Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Blackface Baa Lamb

 As a child, my Grandad called me a Blackface Baa Lamb. It stuck for quite a while, mainly because I had an aptitude for getting dirty.
So when the Hairy Bikers visited The Blackface Meat Company back in 2009, I watched with amusement and recalled family outings in the Yorkshire Dales when my Grandad would point out my 'brothers and sisters'.

Imagine our delight when we were asked if we would like to try some Scottish Blackface Mutton  - Yes please!

Given the choice of Diced Mutton or a Whole Rack, we chose the Rack.

Blackface proudly announce their products as "Fresh from the Wilds of Scotland to your Door" but our 'taster' came frozen, along with the advice that after defrosting the meat has a shelf life of 10 days.

Blackface offer a free delivery service to mainland Britain and ours came very well packaged.
However, the contents confused me.The meat was well wrapped in a sealed bag that proudly announced "Yorkshire Game Ltd".
I was perturbed, so off I went to their website to investigate.

Yorkshire Game says quite clearly on its website that The Blackface Meat Company is a sister company. After further enquiry, Blackface explained that their Mutton is slaughtered and hung locally. Some is sent to Yorkshire Game for distribution to Chefs in London. Our taster came from stock frozen and stored by Yorkshire Game.
We were happy with the explanation.  However, sister or no sister, I think it odd to deliver such a prized product without one's own name on it.

The Blackface Meat Company has many accolades. It has awards coming out of it's ears and has some impressive customers. But what impressed us most was this:
Our unique system sees self-sufficient ‘hefted’ – meaning territorial – flocks of sheep roaming the heather hills on our farm in the southern uplands.
That's what we like to hear. In fact, reading more about the Company, it ticks many boxes for us. But words mean little until you taste the product.
As I mentioned, we said we would like to try the Rack.

A Rack consists of the first eight ribs still attached to the Chine, which is the split backbone. It is also known as Best End of Neck.
We were delighted to find that we had been sent a little seen cut that includes the Saddle.

Our photograph doesn't do justice to the colour of this Mutton. It has has fed on heather and wild plants, has drank from fresh water burns, and breathed fresh air. It has been hung for a full two weeks to enhance the flavours. It is a beautiful, deep red with a wonderful marbling of fat.

But what is Mutton?
"Mutton dressed as lamb" - the phrase immediately makes one think that Mutton is from some tired old ewe and that therefore, the meat must be tough.
Indeed, Mutton does come from older Sheep but we need to put 'old' into context.
Mutton generally comes from Sheep that are slaughtered in their third year.
When you consider that most Lamb comes from Sheep that are slaughtered at the 'tender' age of four or five months, then a Sheep slaughtered in its third year may sound 'old'. But once you know that the natural life of a Sheep can extend beyond 10 years, three sounds much younger.
Mutton comes from mature Sheep that, in many ways, are in the prime of their life.

At Blackface they produce two year old and five year old Mutton. The two year old Mutton will have spent two summers on the hill farm; the five year old will have had five summers.

Although we were not told the age of our taster, we were advised to cook it in the same way we would cook Lamb. This would imply that we had a Rack of two year old Mutton, which readily lends itself to being cooked in the same way as Lamb.

The beautiful joint we had been sent was too big for us to sample in one go. We could split the Rack and Saddle into two roasting joints. The Rack could be separated into Chops or Cutlets, or we could trim the meat from the Cutlets into Noisettes.
We decided to cut the Chops from the Rack. We tidied them a little and made Lancashire Hot Pot, using home made Lamb Stock and topped with our own Potatoes. A simple dish but the taste of the Mutton shone through. There was much licking of lips and nibbling of bones, much to the confusion of Jilly who knew that, by rights, those bones were hers. And to be fair, she got them, even if they were a little sparse by the time we had finished with them.
We roasted the Saddle end of the joint. I was tempted to roast it 'as is' but couldn't resist the call of Garlic and Rosemary who were demanding to be included, so I 'poked' some into the joint 'willy-nilly'. These are the technical terms used in my kitchen.
After a 15 minute blast in a very hot oven I poured a glass of white wine over the joint and popped it back into a low to medium oven to let it finish roasting slowly. I don't do roasting times; people like their meat cooked to different degrees, but this type of joint does not take long to cook. When I judged mine to be 'just about done' I poured a wineglass of water into the bottom of the roasting pan and gave it another 5 minutes.

As with all our roasts, there were those delicious 'leftovers'. With a nod of thanks to my Mum, I made Mutton Rissoles. Simple again, but delicious nonetheless. Served with Potato Wedges and a spicy, home made Tomato Salsa, all made from home grown produce.

We would like to thank The Blackface Meat Company for introducing us to their Mutton.
Having seen them on The Hairy Bikers we knew of them but, for some reason, we had not really considered ordering from them.

Raising our own pigs has made us very selective about other meat products we buy. We eat a lot of Pork, as you can imagine, but we do like variety and we are always looking for 'well-raised' meats.

We like Blackface.

We are keen to try some fresh produce from them and, as I mentioned, we are already longing to try the five year old Mutton. But there is much more on offer at their website, all offered fresh according to the seasons. Their website shows what is available in the current week and following weeks. You can also look ahead to the next Season. Next week, for example, runs from Coney Rabbit to Venison. Here there be Haggis too - we told you it was not just for Burns' Night - and, of course, Grouse is there too.
The website also offers  tasty-sounding recipes along with some interesting reading about this Company and the people and animals behind it.

We were sent this product free of charge but we have received no financial reward for writing this review, it is simply our opinion.


  1. Hi Mo, just came to say "hi". Your post has me salivating and thinking of lots of garlic and rosemary ..... thought you would like to know the first clickable link on your post is failing, but for some reason the second one works.

    Look forward to a more in-depth rummage around the smallholding when I have a little more time.

  2. Hello BilboWaggins! Thanks for passing by and for the head's up. It seems the site has a problem and I have alerted them to the fact. Hope to visit your Blog again soon. Mo


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