The following description was first published in the White Hat Food Guide Newslletter of 7th August 2008
Firstly we should explain what Australians mean when they say "lamb". This is perhaps best explained by giving an everyday example.
"I'll see you later Mavis, I'm off to the butcher to buy some lamb for tonight's tea. Now, Herbert, that leg of lamb in the window, is it lamb?" "No, Mrs G, that lamb is mutton." "Well what lamb have you got that's lamb?" "We have this nice tender rack here for $12" "$12 - you've got to be joking! What about that carcass over there? Is that lamb lamb?" "No Mrs G, that lamb's hogget. Come over and count the teeth if you don't believe me." "You know I always trust you Harold. I'm wanting a cheap cut so go out the back and get me a decent leg of mutton."
"Hello Mrs,G" " Hello love. I've sent Harold out the back to get a cheap leg of mutton. I've never trusted him you know. He often passes off two-tooth as lamb. Just look at her out there, looking in the window. All that make up and a short skirt at her age - there's mutton dressed up as lamb if ever I saw it." "Well the fellow she's with is no spring chicken but he seems happy enough." "Yes that's all very well, but can she cook? Harold - that took long enough. Now is that lamb mutton or is that lamb lamb? I'm not paying lamb prices you know. It's mutton Mrs G and that will be $11. I'll tell you what, I'll knock a dollar off if you give me a smile." ["That's always a safe bet - she never smiles for anyone.] "Not likely, Harold Morgan - I know your type. First it's a smile for a dollar then who knows what you'll be wanting after that. Just wrap up my leg of lamb and don't try passing off hogget as lamb on me like you did the other week. I can taste the difference you know." ["Well let's see how you go with that leg of goat you old dragon. I've been trying to shift the last of that carcass for a while now"] "Always a pleasure doing business with you Mrs G."
"What's for tea mum?" "Lamb."
So that should clear up the everyday usage of the word lamb in Australia. To be a little more precise, the word lamb is often used in everyday conversation in Australia to indicate any meat coming from a sheep, but in a butcher's shop or a restaurant you are more likely to adopt the precise use of words like lamb, hogget and mutton. The following are not exact definitions and usage varies from place to place and over time but the should serve as a rough guide.
- Lamb refers to meat from a sheep which is less than one year old or has no adult teeth. In certain cuts of meat the younger animal is felt to be more tender and delicate and is therefore more highly valued. Because of the confusion in the usage of the word "lamb" mentioned above, meat from the young animal is often referred to in Australia as "spring lamb" - i.e. meat from an animal born only last spring.
- Hogget refers to meat from an animal between one and two years old and with two or four adult teeth. A common name used in Australia is "two-tooth". It is regarded as being a little tougher than lamb but more flavourful. At White Hat for instance we prefer our lamb neck from animals at this age when they are nice and meaty.
- Mutton refers to meat from an animal that has passed its second birthday. It can sometimes be quite tough (but that is no problem with long slow cooking) and generally has more flavour than lamb and hogget.
Some White Hat lamb recipes: