This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Sheep thrive best in Scotland, and Mutton is such a constant' dietetic resource there, that Scotch broth always means Scotch Mutton-broth. This Mutton is naturally accompanied therein with Scotch barley, and with turnips, upon which the sheep have mainly to live, and from which they partly derive the flavour of their flesh. Bread may be added in broken pieces, or in fried croutons of toast, pouring the hot liquid over the prepared bread in the soup tureen (Soupe au pain of the French). The Gigot h sept heures, or Gigot la cuillere, is in France a leg of Mutton which has been cooked for several hours, when it may be carved with a spoon. Charles Dickens loved "a little supper, and a glass of something hot," his favourite dish at that meal being a leg of Mutton boned, and stuffed with veal.stuffing, and oysters. For the accompanying punch he had a special recipe of his own invention. There is a notable recipe for a similarly seasoned dish in the Fairfax MSS. of three hundred years ago "as to the roasting of a shoulder of Mutton with a stuffing of oysters, eggs, and sweet herbs mixed with white wine vinegar." Dr. Kitchener, famous as author of The Cook's Oracle, invited Pope, the well-known actor, to dinner, thus raising the highest expectations of this gourmet; but the Doctor only gave him a roast leg of Mutton with boiled potatoes; and Pope to the end of his days denounced him as "an infernal impostor." A stock dish of honour at a Boer table, (being placed in the centre of it), in the Transvaal, is boiled salt Mutton. A leg of Mutton which has first been salted, then soaked in water, and next coated with a paste made of mealie meal, is afterwards put into the oven for a short time to harden the covering; it is then taken out, and boiled, and proves very appetizing.
At the commencement of the eighteenth century Mutton pies were much in popular esteem, being sold commonly in the streets as "All hot! all hot! "
Dr. Wharton, Professor of Poetry at the Oxford University, wrote an advertisement for promoting the sale of these commodities: -
"All ye who love what's nice, and rarish At Oxford, in Saint Martin's Parish, Ben Tyrrell, cook of high renown To please' the palates of the gown, At threepence each makes mutton pies, Which now he hopes to advertise.
He welcomes all his friends at seven Each Saturday, and Wednesday even; No relicks stale with art unjust Lurk in disguise beneath his crust: His pies, to give you all fair play, Smoke only when 'tis market day: If rumps and kidneys can allure you, Ben takes upon him to assure you, No cook shall better hit the taste In giving life and soul to paste: If cheap and good have weight with men, Come all ye youths, and sup with Ben".
In some of the Northern Islands, which are particularly noted for the excellence of their Mutton, it is said that the peculiar flavour of the meat is due to the fact that the sheep occasionally regale themselves upon seaweed.
One ounce of Mutton flesh contains eighty-six grains of proteid; a thin Mutton chop contains forty-one grains. At the Red Queen's dinner (in Alice through the Looking Glass) her Majesty ordered, "Put on the joint!" and the waiters set a leg of Mutton before Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never been made to carve a joint before. "You look a little shy," said the Red Queen; "let me introduce you to that leg of Mutton. Alice! Mutton! - Mutton! Alice!" The leg of Mutton got up in the dish, and made a little bow to Alice, and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether ,to be frightened, or amused. "May I give you a slice?" she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other. "Certainly not," said the Red Queen very decidedly; "it isn't etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to! " "Remove the joint! "And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place. Among Secrets in Physio and Chirurgery (1653) it is ordered as specially restorative " to take a young leg of Mutton; cut off the skin, and the fat; take the flesh, being cut into small pieces, and put it into a stone bottle; then put to it two ounces of raisins of the sun (stoned), a large mace, an ounce and a half of sugar-candy, and stop the bottle very close, and let it boil in a chafer three houres; and so put the juice from the meat, and keep it in a clean glasse; it will serve for three breakfastes, or, if he will, he may take some at three a'clock in the afternoon, being made warm " (Right Honourable the Countesse of Kent, late deceased).
At the "Boiled leg of Mutton Swarry" held by the fashionable footmen in Bath (Pickwick), Mr. Whiffers, the gentleman in orange, (who was giving up his situation in service) " could have wished to spare the company then before him the painful and disgusting details on which he was about to enter, but he had no alternative other than to state that he had been required to eat cold meat."- "Try a subtraction sum," says the Red Queen to Alice (Through the Looking Glass); "take a bone from a dog: what remains?" Charles Lamb has told (in Grace before Meat), "A man may feel thankful, heartily thankful, over a dish of plain Mutton with turnips, and have leisure to reflect upon the ordinance, and institution of eating, when he shall confess a perturbation of mind, inconsistent with the purposes of a Grace before Meat, at the presence of venison, or turtle. I have always admired the silent Grace of the Quakers, who go about their business of every description with more calmness than we, with applications to meat and drink less passionate and sensual than ours.
They are neither gluttons, nor wirie-bibbers as a people; they eat as a horse bolts his chopped hay, with indifference, calmness, and cleanly circumstances; they neither grease, nor slop themselves".
Mutton is the flesh of sheep (Multo, originally a ram deprived of its horns). "The Moton boyled is of nature, and complexion sanguyne, the whiche to my jugement is holsome for your Grace " (Babee's Book). A leg of Mutton for roasting may be hung until tender, and perhaps even a little high-smelling on the outside, because the action of the fire will brown, or carbonize it, making it sweet by the antiseptic brown caramel which is produced all over the outside of the roasted joint. But a leg of Mutton to be boiled must be perfectly fresh, seeing that no carbonizing of its outside is then effected, with antiseptic anti-putrescent results. Dr. King Chambers has pronounced that a leg of Mutton is "the promised land to a convalescent patient'.
Lamb, Or Young Sheep, when sold as "Easter grass lamb," is, as says Dr. Kitchener, "young, tough, stringy Mutton, which had better be called ' hay Mutton.' House lamb might be in season from Christmas to Ladyday, grass lamb from Easter to Michaelmas, but sham lamb is independent of the season. A quarter of a porkling is sometimes skinned, cut, and dressed, lamb-fashion, and being thus lambified is sold as a substitute. "Lamb, like all other young meat, ought to be thoroughly done; therefore do not take either lamb, or veal, from the spit or jack, till you see it drop white gravy; this rule is of great importance for the preservation of health." Crabbe, in The Borough, has written with apt alliteration about thyme-fed Mutton grazing among "The sandy sheep-walk's slender grass, Where fragrant flowers among the gorse are spread, And the lamb browses by the linnet's bed".
The sweetbread of the lamb, smaller than that of the calf, is often substituted for the latter. Charles Lamb has told in Rosamund Gray, that " 'green peas, and a sweetbread' were a favourite dish with him in his childhood, he was allowed to have it on his birth-days." Compared with other foods as to its digestibility by the gastric juice, lambs' flesh ranks below mutton, and veal, or salmon, but higher than poultry, whilst containing double as much fat as that of the calf. Horace, the Roman poet, invited Phyllis, the last of his loves, to "a banquet of lamb, flanked by old wine, parsley from the garden for the weaving of festive chaplets, and ivy to bind her hair".
"Lamb-tail pie" is "a dainty dish to set before a king".