Spring lamb

By | March 24, 2008

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 😉

2 thoughts on “Spring lamb

  1. CG

    Mmmm! I cooked ham yesterday too, with a cranberry/mustard glaze. It was yummy and not at all Christmassy, which I had worried about. I got the idea from an American cookbook – apparently thats what they always do??

    About the lamb for Easter thing – in a normal year when Easter isn’t so early might it be all right?

  2. Andrew Lawlor

    The whole organic thing is the greatest con job of all time. Organic meat is sold on the basis that it is believed to be better for you. There is no evidence that ‘organic’ meat and vegetables are any better for you you than fresh, conventionally grown meat and veg. Organic producers cannot therefore state categoricaly that organic is healthier so they say that ‘it is believed’ or ‘some people’ or ‘many people believe that organic is healthier.’ I used to sell my own meat product through farmers’ markets in Dublin and alongside my free range chicken I sold a small amount of Organic chicken. I had a visit from an inspector with the organic unit of the Dept. of Agriculture at Leopardstown one Friday. By the time he called I had sold out of organic chicken and I was told that I would have to cover up the sign on my trailer which stated that I sold ‘Free Range & Organic Poultry.’ Apparently people cannot be trusted to read the label on a product which states whether it is organic or not. This is typical of the way the organic movement operates, constantly harassing traders and treating consumers like children who can’t be trusted to make a purchasing decision by themselves.

    Did you know, Sarah, that a salmon which has grown in the wilds of the vast Atlantic ocean before being landed into a net 1,000 miles offshore cannot be labeled as organic? Only if that salmon is reared in a cage, on a strictly controlled organic diet in a bay in Donegal or perhaps The Faoroes can a salmon be truly organic. If you go to your local butcher in pheasant season and you buy a bird that has lived wild in the backwoods of Co. Meath before being taken down by a skilled marksman your butcher cannot call that wild, natural meat product organic. Sure, how would the Organic Trust ever get a cut from real organic meat if that was allowed?

    Support your local butcher. You will find that he is selling local meat, reared under strict guidelines and the profit goes back to a local producer who will spend a portion of that profit in your community. Alternatively you can visit your local farmers market this weekend and buy some ‘organic’ apples from New Zealand or ‘organic’ strawberries from Israel or maybe some ‘organic’ tomatoes from Holland. Wash it down later with some ‘organic’ wine from California.
    It always puzzles me that the organic lobby never seem to have an issue with the air-miles on their expensive new world wines.

    Cloudy Bay, anyone?

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