We use this term to apply to any lamb that is less than a year old at slaughter. 'Spring' lamb as some people call it is a bit of a misnomer.
The idea that new season lamb is ready for Easter is misleading. Lamb that we eat at Easter usually comes from lambs born in the previous Autumn, and finished on the lush grasses of spring. Some lambs ready in time for easter will have spent the first four months of their lives in lambing shed before being turned out on grass before Easter.
If a lamb is born in the spring it will not be ready until it is four to six months old. This lamb - what I like to call 'new season lamb' - is ready in our shop from around the end of June until the middle/end of August. It is at its best to eat around now.
If you're eating lamb in late summer into Autumn the 'spring lamb' becomes 'hogget' - at around nine months old. Lamb slaughtered at this time can be very delicious. Beyond this - over a year old - lamb becomes mutton. I'm a fan of mutton, it's got a great flavour and texture, but needs to be cooked well.
In the past, these different categories would have been well known to us all. However, since the arrival of imported lamb from New Zealand and Australia we can get cheaper, younger lamb all year round and we have lost track of the lambing season.
Buying seasonal lamb, hogget & mutton
Salter and King sell only local lamb according to the season. Our 'new season lamb' is not ready until around now - this is the prime time to eat it. As the year progresses the lamb gets older and we start offering hogget and then mutton, all of which have their own merits. Generally, the older the animal the stronger the flavour. But if you like a delicate flavour for your lamb, now is the time to buy!
Aptly enough, much of the seasonal produce available at this time of year goes beautifully with our new season lamb - broad beans, fresh wet garlic: they enhance each other's flavours very well.
We tend to dry age our lambs according to their age at slaughter, so a new season lamb only needs hanging for a few days, whereas hogget needs up to two weeks and mutton up to four weeks. This hanging really enhances the tenderness and flavour, and makes a big difference to the eating - along with the cooking and the animal's diet. We prefer animals that will have had a varied diet of herbs, grasses and wild flowers: it really makes a difference to the flavour.
If you’re inspired to give our new season lamb a try, you can browse our lamb range here >