Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Life Story of The Leg of Lamb

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I am just as particular about the origin of my food as I am particular about how my food is cooked.

My extended family and friends are most likely bored to death hearing me extol on about where this chicken or turkey or pork chop or hamburger or zucchini or head of romaine originated. Yes, I know the name of not only the farm, but also the farmer responsible for 90% of the food in my home. Those Cheez-Its? Not a clue.

Unlike real estate, with food, it is not just all about location, location, location (although I do try to stay local). Equally important is how my food has been handled (read: raised).

Last night's dinner was a wonder to me. Each component had been lovingly raised, picked or processed and arrived at my home at its quality best. I was able to tell the story of each ingredient's life.

I won't bore you (like I did the rest of my dinner guests) with the life story of the carrots (Alstede Farms) or the potatoes or the garlic or the bread but bear with me while I tell you the story of the Leg of Lamb.

 One 6 1/2 pound boneless leg of lamb.

Once a year I purchase a whole lamb. Several years in a row I have purchased a lamb from a farm in upstate NY, from a friend of my girlfriend Michele. This year I purchased a 1/2 lamb from Burning Heart Farms here in NJ and another half from a rancher in Montana* (I wanted to try a specific breed).

Last night's leg of lamb came from Montana. The lamb was naturally weaned from its mother and then allowed to graze on sweet grass, in addition to being offered a vegetarian grain feed, until the age of 6 months. (this is much older than the lamb you will find in a grocery store). It was then humanely slaughtered on site (no stressful trucking, no feedlots), packaged, given a serial number and shipped overnight to me. If I have any questions regarding this particular meat I can call the farm and reference the serial number. The rancher can tell me exactly when the lamb was born, who its parents were and where and how long it grazed as well as tell me the day it was processed.

Please believe me that it all makes a difference. Humanely raised. Sustainable farming practices. Picked at its peak. Respect for the animal.

There is an old Indian Proverb that reminds us to "take the time to thank the food".  I want to add to "take the time to thank the wonderful ranchers and farmers who are raising our food with dignity and respect for both the food and the land".

Rotisserie Leg of Lamb

One boneless leg of lamb (preferably from a local rancher)
6 cloves of garlic, slivered
12 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
one lemon
kosher salt and pepper

Remove leg of lamb from refrigerator at least 1 hour before preparing.

Heat grill or rotisserie.

Using a small, sharp paring knife, slide the knife between the outside layer of fat and the meat. Insert garlic slivers and sprigs of rosemary. Make about 24 slits all over the leg of lamb (depending on size).

Squeeze the lemon all over the lamb, then generously salt and pepper the meat.

If you are planning to rotisserie, skewer the leg. If you are going to roast, heat oven to 400 degrees F and place in an ungreased roasting pan on a shallow rack.

Rotisserie or roast 20 minutes per pound for medium. This will yield a crisp, brown outer crust, followed by a rosy center.

Ginger and honey glazed carrots, boiled new potatoes with butter and parsley, and a crusty loaf of bread will round out this feast.

And if you shop carefully, each component of your dinner will tell you a story.

A Cook's Notes: The rest of the lamb story:

Sweet Grass Natural Lamb is a cooperative of five sheep producers from Sweet Grass County, Montana. Sweet Grass Natural lamb raises a cross of Targhee and Suffolk Lamb.

The first private individual began breeding
Targhee in 1929. The breed was named after the Targhee National Forest where the sheep grazed during the summer.

VanWagoner, as well as the other producers, have farmed for five generations. Harv claims, “We eat what we raise so we can attest to the quality of our lamb”. The farms range from 1900 – 6400 acres.

Sweet Grass Natural Lamb belongs to the Western Sustainability Exchange. The ewes roam freely and graze on native and tame pastures for nine months of the year. They are fed alfalfa hay and whole corn in the months of March-May. The lambs wean themselves naturally in the fall without any hormones or antibiotics. Sweet Grass Natural Lamb is available at


  1. I love that you know all this about your food. It's awesome!

  2. I love lamb, but around here the choices are limited..seems like a lot of it comes from New Zealand or Australia..

  3. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for caring for the animal that produced such a lovely dinner. Mindfulness in all we do is so important. You don't just talk the talk, you live it. Paying a little extra to know the animal was raised humanely is the least we can do. Both for the animal and for ourselves.

  4. Kate - I like to know the history of all living things..

    Buffalo - the lamb is a bit expensive, but our daughter turned 18 and it was a celebration dinner - well worth the expense for such a momentus occasion. I do urge you to look into heritagefoodsusa they are a wonderful organization truly dedicated to sustainable agriculture.

    Nancy - Mindfulness is an excellent approach - one that I know you t also take to heart.
    I do think sometimes I was born in the wrong century...

  5. I'm not very good with lamb...but this looks like something I could do! Thank you! And I'm with you...where the food comes from and how it is grown or raised is crucial!! ~Janine XO


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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