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Show ALL Forums  > Recipes and Cooking  > Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?      Home login  
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 lepetitemorte
Joined: 3/8/2008
Msg: 1
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?Page 1 of 1    
Lamb was never a staple growing up so I thought I would try it. Well, the ... ummm ... "bouquet" was enough to make me step waay back. After that I was hesitant to try it but forged ahead. Ugh. Never again. But some people\cultures love it so I am wondering if I got an old sheep passed off as lamb. How do you tell?
 Cookingincalgary
Joined: 5/17/2008
Msg: 2
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 9:08:28 PM
Lamb is the meat of a the sheep under 1 year of age. It is firm-textured but tender, pink to dark red in color, with a considerable amount of firm white fat. Most lamb is marketed when it is about 6 to 8 months old.
Mutton comes from sheep over 1 year of age. Its texture is softer and its flavor is distinctly stronger than that of lamb. Mutton is less popular in this country (Canada and the U.S.) and thus less widely available than lamb. Where it is sold in any substantial quantity, as in England, it is actually cheaper than lamb.
As to lamb or mutton being greasy, fat laden and foul, I suspect that depends on the cut of meat... just as with beef, one can have various cuts with various fat content, so with lamb/mutton. I've had excellent mutton dishes in the U.K., not any fatter nor greasier than anything else.
 lepetitemorte
Joined: 3/8/2008
Msg: 3
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 9:30:14 PM
Thanks for the info but what about the smell. It was "supposedly" spring lamb chops but the smell of it on the BBQ would gag most people. I tasted it and chucked it and it was before it's expiry date so that wasn't it. Maybe it's an "acquired" delicacy. But if THAT was typical it won't be acquired by me thats for sure.
 NoVanilla
Joined: 5/7/2008
Msg: 4
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 9:56:28 PM
There's plenty of mutton dressed up as lamb on dating sites!
 Naughtical
Joined: 4/27/2007
Msg: 5
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 10:02:27 PM
Not to mention wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

Very interesting...I have never cooked lamb but I have never heard of it having a bad odor upon cooking.
Sorry I wasn't any help.
 Naughtical
Joined: 4/27/2007
Msg: 6
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 10:10:20 PM
Playing around with Google I did find this. (Wiki answers)
Maybe your lamb was okay, after all.

Is there a word to describe the strong smell of lamb?
In: Cooking Tips and Tricks

Piquant is the strong gamy smell of meats such as lanb pheasant game etc a very distinct smell not to everyones liking as it will be eitherpleasantly stimulating or disquieting to the mind
The smell and taste associated with lamb have been described as "gamy" (pronounced gāy'mē), which means having the flavor and odor of game (wild prey animals).

As the diet of sheep and goats has been known to include any type of plant, and because they get more exercise than most domestic animals, their meat is usually more muscular and of a darker hue due to excellent blood circulation. This exercise and subsequent circulation make it necessary for these highly used muscles to be fed a broader spectrum of nutrients taken from the diverse diet, thus the meat gets a gamier flavor and odor.

If you wish to tone down the gaminess of lamb or goat, I suggest the addition of a variety of sour applesauce (granny smith, makintosh) and cinnamon to the recipe.

Hi as a New Zealander who has cooked a lot of lamb I find the best herbs and spices to add to lamb while it is cooking are, salt and pepper, rosemary and garlic (garlic can be sliced and placed deeply into the meat before cooking by piercing the meat with a knife). We wouldn't have apple sauce with lamb, but make a gravy from the pan juices or have a mint sauce to accompany the lamb. These additions epecially the rosemary will cover a lot of the gamey smell of lamb cooking. Hope this helps!
 o4
Joined: 4/7/2007
Msg: 7
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 10:40:10 PM
I love lamb. Have yet to find a lamb dish that I don't like. Would cook it all of the time if I could. Am not a great chef, but neither have had any lamb dish smell as bad as you describe (yes, different, but not 'bad'). Am thinking that somehow the piece of meat that you bought might have 'been abused' somewhere along the way.....can you try again, but with a piece from a different butcher?
A great reference about lamb is the fifth section of "The Complete Meat Cookbook" by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly,1998 published by Houghton Mifflin Press. The section on lamb is about 100 pages of the book and tells all one would need to get going with a basic understanding of lamb.
The best way to tell lamb (under 12 months) from mutton (over 24 months....'yearlings' are inbetween of course) is by looking at the colors of the meat, bone and fat. Lamb meat should be light red to red, and the bones should be sort of reddish and moist. The fat (but you don't need it to be fully richly marbled like beef in order to be tender either) should be smooth and white. Mutton meat on the other hand tends to be bit more purple in color, the bones tend to be more towards white and also look 'dry', and the fat is just a bit 'yellower'. Mutton of course is stronger smelling and tasting than lamb too.
In their book, Mr. Aidells and Mr. Kelly point out that in the U.S. as well as Canada, it's actually more challenging to find mutton for sale. Most places here know that most North-americans won't eat mutton, so they only will carry lamb, - unless they are in a district with strong roots in other cultures that really like mutton, and in those circumstances they will sell it as mutton to their mutton seeking customers.
Hope that helps. If you find a really great lamb recipe, be sure to come back and post it for all of us lamb fans! ~ Good Luck!
 whitegold765
Joined: 12/26/2007
Msg: 8
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/2/2008 11:19:55 PM
I remember watching The Iron Chef (I love that show) and they were doing lamb. They kept mentioning "masking the smell" and stuff which was very unfamiliar to me. I cook and eat lamb regularly and never noticed a smell. I've looked into it a bit and apparently it varies quite substantially. Australian lamb apparently doesn't have a strong smell, but some from other places does. Really not sure why.
 lepetitemorte
Joined: 3/8/2008
Msg: 9
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 9:09:43 AM
Thanks for the info people.

