Allyson Gofton on meat trends: Shoulder of lamb
Recently I popped into one of the few remaining butchery shops to grab a lamb shoulder, only to find that shoulders of lamb are “out” and sausages are “in”. There were plenty of other lamb cuts on display so I queried that since they had trimmed-to-fatless-perfection lamb racks, surely there should be a few shoulders lying around for sale? The reply gave me an abrupt wake-up call, “This is Remmers, no one wants them, no one cooks them, so we don’t sell them any more.”
Where once the butcher would buy in a carcass and carefully break it down into cuts of all shapes and sizes, today the animals are pre-cut at the abattoir into quarters or even individual cuts, vacuum-packed and ready for the butcher to simply, open, slice and present. The days of seeing an animal hanging on the hook in the back of a butcher’s shop, being deftly butchered into different cuts has been replaced by a miscellany of sausages, minced up from the cuts we once cherished — my shoulder of lamb.
To this changing market, add in farmers, many of whom have their own good marketing story to tell and want to sell their much-cared for animals direct and not to a faceless middle man, to end up badly butchered on plastic-wrapped trays. Disgruntled at butchers saying no to buying whole animals, farmers − like Wairarapa’s Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats − are going direct. A winner at this year’s Outstanding Food Producers Awards, they jumped into online sales, finding a ready market for mixed packs of lamb and beef cuts. homegrownfarmfreshmeats.co.nz
In many ways, farmer-owners Dion and Ali Kilmister have gone back to the future. Their family-run enterprise takes a very hands-on approach. Once orders come in, Dion selects a ewe lamb in prime condition for slaughter. It must be a female, as the flavour of male sheep is affected by their hormones at different times of the year.
As in the days when we could buy a half or a quarter of lamb, they sell their lamb in the same manner, only today the cuts come dressed and ready to cook. The issue about the shoulder has been easily solved, with Dion having it boned out and butterflied to an even thickness that will roast or barbecue to pink perfection in about 45 minutes. Its higher levels of marbled fat ensure it cooks up to juicy tenderness, is very easy to carve or shred and can be a source of cold meat for the lunchbox dilemma the next day. Smaller households can cut the butterflied shoulder in half, freezing one piece for later-on. Such a great twist on a good cut of meat that’s been a Kiwi favourite for decades — and perfect for the Remmers dwellers too.