Historically, feasting on lamb was a traditional means of ushering in the spring season. The natural breeding cycle of sheep produces lamb in the months of March and April; hence the term spring lamb. This however, is an informal definition.
A lamb is a sheep less than one year old. A baby lamb is six to eight weeks old while a spring lamb is three to five months of age. After a year it is referred to as a yearling and once it reaches its second birthday it becomes mutton. As the sheep ages its meat will become darker colored, develop a stronger, gamier taste, and be less tender. A young lamb will be pink to pinkish red in color. Nowadays, modern animal husbandry allows for lamb of varying ages to be available year round.
Lamb is far more popular in other parts of the world, particularly the Mediterranean, than in the US. In America, the average person consumes about a pound of lamb per year. While ham may be the meat of choice for the American Easter dinner, lamb is the favorite the world over. It is also a common Passover meal.
Rack of lamb is a cut from the rib section. A full rack should contain eight ribs. When you order rack of lamb in a restaurant, you almost always are served it with the bones “Frenched.” This is where all the meat is scraped off the ribs for appearance purposes. I deplore this practice and never French my bones. Any lamb lover will tell you that the best part of feasting on rack of lamb is nibbling on the bones afterward. The bones are fattier but unctuous and delectable. Even though propriety restrains me from partaking in this practice in public, unnecessary aesthetic concern cheats me out of a delicious snack the following day. And who decided that naked bones look better than meaty ones anyway?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT – April 7, 2004 – Mark R. Vogel –