I cook game and venison all the time but only if I know what they have been feeding on. Moose if on clover. Buffalo if finished on grain etc. Never had anything remotely smell or taste as bad, had to be something off. Maybe it thawed out on the plane ride from New Zealand ? No way it could be normal if so many cultures use it
 WesternRose
Joined: 1/14/2008
Msg: 10
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 4:50:57 PM
I grew up eating local goat and imported New Zealand Spring Lamb in the Caribbean...to this day I still prefer to buy the NZ lamb over the local fresh stuff.

I think that mutton smells fresh...and the fat content is evident in the taste and smell...where the Spring Lamb is leaner and tastes better, it is a younger animal than the older Mutton lamb.

I think the key to cooking lamb is to remove the bitter membrane that is just over the fat layer...the silverskin. If you do not remove the silverskin the lamb has a bitterness to it and that is the complaint of a lot of pple who do not like lamb.

not all restaurants or pple bother to take a few minutes to peel/cut the silverskin off the meat.

lamb cooks quickly and should not be overcooked. You can make it simple with a touch of garlic, salt/pepper... a roast...shoulder chops..etc... I find less seasoning is the best way to go.

I like to marinate my lamb overnight and go for the gusto if I am making souvlaki.
 RoseBoots
Joined: 6/24/2006
Msg: 11
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 6:58:44 PM
I have cooked Ontario lamb, but, much prefer New Zealand.
 Cookingincalgary
Joined: 5/17/2008
Msg: 12
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 7:06:07 PM
My first choice is Salt Spring Island lamb. My second is Alberta lamb, great stuff.
 Daywalker101
Joined: 8/27/2007
Msg: 13
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 7:25:29 PM
I love mutton, and cook it much more often than lamb. It could be the membrane as mentioned in another post or what the sheep (since we are unsure if it was a sheep or lamb you had) had been eating. Just as grass fed beef can have strange flavors and odors so can grass fed sheep (and guessing if it was from NZ it was on pasture). A non castrated male sheep can also have an extremely vile odor, just as pork from a boar can. I prefer my lamb grain fed, and generally bread and pan fry it as I would veal, my mutton I much prefer barbqued (I use a mustard and vinegar based sauce).
 lepetitemorte
Joined: 3/8/2008
Msg: 14
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 9:18:14 PM
I guess I'll just have to try it again. Maybe from Salt Spring or at least closer to home.
Thanks all!
 arwen52
Joined: 3/13/2008
Msg: 15
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/3/2008 10:25:26 PM
Something must have been wrong. I don't care for mutton but love lamb. It's mild and does not have a strong smell.
 garden-artist
Joined: 2/20/2008
Msg: 16
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/9/2008 12:07:46 AM
I actually raise my own sheep. Much of the meat passed off as "lamb" in supermarkets is older range-sheep. The bigger cuts are more suspect. That's why people think they don't like lamb; they are eating smelly and inferior mutton, or "lamb" raised on less tasty feeds.

In the USA, the definition of a lamb is supposed to be age and the erruption of certain teeth in the mouth of the sheep. If young, it won't have that particular set of teeth. The age is supposed to be one year, but can be as old as two sometimes. Another measure of age is whether they have bone or still have soft cartilage in certain joints. A good butcher can tell the difference.

The people I know in the Northeast USA and Eastern Canada who really care about their "lamb" product, prefer to sell lambs at 5-6 months or less -- guaranteeing a sweeter tasting lamb. Some people call this milk-fed or baby lamb. Some of these "babies"can weigh as little as 50 lbs or as much as 160 lbs (they really aren't all that cute).

The breeds of sheep vary a lot in size, in taste and in fat cover. Some are marbled, some not. The taste varies with age and what they were fed. Supposedly one of the worst contributers to taste -- according to a study done in an agricultural college recently -- was rye grass. Clover is also not always the best for flavoring lamb meat. Flavor of meat can be made milder by feeding some corn in the last two weeks before processing.

