Mutton in USA

Bob and Carolyn Kennard are travelling around the USA looking at the state of mutton production. They start their journey in Colorado.

Big Country, Small World

“We’ve been invited to a sausage hot pot,” Oogie tells us,  “so you need to figure out what kind of sausages you want to make to take along.”

It was probably 25 years since we’d first made our own sausages but we decided on Boerwors. It seemed the obvious choice with mutton as the main ingredient, partnered by beef and pork. Living in Swaziland at the time, we’d first eaten this long round of ‘farmer’s sausage’ in South Africa in the late seventies and it went on to become a best seller at our organic meat business in Wales. Plus we reckoned it may be something a bit different in this part of America. Just days later we found out that Francois, our dinner party host and keen sausage maker himself,  was in fact South African. Ah, well we like a challenge. If all went horribly wrong we would soon be escaping back over the pond!

Oogie sourced the ingredients with her usual enthusiasm. The minced (or should we say ‘ground’) mutton was from their own Black Welsh sheep, the beef from grass fed cattle raised high up on a nearby ranch and finished here on the farm, the pork too had good local provenance, even the apple vinegar was from Oogie and Ken’s Desert Weyr orchard.

 Bob and Ken make the Boerwors

Bob and Ken make the Boerwors

We assembled the ingredients and started soaking the skins while Oogie ground spices. The fun began after lunch and anyone who has stuffed a sausage will empathise with the school boy humour it evokes. First you have to find the end of the long string, in this case cleaned hog’s intestine, then run water through to remove any remaining salt. The skin fills like an inflated…. – well, you know what I mean, then carefully thread the skin over the sausage nozzle bunching it up as you go. By now the spices had infused through the meat mix and we were ready to go. First attempts gave us an unevenly filled sausage and perhaps a few too many air bubbles but confidence grew and with Ken feeding the mixer and Bob squeezing the tube of sausagemeat to eliminate bubbles a very acceptable length of sausage was emerging, Oogie and I giggling in the background.

 The Boerwors in the pan

The Boerwors in the pan

Later that evening a dozen or so of us met at Francois and Crystal’s across the valley, the setting sun throwing a golden light on giant Mount Gunnison, a magnificent backdrop. It was a bring and share event with wonderful salads, ‘mealie pap’ and sauce made by Francois, sauerkraut and a variety of breads. Like BBQ’s the world over the men settled to cooking. Apart from our Boerwors and Francois’ own version with jalapeño peppers, Oogie had brought Desert Weyr sweet Italian mutton sausages, venison chorizo and smoked mutton kolbasi. Then for a local flavour Mike offered freshly made Elk burgers………as you do. And the verdict? Let's just say that we don't have to get an early ticket home and I reckon there will be more people visiting Desert Weyr farm to buy mutton! We certainly were approaching sensory overload!

Now as an addendum, Oogie and Ken had not yet tasted ‘Bobotie’. This mutton dish, another South African favourite of ours, is featured in the recipe section of ‘Much Ado About Mutton’. It is easy to cook and will impress dinner guests, as long as good quality mutton is used! I offered to cook the dish next day. We didn't have raisins to hand but cranberries proved to be a tasty alternative.  The mutton of course was home grown and the eggs had been gathered that morning from the farm chickens. One final adjustment was the inclusion of a few generous spoonfuls of wonderful ‘Mrs Ball’s Chutney’. You will not be disappointed by the results that these alternatives yield, but you may find Mrs B’s Chutneyhard to source unless you happen to know a South African like Francois.

This is our first visit to the US, the world has somehow grown smaller, but the flavours and friendships are big!

Carolyn Kennard