At Easter we always eat sheep of some variety or other from one of our farmers, but not always lamb. It’s great to be able to have a choice as lamb, hogget and mutton have quite different characteristics:
Lambs are typically weaned to a diet of grass from 1-3 months old. They will be very tender by mid-April, but the longer they’ve been out on grass, the better the flavour. A late Easter is better than an early one for eating lamb, but lamb is still ‘lamb’ for up to a year, and really hits its peak in the summer. Roast hot and quick for a delicate colour and flavour.
Hogget’ refers to animals between 1-2 years old, and is a delicious combination of tender lamb and full-flavoured mutton. Hogget can be cooked hot and quick like lamb, or low and slow – anywhere in between and it might toughen up. It is a very versatile meat and has a nice fat to meat ratio.
Older animals which have had a good couple of years grazing on pasture (and preferably wild herbs and mixed grasses) are full of flavour and taste wonderful after a long, gentle cook. Mutton can take strong spices for a more exotic Easter (eg, mutton biryani) but also tastes wonderful roasted with capers or anchovies, tapenade or a generous bunch of Mediterranean herbs. If you want a fall-off-the-bone slow roast, mutton is for you.