Goat or mutton: which is it?

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Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 12:07 pm

Every now and then I enjoy making a curried goat stew - I got the original recipe online but made some modifications to it to suit my preferences, and I like the way it turns out.

That said, I buy the meat at local stores that sell halal meat since I have never ever seen "goat" or "mutton" sold in run-of-the-mill, non-ethnic grocery stores or supermarkets; it's strictly lamb in these places.

Now, I have to say that I am unclear on something. Most stores that I have been to clearly advertise that it's goat that they're selling, not mutton ... but the cooking time required to ensure the meat is done - about an hour, really - makes me wonder if the meat isn't mutton - in other words, sheep - and not what we normally associate the word "goat" with - chèvre, to dip into my Français for a moment.

I have asked the folks at these shops and they invariably use the word goat ... but it seems to me that authentic goat meat should be quite a bit tougher than what I normally get. And leaner.

Is this an etymological issue? Does mutton typically get called "goat" in the Southeast Asian communities? What's standard nomenclature in some of your cities?
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 12:54 pm

Paul, something may be regionally different in Toronto, but both here and in Europe mutton has always meant sheep, and goat is another animal.

Maybe next time you shop, you take two pictures with you and have them point at which one more closely resembles the provider of your meat. :)
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:00 pm

Jenise wrote:Maybe next time you shop, you take two pictures with you and have them point at which one more closely resembles the provider of your meat. :)

The provider of my meat? Or the animal itself? ;) I wouldn't want to insult anyone, you know.

Maybe they are selling goat/sheep hybrids ...

Actually, my gut (those wicked puns sneak up on me) impression is that it's mutton. Goat meat is famous for being tough and requiring hours of cooking to get it soft.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:05 pm

The OED has an interesting definition, Paul; I was fascinated to see that "mutton" is "goat" not only in South East Asia, but also in Australia:

b. Austral. and S. Asian. The flesh of goats, used as food. Also goat mutton.

1897 J. J. MURIF From Ocean to Ocean 57 No sheep beyond Oodnadatta either... The goat's flesh is called ‘mutton’. 1930 D. COTTRELL Earth Battle 125 She put..the damper and cold goat mutton on a newspaper. 1988 S. RUSHDIE Sameen Rushdie's Indian Cookery iii. 50 In subcontinental English, ‘mutton’ is the name for the meat of both goat and kid... Our mutton, or goat's meat, is leaner, more tender and delicatedly flavoured then lamb. 1999 Kathmandu Post (Electronic ed.) 15 Oct., The annual festival is the time when many families ensure steady supply of meat with a purchase of a goat. Mutton varieties are the most popular item in the Nepali menu during Dashain.


However a bit to the east a somewhat smaller island has another meaning:

2. a. A sheep, esp. one intended to be eaten. Chiefly N.Z. or humorous in later use.

?a1325 in W. Heuser Kildare-Gedichte (1904) 135 at on him send gees and henne, at oer geet and motune. a1393 GOWER Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) Prol. 1060 The Wolf in pes with the Moltoun. ?a1400 (a1338) R. MANNYNG Chron. (Petyt) II. 174 A bouke of a motoun. 1481 CAXTON tr. Godfrey of Boloyne clvii. 231 Oxen, Kyen, Motons and other vytaylles. 1565 LADY LOVAT in J. Fraser Polichron. (1905) 153 With twa mutowns yearly price of the pice thratin s. iiijd. 1615 G. SANDYS Relation of Iourney 37 Moldavia and Valachia do serve them with beeves and muttons. 1692 R. L'ESTRANGE Fables cccclxxxv. 461 The Sheep in this Fable was clearly too hard for the Two Doctors; and we find all those Reasonings to be true in the World, which the Mutton Alleges in the Fiction. 1749 E. SYNGE Let. 26 Sept. (1996) 172 Don't order a Mutton to be kill'd. I have but a few. 1795 W. COWPER Needless Alarm 81 A mutton, statelier than the rest, A ram, the ewes and wethers, sad, address'd. 1839 THACKERAY Legend St. Sophia of Kioff, A humble company of pious men, Like muttons in a pen. 1868 R. BROWNING Ring & Bk. II. IV. 7 How long, now, would the roughest marketman..Harass a mutton ere she made a mouth Or menaced biting? 1956 J. DARE Rouseabout Jane 171 It was not long before I was promoted to killing three muttons each week. 1988 C. GIDLEY Armada (BNC) 46 Leonora had had a mutton killed in anticipation of a family celebration.

