is to make Pemmican, a food of Native Americans. Pemmican was used during times of famine and during migration. It keeps for long periods and provides protein/fat/energy. I like to make it and take it when I go camping and hiking.”
Mr. Darling said he would collect suet from the lambs slaughtered that week; Kyle was delighted when he picked up the suet last Saturday and later emailed me his recipe.
Kyle’s recipe for Pemmican is posted in Lamb Cuisine.