Today we are cooking with pasture raised and grass-fed local lamb and goat.
As you make plans to visit the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market this mid July weekend, you may think it late in the season to be featuring proteins that usually grace our tables in the spring of the year. Thoughts turn to Easter lamb and curried Indian goat dishes that help us transition from late winter to early spring. That was not necessarily the case this year; but I am finally excited to be sharing recipes for two of my favorite local proteins in this “Meat Me At the Market” post.
While fresh and frozen young goat meat has always been available at the market, this year many ranchers and farms who raise sheep had early spring problems with processors.
Local lamb and goat are considered to be specialty proteins; and this year the cost of processing lamb unexpectedly went up. An issue which, for a while, made raising these animals cost prohibitive. Now, things are back on track. Processing prices haven’t changed; but farmers and ranchers have made adjustments. So this week moving forward, I am delighted to share the news that local lamb and fresh goat are both readily available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market.
Just harvested local lamb and goat available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, grass fed and pasture raised is some of the best you will find anywhere in the city.
Before we head into the recipes, let’s meet the farmers and ranchers. Most you have met before as I’ve talked about other local meats available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market in my other “Meat Me At The Market” posts this year.
The Where-to-Buy for Charlotte’s Local Lamb and Goat
Only two vendors at the market sell goat. As customers have shown the demand for fresh young goat, both of these vendors sell fresh and frozen product in the guise of ground goat meat, bone in and boneless stew meat, chops and roasts. In Building A at the top of the building you will find Cain Family Farm. Formally Daddy’s Girl Dairy, a century farm, was once a supplier of goat cheeses as well as meat. The focus at Cain is now solely on pasture raised, grass-fed meat goats.
In Building B at the market, All Natural Farms, LLC also sells pasture raised lamb as well as NC raised, Halal processed fresh goat meat. Both of these meats are available at All Natural Farms in a variety of cuts.
As for local lamb, with the exception of All Natural Farms, you will find all of the farmers with lamb in Building A.
Directly across from Cain Family Farm ( aka Daddy’s Girl Dairy) is Underwood Family Farms. In addition to pasture raised lamb, Underwood also sells pasture raised beef and pork and organic raw cows milk.
Last week when I was at the market , the Underwoods were on a rare vacation, celebrating an anniversary. Their farmer friends, Katie and Jeff Belflower of Belflower Farms were standing in, working the Underwood table. While the Belflowers aren’t always at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market, they also raise pastured, grass fed lamb, sold at the regional market by Sara and Jamie at A Way of Life Farm, just a table or two down from Underwood’s market location.
Stroll down to the middle of Building A and you’ll find Clearview Farms on one side of the aisle and Bluebird Farm on the other. Both of these family farms also sell delicious pasture raised, grass fed lamb. Cindy Digh and her crew at Clearview also sell beef, pork, chicken and rabbit; while Bluebird sells pork and beef and a variety of wonderful produce as well.
Cooking with Local Lamb and Goat
Today I share two relatively quick and easy recipes for local lamb and goat. These recipes for this duo of two delicious meats will soon become summer go-tos you’ll want to cook for friends and family all year long.
We’ll start the recipe section of this post with a wonderful summer go-to recipe for goat – which in fact will work wonderfully with lamb as well. Most cuts of young fresh goat require a low and slow cooking process – although chops and racks and burgers from ground goat meat work well on the grill. My preference is to buy a mix of bone-in and boneless stew meat – taken from several different cuts and braise in on the stovetop, in the over or in a Crock Pot or slow cooker. For best results you’ll want to be sure to pat the meat dry before you begin and then heavily season with coarse sea salt, cracked pepper and whole coriander seeds. The coriander adds a bit of summer spice and almost a citrusy quality to the final dish.
Once the meat is seasoned, brown in it your favorite extra virgin ultra premium olive oil ( My favorites are at Olive Crate ( available in Building C at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market) and Pour Olive in Charlotte on East Boulevard.
Brown the meat in small batches, taking care not to over cook it at this point, but only to brown the outside edges. As you brown you will see small bits start to collect on the bottom of the pan. No worries, once all the meat is browned add in your chicken broth and scrape up all the bits to “delgaze” the pan – this process serves to get all the browned bit flavor directly into your sauce.
After that, return the meat to the pan, add in a sliced onion or two, about 3 cloves of local or organic garlic ( still in the skin), several firm but ripe fresh tomatoes and bunches of fresh herbs. WIth goat my tastes go to fresh thyme, flat leaf parsley and lots of fresh bay leaves. The cover tightly and let it cook for 90 mins – 2 hours over medium heat until the meat is tender and easily twists away from the bone. Serve over your favorite rice and enjoy the rich and wonderful taste of eating local.
