Lamb, a protein for all seasons
HARLAN – What began has a 4-H project for their children, has grown into a farm business for Jerry and Mary Sorensen. Their acreage was too small for cattle, so sheep was deemed more suitable for West Cyclone Farm, located on the west edge of Harlan, in Shelby County.
While visiting with Dan Morrical, an Iowa State University sheep specialist, Sorensen mentioned that he wanted a breed that had expected progeny difference. The Polypay Breed was developed at the U.S. Sheep Station in Boise, Idaho, and had the criteria Sorensen wanted.
Since 1992, the Polypay breed has served the Sorensen family well. Another bonus for the breed is their ability to breed out-of-season. That is important to the Sorensens as they sell their meat under the label Patchwork Lamb.
Working in cooperation with Mike, Deb and Keeley Park, of Woodhill Farm near Woodbine, the two families have made it their goal to produce consistent, high-quality lamb readily available for the dinner table.
The name Patchwork was chosen when it was determined that their organization was not much. Someone said to them, “Aahh you are kind of like a little patchwork.” Patchwork Farm Fresh Lamb was launched.
Consistency is a top priority for the Sorensens.
“When people try our lamb, they always like it,” said Jerry. “It’s always the same.” Their lambs are fed a steady diet of grain and hay. They are never fed growth hormones or antibiotics. The meat is all-natural.
Close attention is paid to the weight of lambs when they are harvested, as well as the age of the lambs. Both have an effect on the quality of lamb meat, according to Sorensen.
Nine times out of ten, when the Sorensen’s entertain, lamb is on the menu. He recently offered a “lamb lover’s feast” as part of a fundraiser for their church.
The Sorensens will prepare a gourmet supper for six featuring lollipop chops for an appetizer, French onion soup, from lamb of course, and lamb shanks.
The Sorensens said that cooking with lamb has been a fun avocation. Taking recipes from the food network or Epicurean.com the Sorensens will tweak recipes just a bit to fit their tastes. They have found lamb to be an enjoyable, savory meat to work with.
The Sorensen’s sell the top 30 percent of their ram lambs as breeding stock. Some of their rams have provided the basis for the Niman Ranch sheep program, which has similar industry standards for pork, beef and poultry.
The Sorensen children have grown, left to pursue their own careers. The sheep have stayed.
“After a stressful day at work,” said Jerry. “I will go out to do chores, just talk to the sheep. They are good listeners.”
1 pound Patchwork ground lamb
1 medium onion, chopped
1 10-ounce can of condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 4-ounce can of mushrooms, drained
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
Hot buttered noodles
Cook and stir ground lamb and onions in a heavy skillet until lamb is browned. Drain. Stir in soup, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Heat to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Heat just until hot. Serve over noodles.
Lamb shepherd’s pie
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds Patchwork Polypay ground lamb
1 pound mushrooms, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 .87-ounce packages brown gravy seasoning mix
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion. Saute until mushrooms are brown, about 8 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer mushroom mix to bowl. Add lamb and garlic to skillet. Saute over medium-high heat until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Return mushroom mixture to skillet. Mix in gravy seasoning and water. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes longer.
Add peas, simmer until tender. Mix in 3 tablespoons parsley and season with fresh ground pepper.
Transfer to 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Spoon buttery mashed potatoes over top, covering completely.
Bake pie until heated through, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining parsley.
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Choose your meat and cut off any excess fat. Put meat and marinate in a gallon Ziploc sack. Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 to 24 hours.
Pour marinate off meat before cooking.
Excellent for lamb chops, kabobs, shoulder chops and leg steaks.
Lamb shanks braised in red wine
6 lamb shanks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups dry red wine
2 garlic heads, with cloves peeled and halved
4 ribs celery – dice large
4 carrots – dice large
1 large onion – 8 wedge chunks
1 cup mushrooms – thick slices
5 3-inch sprigs of rosemary
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Season shanks with salt and pepper. Put oil in high-sided oven proof pot and heat. Sear all sides of shanks to golden brown. Put shanks back in pot, add all other ingredients and put in oven. Turn shanks every 1/2 hour until tender (about 2 hours).
Remove shanks and some of veggies. Strain the braising liquids. Degrease it. Simmer until reduced by about 1/3. Serve over shanks. Serve veggies on the side.
Crusty roast leg of lamb
1 boneless leg of lamb, about 4 to 5 pounds
1 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Dash of salt and pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
2 1/2 pounds medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1 large tart apple, sliced
Place leg of lamb on a rack in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, butter and seasonings; spread over meat. Place onion in pan; pour broth over onion. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
Add potatoes, bake 30 minutes longer. Add apple, bake 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and meat reaches desired doneness. For medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145 degrees; medium, 160 degrees; well done, 170 degrees.
Remove vegetables and apple, keep warm. Let roast stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mailing her at email@example.com.
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