The most general meaning is the meat of sheep:

a. The flesh of sheep, used as food.

c1300 St. Mary Magdalen (Laud) 344 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 472 Huy nomen with heom in heore schip..Gies and hennes..porc, motoun, and beof. c1450 in T. Austin Two 15th-cent. Cookery-bks. (1888) 72 Stwed Mutton: Take faire Mutton that hath ben roste..and mynce it faire. a1475 Liber Cocorum 46 Take fresshe brothe of motene clene. a1475 J. RUSSELL Bk. Nurture 533 in F. J. Furnivall Early Eng. Meals & Manners (1931) 36 Mustard is meete for brawne, beef, or powdred motoun. c1480 (a1400) St. Julian (Cambr.) 114 in W. M. Metcalfe Legends Saints Sc. Dial. (1896) I. 461 Sancte Julyane..In til his tyme wes na glotone, na wont wes nocht to ete motone. 1533 T. MORE Answere Poysened Bk. in Wks. 1059/1 Men bye bief or moten out of the bouchers shoppes. a1575 G. GASCOIGNE Hearbes in Posies 147 Fiue flocks of sheepe coulde scarce mainteine good mutton for his house. 1609 in Rothesay Town Council Rec. (1935) 166 Ane jeikat of muttoun. 1620 T. VENNER Via Recta iii. 50 Of Mutton..that is the best, which is of an yeere or two olde. 1711 SWIFT Jrnl. to Stella 19 Mar. (1948) I. 219 They..had a breast of mutton and a pint of wine. 1747 G. UNDERWOOD Let. 13 July. in A. P. Jenkins Corr. T. Secker (1991) 159 The provisions..were a Loin, a Rib, two Rumps and..two legs of Mutton. 1784 E. ALLEN Reason iii. §4. 137 To reward moral actions with a glass of wine or a shoulder of mutton, would be as inadequate, as to measure a triangle with sound. 1848 A. H. CLOUGH Bothie of Toper-Na-Fuosich V. 35 Racing home for the eight o'clock mutton. 1870 J. YEATS Nat. Hist. Commerce I. v. 49 Welsh sheep are small, but the mutton is renowned for the delicacy of its flavour. 1897 ‘H. S. MERRIMAN’ In Kedar's Tents x, The steaming dish of mutton and vegetables. 1922 V. WOOLF Jacob's Room iii. 53 She directed the maid to give Mr. Flanders a second helping of mutton. 1980 G. LORD Fortress viii. 69 The mutton was cooked brown and stringy.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:19 pm

Bob, we can always count on you for a truly encyclopaedic answer.

Very interesting stuff - thanks.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Doug Surplus » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:33 pm

Paul, having raised goats for both miilk and meat I can tell you that the meat is not always so tough as to require long cooking. It depends on a number of factors among which are:

The age of the aminal at slaughter (under a year is best).
How long the meat is aged
What the amimal was fed (we fed alfalfa)
The living environment

Mostly when we encountered tougher goat meat it was because we had grilled it. Meat that was roasted or used in stews or similar dishes was fine. Goat meat also tastes a bit different than lamb.
Doug

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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:37 pm

The OED has an interesting definition, Paul; I was fascinated to see that "mutton" is "goat" not only in South East Asia, but also in Australia:


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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:41 pm

Doug, thanks for that great first-hand info.

I wish I knew where to find authentic goat meat around Toronto; the mutton is fine but I think I would really enjoy the leaner goat meat for this recipe.

Thanks.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:02 pm

Paul, I remember seeing goat meat on sale in a small shop in Kensington Market a couple of years ago. Can't remember the shop's name -- sorry.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:37 pm

Paul B. wrote:I wish I knew where to find authentic goat meat around Toronto; the mutton is fine but I think I would really enjoy the leaner goat meat for this recipe.


Are there any Jamaican sources, Paul? I doubt they'd substitute.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:09 pm

Good point Robin. I have to do a search and see.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Cynthia Wenslow » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:23 pm

Paul B. wrote:I wish I knew where to find authentic goat meat around Toronto


Actual goat is also often carried in Mexican markets, especially around the holidays.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Dale Williams » Thu Nov 09, 2006 6:12 pm

If the Halal market is run by Middle Easterners, it's probably actually goat. One place I've been on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn always has goat, sometimes has "young goat" (they don't say kid), sometimes has mutton, and seldom has lamb. I don't find goat is general to be that tough.

Some Jamaican goat dishes have so much bone and gristle that you have to pick through, but I think that more about butchering methods as the physiology of goats.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 6:23 pm

I actually think it was run by Pakistanis or Indians, not sure which.

Thanks for the info.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Hoke » Thu Nov 09, 2006 7:02 pm

Paul:

Goat meat is NOT lean meat. It's actually very rich, and very fatladen, meat. One of the problems with goat, for a lot of people, is the full flavor (some even say rank flavor) and the amazing fat that comes off the goat in cooking.

Of course that's why goat is prized in more agrarian/poor societies, because it's cheap to raise (goats will live off anything!) and offers lots of sustenance value (protein and fats).

And that's why a lot of goat-eating societies favor the kid (baby goat, equivalent somewhat to veal). For roasting, kid goat (cabrito) is superb, and it makes a decent dish when you use it in stew or in dishes that use milk seething as well.
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Re: Goat or mutton: which is it?

Postby Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:39 pm

Thanks Hoke.

I don't mind that characteristic flavour personally, though I do believe that in order for it not to be the sole flavour of a given dish that uses the meat, the use of a good spice mix - in this case curry - is essential. I really like the combination of goat with these spices.

As an aside, I typically mix the turmeric-rich store-bought curry powder with cumin, coriander and a bit of ground cardamom; this mix has worked exceedingly well for me when making this stew.

I also always ask for the bones, which I add to the stew while it's cooking, but then remove prior to serving.
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