Buying a half lamb for the first time, with lamb shanks or necks included, can be a challenge to those who usually cook only chops or roasts. (Shanks are the upper part of front legs.)
One of our lamb customers presented us with this fine recipe, great for winter comfort.
“DOCTOR DOUG’S “CANADIAN” SCOTCH BROTH using lamb shanks or necks
2 meaty lamb shanks or necks
8 to 10 whole cardamon seeds
1 tbsp summer savoury
About 10 litres of cold water
2 medium Vidalia onions, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
About 4 cups of cubed potatoes
6 to 8 cups cubed carrots
6 stalks celery, diced
2 cups pearled barley
Your own broth or 950 ml Campbell’s Beef Broth
¼ tsp celery salt
2 tsp seasoning salt
Fresh ground pepper
In a large covered stock pot, place the first four ingredients and bring to a good simmer for about three hours. You want the broth to be as rich as possible, and you want the meat to fall off the bones.
Remove all of the solids from the broth using a skimmer, strainer, whatever, and put these on a raised cookie sheet or roasting pan, etc to cool.
Sample the great-tasting broth.
Add more water if you wish at this point. I do. Add the remaining ingredients to the broth, bring to a boil (stirring frequently), then back to a simmer, covered, for at least half an hour. In the meantime, remove the meat from the bones, cut it into small pieces about 1 cm cubed or so, and discard the bones and cardamon seeds. Add the meat back into the pot and let the whole soup simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. The barley can stick to the pot, especially if your stock pot does not have a good thick bottom, so be mindful to stir the pot frequently after adding the barley.
Correct the seasonings (chances are you will need more salt) and serve.
Notes to Chef: all measurements HIGHLY approximate. If you spell cardamon with an M at the end please feel free to use that alternate spelling. And if you like turnip, which I consider a disgusting excuse for a vegetable, by all means throw some in and ruin your pot of soup. The traditional recipe does call for turnip, but what do those folks know!!! Enjoy!”
Buy pasture-raised meat year round. Topsy offers fresh frozen lamb by order from November through early March, providing delivery options once a year to Ottawa and Toronto, and to Guelph. Customers order yearling for late June (grass-fed, about 1 1/4 years old, so no longer lamb). Mutton can be ordered at certain times of the year; young for home eating, or older for nutritious food for dogs. Hallal requests are welcomed.
Subscribe to Interest in Lamb Meat on any page of our website for direct mailing information, seasonally.
Our neighbours and friends had quite an adventure at Topsy Farms recently.
We have about 1000 ewes and over 1200 lambs now after lambing (with one or two waddling pregnant ewes still holding back). So many mouths require lots of food, and we were running out of pasture on the home farm.
Moving the mature girls with their lambs through the woods to fresh pasture was easy. They just know what they are doing.
However, herding 600 one- and two-year old ewes plus about 750 new lambs presented a challenge, creating an adventure at Topsy Farms.
We had to move them more than a kilometer, down our gravel road past flower beds, lanes, enticing bush and other lamb traps to our next quality pasture.
We sent out an appeal to those householders (keep the dogs in, bring all the visitors out) a family new to the Island, and a few other Island friends. 38 adults and a pack of kids joined us for a brief pep talk and to be assigned yards and flower beds to protect. Several people were chosen to walk behind, carrying 8 ft. burlap wool bags, creating a ‘wall’ to encourage forward momentum and with fleet runners at both sides to turn back escapees.
Ewes want to move forward, seeking fresh grass. Lambs want to move backwards to where they last saw mama. It can be a tough combination.
Our farmers erected temporary fences wherever they could along the route but everyone from a babe in arms to a septuagenarian visitor jogged along, reinforced by our ATVs, to keep the pack moving.
One group of over 200 mavericks managed to outmanoeuvre everyone and head towards home. It was an adventure at Topsy Farms to head ‘em off at the pass. The photo (left) shows most sheep and lambs headed to the left; with a ewe and lamb heading right. People are heading in both directions. About 200 more of the pack followed that ewe.
Our desire always is to produce high quality wool products and meat. Our customers value our wool products year round (available here) and the wonderful quality of lamb and yearling. The most important factor in achieving that goal is to provide good pasture for happy healthy animals protected by guardian dogs.
Sometimes it can be an adventure to get there.
Breeding sheep can be complicated. Four months, three weeks and four days, or 142 – 148 days: that is the gestation period of a lamb. Our shepherd, Christopher, uses that calculation to determine when to put the rams into the flock. We want our ewes to start to birth their lambs the second week of May, when the pastures should have sufficient green growth to support the ewes. It is much warmer and dryer for the newborns to plop onto grass in the fields, rather than in muddy barnyards.
In the late fall, Chris works to ensure a ‘rising plane of well-being’ for the ewes, calculating the quality and quantity of the food they receive so that their bodies are confident that all is well. This increases the probability of more ova being made available for fertilization; thus multiple births. We aim for an average of two lambs per mature ewe and one lamb per first year mama (known as “ewe lambs”). There are of course many additional factors in fertility, including genetics.
Our goal is always to create great-tasting lamb.
We now use mainly North Country Cheviot and Suffolk purebred rams to breed the ewes. They are put to 5 groupings of females: 2 larger groups of mature ewes totaling close to 800 (with 21 rams); 2 much smaller groups of purebred Suffolks, mature and young ones, to be bred by 2 Suffolks; then the Border Cheviot (a much smaller breed) rams will join the 300 ewe lambs. The latter produce a smaller, feisty lamb with a high drive for survival (which helps their inexperienced moms).
The two Teaser Rams (those with vasectomies) have finished their work to get the ewes in the mood by December 17th this year, the date the 25 intact rams head eagerly into the fields.
The 5 groupings of sheep are protected carefully by our 9 Maremma and Akbash guardian dogs. We hope to keep stress to a minimum, from predators and from weather – the latter of which of course we can’t control at all.
Healthy, happy lambs make great sheep and wool.
Our cycle begins again.
Topsy Farms produces beautiful washable wool products including sheepskins, six point wool blankets, wool for knitting and felting, and some of the finest local lamb in Ontario.
Jacob and Ian unloading hay bales up the laneway behind Topsy’s Frame House and Grey Barn. (Kyle’s pontoon boat in background, left.)
Jacob and Ian unloading hay
bales up the laneway behind Topsy’s Frame House and Grey Barn. (Kyle’s pontoon boat in background, left.)
The lambs have been weaned from the ewes. They no longer need the milk and they can be rough on the mamas.
The ewes need a break.
They need to have some peaceful grazing, to rebuild their strength before starting the cycle again.
Lambs being driven from the Grey Barn to west of the New Barn to get them as far from their mothers as we can so as few as possible drift back.