Lamb is young, domestic sheep which is in the genus "ovis" . Ovine meat is called lamb from young animals and mutton when from older animals. ("Sheep" is both a singular and plural term.)
The main distinction in lamb tastes and textures is due to the age of the animal. As mentioned, age distinguishes lamb from mutton. In grading, lamb is either youthful or mature. Lamb is significantly more tender than mutton. Mutton has a very strong aroma which some describe as "lamby". Lamb fat, in particular gives off the strong aroma when cooking. The fat colour, streaking (like marbling), amount, colour, and firmness is also compared in grading.
Like milk-fed veal, milk-fed lamb in France is a delicacy. It is called agnelet. They are slaughtered when they are 30-40 days old.
Sheep are also raised for their pelts (leather) and dairy products. Sheep milk cheese cheese is distinctive and delicious. Most feta, Pecorino, and Manchego are made from sheep milk.
There are four primal cuts of lamb:
- front (neck shoulder, foreshank, breast)
- loin (rib and loin)
Sheep were among the earliest animal to be domesticated. Besides their meat, sheep are also raised for their fleece. Sheep's wool is the most widely used of any animal.
Ways To Cook
Since lamb is very fatty and savoury, it is best roasted, or grilled but there are many ways to enjoy lamb:
- roast leg (bone in/out, crusted, marinated etc.)
- rack of lamb, lamb crown (beautiful and appealing thin rib bones)
- white lamb stew
- rich lamb stews
- lamb or mutton curry
- grilled lamb kebabs (spiced, marinated...)
- lamb meatballs and burgers
- lamb sausage (merguez)
- cured lamb leg
- crusted breast of lamb
- lamb tagine
- lamb stock and soup (Scotch broth)
- braised lamb shanks
- sheep's head
- kidneys and sweetbreads
When it is well-seasoned, nicely cooked, and accompanied by complementary flavours it is unbeatable. Flavours that pair well with lamb are:
- herbs (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, Italian parsley)
- sweet onions, garlic
- fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seed
- olives, capers, pickles
- tomatoes, sweet peppers and chili peppers
- red wine and fortified wine