In one generation an obsession has arisen over spring lamb – supposedly a “traditional” Easter dish. Traditional for I don’t know..20 years? In these parts we look down our noses at Spring lambs. If the lambs are big enough to kill for Easter then they were born in deepest Winter and have been reared on what we call “sheep nuts” or as one consumer of “organic lamb” told me, turnips and “mountain grasses”. Further, lambs born in Winter have to be brought indoors for at least some time and are therefore more susceptible to infection. So they either die or need antibiotics.
Our lambing season really only started in the last 2-3 weeks and is in full swing now. They are born and reared outdoors and eat grass. My mother who is an expert in meat swears that these lambs are far superior to the ‘spring” version that has not eaten grass – or certainly grass from the fine plains of midlands Ireland.
But here’s the other thing. From our house I can see our new lambs trotting round the fields, tails wagging as they feed from their mothers and in a little while trailing around after them grazing. Disease is extremely rare and they’ll be rounded up straight from the field and sent to the factory. Its the way most lambs in these parts are reared. But these perfectly and naturally bred animals are not labelled organic. I asked the folks why. They said they had checked it out and the regulations for “organic” are hopeless. The one they singled out was that there were severe restrictions on fertilizer management of the grass. Now, we’re in REPS (rural environmental protection scheme) and so are under regulation about these things already.
As far as I’m concerned these lambs, which end up as normal Irish lamb in your average butchers are a lot more “natural” and “organic” than lambs bred in winter, indoors and fed anything other than their natural diet (grass). They’ll hit the shops in June. They’ll cost half of your heavily marketed Spring Lamb. So consumers – forget this over priced organic thing. Your common or garden, or rather field, Irish lamb is quite acceptable.
So, what do the Carey’s, strange little cult that we are, eat on Easter Sunday? And with GREAT relish?
Turkey and Ham! Yummy. Why only have it at Christmas? Especially when you cook it PROPERLY like Betty does. None of this roasting it the day before nonsense. And none of this roasting it dry. Straight out of the oven, dripping in juice. Loads of veg, gravy and spuds. How we cheer when its presented.
Though in Monty Pythonesque mode Betty did claim that the Spring treat in Cavan in her childhood was…..
The Spring Cabbage
Sick of turnips all winter, her father would head to the fields and return triumphantly with the first cabbage.
I never acquired a taste for cabbage. Good thing I wasn’t reared in Cavan in war time.
Aw..twin lambs right outside the window now. So cute. And so delicious in a few months 😉