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This Autumn we're delighted to be offering mutton for the first time. A choice cut of rich, flavoursome meat; mutton sadly is almost a lost delicacy in the British Isles, though it used to once be a staple of our diets. Now with the help of Prince Charles who chairs the Mutton Renaissance Campaign, this prized culinary specialty is returning to menus and kitchens across Britain. It is really is fantastic meat, richer and with more fat than lamb, and consequently boasting much deeper and well developed flavour.
Mutton it has to be said is actually the animal in its prime, having reached full maturity. However because our shopping habits have become more geared to lamb, farmers struggle to sell their animals should they have surpassed one year in age.
The sad thing is, even if most home cooks in the UK wanted mutton, they would struggle to find it. We'd like to change that (in line with HRH the Prince of Wales' vision), and offer our farmers a means to sell their meat.
Our first mutton available comes from the Moors of Heathcoat and Hardcastle, set above Upper Nidderdale on the shoulders of Greenhow Hill, and then towards Gouthwaite reservoir. They both can be bleak, but both also offer stunning views of typical British moorland and Nidderdale.
Heading West, it's the beginning of one of the most sparsely populated areas of England, and an area of special scientific interest. Between Nidderdale and Grassington there aren't a great deal of villages, though plenty of farms, and stretching, uncompromising moorlands.
It's very popular for walkers, and cyclist for that matter, with the great outdoors and sheer openness making for stunning vistas, and then welcome cups of tea on either side in Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse.
We like to think of this area as one of Farmison & Co's spiritual homes, so to speak. Some of the best beef we sell is reared on the valley tops, (our Galloway beef from Nook farm comes from this neck of the woods), and of course it's here traditional Dales farmers rear their flocks.
Swaledales are one of the breeds best equipped to thrive in the often harsh weather, and are well endeared to farmers. With the harsh Winter of 2012 though, many sheep on the valley tops perished in the cold, and there were desperate scenes as farmers fought for days on end to save their flocks.
With any luck we won't be seeing a winter as harsh as that for a long time.
During Spring and Summer the sheep mature munching on a variety of wild grasses, flowers, and herbs to develop sweet meat of outstanding quality.
That means by Autumn and Winter, the meat this fantastic breed produce really is outstanding, with complexity imported breeds cannot match. If you're planning on a slow cook, Swaledale mutton is always a good bet, with its succulence and deep flavour.