Braised Local Goat with Summer Tomatoes and Herbs
- 2 lbs. Bone-in and boneless mix of tender young goat meat
- Coarse ground sea salt, cracked pepper and whole coriander seeds
- 3-4 Tbsp. your favorite extra virgin, ultra premium olive oil
- 3 cups organic chicken broth
- 3 Tbsp. Whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 onions thin sliced
- 3 cloves local or organic garlic still in the skins
- 4 large firm but ripe local tomatoes
- 1 handful stems of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 handful stems of fresh flat leaf parsley
- 3-4 fresh or dry whole bay leaves
- Juice of one lemon
- fresh minced mint and parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup cognac or local NC aged whiskey optional
Rinse goat meat; place on several thicknesses of paper towels and pat very dry, Season heavily with sea salt, pepper and coriander seed. Brown the meat quickly in small batches, over high heat, each batch in a tablespoon or two of extra virgin ultra premium olive oil. Once all of the meat is browned, deglaze the pan by adding in the chicken broth and mustard and scrape up all the little browned bits on the bottom of the pan as you allow the stock to come to a boil. Return the browned tender young fresh goat meat the pan along with the onion, garlic, tomatoes and herbs. (For an extra rich flavor to your dish you can splash in a half cup of so of cognac or whiskey if you would like.) Cover the pan tightly; reduce the heat to low or transfer to a 300 degree oven and allow to cook for 90 mins to 2 hours. Serve over rice, top with a drizzling of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh minced mint and parsley
While this goat meat makes for a wonderful main course, local lamb chops may be used for a main course or a fun appetizer as well. Purchase goat or lamb racks from any of the farmers featured in this post. Know that the racks are sometimes the first cuts to go, so be flexible and when farmers have the racks in stock, go ahead an purchase one or two to keep in your freezer.
Depending on how the farmers request that their local lamb or goat be processed, racks may have a cap of fat across the long end of the bones and the tender nugget of meat. You may keep this cap on or easily cut it off.
Local lamb and goat racks may be cut with the cap for a more rustic chop, or the racks may be “frenched”. To “french” your lamb, simply cut off the layer of the cap fat and then use a sharp pairing knife to clean the bones leading down to the meat. In the photo here you will see three rustic style chops with the cap fat kept in tact, on double frenched chop and the remainder of the rack ( now just three chops in size, cap in place.
The rustic style chops make a wonderful main course and are easy and fast to cook. Simple season with coarse sea salt, cracked pepper and her I like to use Za’taar a middle eastern spice made of sesame and thyme. in Charlotte you’ll find a delicious Za’taar blend at the Savory Spice Shop.
If you want to serve what is often known as “lollipop chops” as an appetizer, then you will want to french the bones to make for easier eating. Here the chops are a finger food, held by hand and enjoyed right off the bone.
Both versions of chops may be broiled or grilled to your desired doneness. I like my lamb medium rare, so I suggest broiling or grilling the seasoned chops for just a minute or two on each side for perfect results.
If you would like to cook the rack whole, with or without the cap. Season the same way we did the chops and then roast the rack in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into chops to serve.
Classic Pesto Combinations Enhance the Flavor of Your Local Lamb or Goat
However you cut or cook your lamb chops they are delicious served with a mint and parsley pesto. Today I offer my classic pesto recipes – you’ll notice my version does not include garlic – that is so you can really taste the fresh herbs. Take the basic recipe and make it your own, substituting nuts, cheeses and herbs as your tastebuds desire. Enjoy!
Heidi's Classic Pesto With Some Tasty Variations on the Theme
- 1 packed cup fresh Italian basil leaves
- ½-3/4 cup of pine nuts or pignola
- 1 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
- ½-3/4 cup extra virgin, ultra premium olive oil
Combine the basil, and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the basil and the nuts are both finely chopped. Add in the shredded cheese. With the machine running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Thicker pestos work better as spreads or toppings and thinner pestos are best used as sauces on pasta and risotto or as a “dressing” for roasted potato salad or chicken salad.
Pesto variations: Basil Pistachio Pesto: Substitute pistachios for the pine nuts for a slightly stronger but exceptional flavor profile. Mint pesto: Substitute mint leaves for basil and almonds for pine nuts. Served with grilled lamb chops Sage pesto: Substitute sage leaves for basil and cashews or pecans for pine nuts. Served with grilled or roasted turkey or chicken. Sun-dried tomato pesto: Add ¼ cup of oil-soaked and drained sun-dried tomatoes to original recipe. Great on pastas or smeared on hot toasted bread.
More “Meat Me at the Market” posts and recipes to collect along with this information on local lamb and goat a the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market
This post has been a part of a “Meat Me At The Market” series sponsored by my good friends at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. If you follow my social media feeds and subscribe or follow this blog, you already know how much I love to eat and drink local. For more recipes – all a part of this series of local protein posts, click on the links below and enjoy! See you shopping local at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market this weekend! #TellThemHeidiSentYou Cheers!