Easter is lamb-time – or at least it is in the Northern hemisphere, when Easter is in the Spring. I can do no better than give you the words of the inimitable Dr William Kitchiner on the topic of lamb at Easter, as they appear in the 1827 edition of his Cook’s Oracle.
LAMB— (No. 40.)
Is a delicate, and commonly considered Tender meat—but those who talk of tender Lamb—while they are thinking of the Age of the Animal, forget, that even a Chicken must be kept a proper time after it has been killed, or it will be tough picking.
Woful experience has warned us to beware of accepting an invitation to Dinner on Easter Sunday,—unless commanded by a thorough bred Gourmand, our Incisores, Molares, and Principal Viscera, have protested against the Imprudence of encountering Young tough stringy Mutton, under the misnomen of GRASS LAMB. The proper name for "Easter Grass Lamb" is "HAY MUTTON."
To the usual accompaniments of Roasted Meat, Green Mint Sauce (No. 303,) a Salad (Nos. 372 and 138,) is commonly added; and some Cooks, about five minutes before it is done, sprinkle it with a little fresh gathered and finely minced Parsley, or (No. 318.) Lamb, and all Young Meats, ought to be thoroughly done; therefore do not take either Lamb or Veal off the Spit till you see they drop white gravy.
Grass Lamb is in season from Easter to Michaelmas.
House Lamb from Christmas to Lady-Day.
Sham-Lamb, see Obs. to following Receipt.
N. B. When green mint cannot be got, Mint Vinegar (No. 398), is an acceptable substitute for it; and Crisp Parsley (No. 318), on a side plate, is an admirable accompaniment.
Of eight pounds, will take from an Hour and three quarters to two Hours:—baste and froth it in the same way as directed in (No. 19 )
Obs.—A Quarter of a Porkling is sometimes skinned, cut, and dressed Lamb-fashion, and sent up as a substitute for it. The Leg and the Loin of Lamb, when little, should be roasted together,—the former being lean, the latter fat,—and the Gravy is better preserved.
Of ten pounds, about two hours.
N.B. It is a pretty general custom, when you take off the Shoulder from the Ribs, to squeeze a Seville orange over them, and sprinkle them with a little Pepper and Salt.
Obs.—This may as well be done by the Cook before it comes to Table; some people are not remarkably expert at dividing these joints nicely.
Of five pounds,—from an hour to an hour and a half.
With a quick fire, an hour.
See Obs. to (No. 27.)
Ribs— (No. 45.) .
About an hour to an hour and a quarter—-joint it nicely, crack the ribs across, and divide them from the Brisket after it is roasted.
An hour and a quarter.
Breast,— (No. 48.)
Three quarters of an hour.
I have previously given you Kitchiner’s recipe for Green Mint Sauce, so for today please enjoy his Green Mint Vinegar which is prepared by the same method as Basil Vinegar, which I therefore give you first:
Basil Vinegar or Wine.—(No. 397.)
Sweet Basil is in full perfection about the middle of August. Fill a wide-mouthed bottle with the fresh green leaves of Basil, (these give much finer and more flavour than the dried,) and cover them with Vinegar—or Wine,—and let them steep for ten days; if you wish a very strong Essence, strain the liquor, put it on some fresh leaves, and let them steep fourteen days more.
Obs.—This is a very agreeable addition to Sauces,— Soups,—and to the mixture usually made for Salads, see (No. 372,) and (No. 453.)
It is a secret the makers of Mock Turtle may thank us for telling; a table-spoonful put in when the Soup is finished, will impregnate a tureen of soup, with the Basil, and Acid flavours, at very small costs, when fresh Basil and Lemons are extravagantly dear.
Green Mint Vinegar—(No. 398.)
Is made precisely in the same manner, and with the same proportions, as in (No. 397.)
Obs.—In the early season of Housed-Lamb, Green Mint is sometimes not to be got; the above is then a welcome substitute.