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Posted 4/22/2009 7:53pm by Catskill Merino.

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.

Castradina

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.

Edwin Yowell:
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?

Eugene Wyatt:
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.


Edwin Yowell:
Yes, the Italian caveat was a good one.

Eugene Wyatt:
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.

Good luck.

Edwin Yowell:
Geez  Do you know what boiling smoked mutton smells like?

Eugene Wyatt:
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.

Lynyrd Skynyrd:
"Ooh, ooh that smell, Can't you smell that smell?"

Edwin Yowell:
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.

Eugene Wyatt:
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.

Edwin Yowell:
Well, I added the cabbage to the reduced stock that I did not toss. It is terrific!

Posted 4/22/2009 2:04pm by Catskill Merino.

In the juvescence of the year came Christ the tiger --T. S. Eliot

The winter was cold and long; taking coats off, our limbs were innocent of sun.  Sunday was Orthodox Easter and lamb came on strong.  New York springs are short, days between extremes, too perfect for business, days when you feel you don't have to buy anything.

Posted 4/19/2009 7:40pm by Catskill Merino.

The cherry wood smoked taste of lamb or mutton* shoulder with the sweet tartness of green apple in a fresh tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • Salt
  • Green apple, 1 thinly sliced
  • Tomatoes, 2 sliced
  • Coriander leaves (fresh), chop

Preparation:

  • 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.

Serves two.

*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.

Posted 4/16/2009 12:05pm by Catskill Merino.

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.

Posted 4/12/2009 11:37pm by Catskill Merino.

Music

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.

Frank O'Hara, Lunch Poems, 1964

Note: if you stand on 5th Avenue at 60th Street and look south toward the Plaza you'll see the angel the way Frank saw it.

  If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.

Frank O'Hara
Tags: Poetry
Posted 4/12/2009 10:15pm by Catskill Merino.

A Way In The Manger

We've kept the problem ewes in the barn to better watch them.  A ewe with a problem is a ewe with a lamb not getting enough milk; the lamb hunches up with the back rounded because its stomach is drawn in on itself to preserve the lamb's energy and warmth.  We bottle train some of these hunchy lambs to get them onto a lamb bar, a bucket of milk with nipples on it used to supplement the lamb or to completely feed a lamb refused by its mother. To provide more immediate sustenance, we insert a rubber tube down the throat into the lamb's stomach to place 2 oz. of milk, and we may do this several times a day until the lamb gets stronger.

Two more ewes lambed this afternoon; I had to pull a very large ewe lamb from old mother 94.  Now that it's out, she is taking good care of her baby; she must be 10 years old, having lambed 8 times.  By the calm, trusting demeanor she now has, I know she knows me and it feels good to help out.

Posted 4/12/2009 8:24am by Catskill Merino.

Garlic in April

Four-inch tall Shaman garlic sprouts thrust from the ground where the sheep overwintered in 2007-2008.  Last December, a year after the flock had been quartered there, Shaman cloves were planted in the rich mixture of soil, hay refuse and droppings. The sheep build fertile soil for the garlic.  Next December we will plant where the flock overwintered this year—a different place on the property.  Round and round the sheep and garlic go.

Look for Shaman garlic in mid June.

Tags: Garlic
Posted 4/9/2009 5:04am by Eugene Wyatt.

"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.

Posted 4/6/2009 6:34pm by Catskill Merino.

Dara writes:

"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.

Yogurt sauce:
1 Cup strained Greek yogurt (we use 2% Fage)
2 Tbsp minced mint leaves
Hothouse cucumber, diced
Juice of
one half lemon
Salt
Pepper

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."

Posted 4/2/2009 9:14pm by Catskill Merino.

Busy day, we're halfway there, 18 more days to go.  Today, 15 ewes brought forth 19 lambs: 4 sets of twins and 11 singles of which 13 were ewe lambs and 6 were ram lambs

Before I got to the barn this morning, a lamb died at birth.  I found the mother on her side; she was cast:  on a slight slope she lay, her back was lower than her legs, she couldn't get her feet on the ground to stand up and care for her baby.  She had been there for awhile trying to right herself—windmilling her legs—judging by the marks of her struggle.  The lamb was almost out but it was cold.  The bad news is that had I gotten there 45 minutes earlier I could have stood her up and saved the lamb, but the good news is that had I gotten there 45 minutes later the ewe would have been dead too.  

The lamb lost, the ewe lost and I lose.  You can't be there all day, all night everyday; but still you hope to be there when needed.  The ewe pawed at the lamb trying to make it get up; I put out feed in the barn and she ran into eat with the other ewes.  I removed the body and went about my chores.