Mutton stands next to beef in nutritive qualities, and with many has even more value as food, because more easily digested. In mutton about one half the weight is in fat, while with beef it is only one third.
The choicest mutton comes from the mountainous re-gions of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. Good mutton should be large and heavy, the fat clear white and very hard, the flesh fine-grained and bright red. Poor mutton has but little fat, and little flesh as compared with the bone.
Mutton is cut at the market by splitting down the back, and dividing at the loin into the hind and fore quarters; or the hind and fore quarters are separated without splitting, and the loin is taken out whole and sold as the saddle of mutton. The leg, loin, and saddle are best for roasting, and are better if kept for some time before cooking. The leg, if to be boiled, should be fresh. The fore quarter is good boned and stuffed; then steamed, and browned in the oven. The neck and bones are used for broths and stews. Chops are cut from the ribs and from the loin. The rib chops are sometimes cut long, with the flank on. The bone is removed and the meat rolled. These roll chops are not economical, as the flank forms the greater part. French chops are cut short from the rib, and the flesh is scraped clean from the end of the bone. The best-flavored, most tender, and cheapest in the end, are the chops from the loin. They have very little bone, and a piece of tenderloin.
Mutton has a strong flavor, disagreeable to many. It is said to be caused by the oil from the wool, which penetrates the skin. The pink skin above the fat should always be removed from chops, and wherever it is possible, scrape it off without cutting into the lean. The caul, or lining membrane of the abdomen, is fastened round the meat, particularly on the leg, partly to increase its weight. This is often left on in roasting to help baste the meat; but it gives a strong flavor, and should always be removed, and the kidney fat used if needed. If care be taken in selecting only the best mutton, and in cook-ing it in the best manner, many who have become prejudiced against it could eat it with as much relish as beef. Mutton may be cooked rare, but lamb should always be well cooked. The end of the bone in a leg of mutton is smooth and oval, and is separated at the joint; while lamb may be known from mutton by the flat, irregularly grooved end of the bone, which is broken off squarely, instead of separated at the joint. Sometimes the bone is cut off close to the second joint, and then you will have to depend upon the word of your butcher.
Trim off all the pink skin and superfluous fat. Remove the ends of the ribs, the cord, and veins along the back. Wipe, and rub the inside with salt. Roll the flank under on each side, and sew it across the middle. Dredge with salt, pepper, and flour; place it in the pan, with the inside up, in order to thoroughly cook the fat. Baste, and dredge often. When the fat is brown and crisp, turn, and cook the upper part till brown. Keep a buttered paper over it to prevent burning.
Carve long slices parallel with the backbone, then slip the knife under and separate the slices from the ribs. Divide the slices, and serve with some of the crisp fat.
A loin of mutton may be stuffed and rolled, having first removed the ends of the ribs. Bake, and serve in slices cut at right angles with the backbone.
Remove the bone; wipe inside and out with a wet cloth; sprinkle the inside with salt; stuff and sew. Put it on a rack in a dripping-pan, with some of the kidney suet on the meat and in the pan. Dredge with salt, pepper, and flour, and bake in a hot oven. Baste as soon as the flour is brown, and baste often. Bake one hour, if liked rare; one hour and a quarter, if well done.
One cup of cracker or stale bread crumbs. Season with one saltspoonful each of salt, pepper, thyme, or marjoram, and moisten with a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Add hot water if a moist stuffing be desired.
Wipe, remove the fat, and put into well-salted boiling water. Skim, and simmer twelve minutes for each pound of meat. One quarter of a cup of rice is sometimes boiled with the mutton, or the meat may be tied in a cloth to keep it from becoming discolored. Serve with a thick caper sauce poured over the mutton. Garnish with parsley. Serve with currant jelly.
Carve slices from the thickest part of the leg down to the bone; then slip the knife under and remove the slices from the bone. The thickest part of the leg should be toward the back of the platter.