My own sheep are partly dairy breeds and partly meat breeds which both tend to have milder tasty meat. I raise them on grass and forage for economy (they can eat grass, brier rose and things that no human could digest or harvest, and still produce fine meat for our food). I usually give them a little corn before they go for processing.

I know people with heritage breeds of sheep which, if neutered as lambs, will produce lovely tender sweet mutton 2-3 years later on a bigger frame. Mutton has a bad reputation because it used to mean the old and ugly sheep that people were culling -- old and ancient range sheep. It is worthwhile buying from your small local farmers if you can (contact the agricultural college of your state if you want to find some - maybe some 4H club kids have lambs for sale).

I have eaten one of my own year-old rams and it was tasty, but did have more of that "lanolin" essence to it. A previous poster was correct in saying you should remove that silver skin that is found around the big muscles (also known as the fascia, or the fell). A marinade of red wine or orange juice and lots of garlic and rosemary can work miracles.

I once had the "leg of lamb special" at a Greek diner . . . when it arrived at table it looked huge and smelled -- I swear -- like old socks. I almost returned it to the kitchen, but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. It was delicious! Think of smelly cheeses or pickles or things that you normally don't care for the smell of, but which taste good. The chef had marinated this Leg of Fertile Male Beast (probably a small ram) in herbs and spices, and it tasted delicious -- a whole lot better than it smelled!

Sometimes a shepherd thinks they have castrated a lamb, but they missed something, and that may affect the taste. More likely it was some wool-breed of sheep raised on rye grass or on the range lands and is older than expected. Sometimes older than you could imagine (sheep can live to 14+ years under rare circumstances).

If you want really good meat, contact some smaller farmers or sheep breeders locally (ask your agricultural college) and see if you can buy direct. In NYS you can pay a farmer for the sheep and have it delivered to a local custom butcher -- you pay each separately and get back a box of freezer meat cut to your specifications, wrapped in your choice of paper or vacume-sealed.

Sorry you had a bad experience with your first cut of lamb. Please try again from a different butcher. Actually, I recommend you go back and talk to the butcher -- without blaming him or her -- and tell them it had a strong taste -- they may not have realized that someone sold them range lamb instead of local raised baby lamb. But also realize that good baby lamb can be very expensive by the time it has gone from farm to livestock dealer to processor to your local butcher counter. In NYC, you can spend well over $20 a pound for some cuts. This is why I recommend buying locally direct from the farmer.

Gardnen Artist (a shepherdess, too) in upstate NY, USA
 garden-artist
Joined: 2/20/2008
Msg: 17
Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/9/2008 12:17:27 AM
Just a note, before you go and curse out your butcher based on what I said:

It could be that it was a true young lamb from a breed that isn't that sweet and mild, and raised on something that had a strong flavor. If you aren't used to the sheepy essences, it might have been a bit surprising to you.

Another thing -- lamb should be eaten PINK and not gray. Some Australians told me horror stories of visiting in America and being fed over-cooked dry American lamb by American sheep-herding farmers.

The best way to cook lamb roasts is to make slashes or poke little holes in it and tuck slices of garlic cloves into the holes. Roast or grill slowly, slowly, slowly so that it is still tender, moist and pink inside when you slice and serve it. A bit bloody is fine, because it will continue to cook on the plate.

Roasts should be uniformly thick, or periodically slice off bits and put back to cook more inside, and chops should be thin.

I like my lamb chops cooked in a pan -- put some butter in the pan, add some slices of garlic clove if you like, sear the chops on both sides and cover for very brief period of time if you must -- but you want to remove it while cooked but still pink. Salt and pepper and just eat as-is! This is a staple in my life when I don't have time for fancy cooking -- and SO good!

Lamb may be an acquired taste for some -- especially when you don't know where it came from or how old it is. I agree with another poster who said garlic and rosemary are good additions. Any meat marinade is also nice.

Try it again -- don't overcook -- and enjoy!

Garden Artist
 pupdaddy12003
Joined: 8/9/2007
Msg: 18
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Does Spring Lamb smell different cooking than Mutton?
Posted: 6/9/2008 8:36:42 PM
...I can sympathize with the OP...Some lamb does smell more than others..usually because of what it has been fattened on. We used to feed whole grain corn..with some alfalfa pellets added for protein to our lambs to fatten them. They still would have a little "Gamy" or "Lanolin" smell to them...and I think that's why they serve Lamb with a side of mint sauce or jelly quite often. One thing I don't like......is re-heated leg of lamb...that tends to be quite a bit stronger tasting. I've also been served lamb by a restaurant that I couldn't believe was really lamb..it had almost no smell to it. Wish I knew what they did to it to get it that way. Anyways...next time you get some lamb chops...slap 'em on the grill with lots of garlic salt...and maybe some worcesteshire sauce to get 'em flavoured...you'll love it...Cook them just medium....they'll be great.
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