Spice rubbed roasted leg of lamb

Roasted Leg Of Lamb and The Full Circle Process of Buying Meat

Lamb Illustration

This post about lamb is not only about one of my favorite meats , but how we get it, how it enters a more conscious supply chain. Truly the farm to table way  at home. It shows the whole cycle and industry behind conscious  good food. For a while I’ve wanted to purchase a lamb from a farmer mentioned by our family friends. I’ve only once purchased a whole spring lamb from a Halal Butcher that was very good. But I wanted to go further , and to the farm or Shepherdess herself. Helen Hettinger raises  lamb for eating and sells beautiful fleece. It’s not organic , but farm fresh and humanely raised. She provided  some samples of fleece that I want to start felting with when time permits. Here is an actual link to her blog.I put in an inquiry a few months ago and was told to call back in early March , for  Easter lamb. Helen explained the process and when she would take the lamb to the locker. From there I was instructed to call the Eureka Locker / Bittners for breakdown instruction. The service and Coordination was great. All that was left was for Certain Someone and I to drive the 200 miles or so to Eureka to pick up the lamb. I had to pay the butchering and hanging weight fee to the locker, and separately for the animal from the farm. It was all frozen except for one leg  to marinate and cook for Easter. Each part wrapped and labeled according to my instructions.

Interestingly enough Bittners   In 2005 Bittner’s Meat Company became the only “processing facility” in the state of Illinois to receive its Organic Processing Certificate. In order for a product to be labeled and certified as “organic” the product must have been raised organically and then must be brought to a facility that has been certified to continue the organic label. In such a facility, like Bittner’s, the product comes in live and thus is inspected by the USDA to insure “quality” for human consumption.  Sadly Scott Bittner, the young owner died in a tragic plane crash last year, but in reading , I’m amazed and touched on how the farming communities in Illinois, Chicagoland restaurants  and the local CSAs  lost a vital resource and champion. Luckily the business is continuing in the same great tradition.

Bittners Eureka Locker

butcher paper eureka locker

Now people I know that aren’t as aware or don’t want to know where their food comes are taken aback by this. I cant describe how this whole process feels as opposed to just going to a local market and picking up a cling film wrapped piece of questionably sourced meat.  It makes you aware of the cycle of an animals life. This lamb was humanely treated . In reality this is an one off experience. But there are many ways you can buy an animal for your freezer through your CSAs which the farming community linked ups with. I just wanted the spring drive and to go through the experience.

leg of lamb marinade

For Easter I made a simple leg roast marinated in toasted fragrant spices and lathered with olive oil.

Toasted spices

I roasted it simply in a large cast iron skillet with a bit of water to cover bottom of pan, and more olive oil brushed on top, in my new Thermador Oven on Convection Roast setting at 375 F. I turned it up to 425 for the last 10 minutes. Be sure to let your meat rest a bit before serving. Various cultures like their lamb  in different degrees of doneness. For chops I prefer them on the medium side, seared  nicely on the outside. However for roasted legs , my personal preference is for it to be more well done  like the Greek and Arabic cultures.

Lamb in cast iron.

In our household we love to take leftover lamb and brown it in a skillet , serve with unleavened breads,  cucumber based Tzatziki , tomatoes onions, etc. pickled vegetables, a hot sauce like a Gyro or “kebab” style sandwich.

Toasted Spice Marinade for Lamb
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Cook time: 
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  • 1 tbsp. of black Peppercorns ( or ground)
  • 1 tbsp. of fennel seeds ( or ground )
  • 1 tbsp. of coriander seeds ( or ground)
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seeds ( or ground)
  • 1 tbsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 -2 tsps. fresh or dried thyme. If using fresh, use less.
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  1. In a spice grinder grind all of the spice except the garlic powder and salt.
  2. Take a dry skillet and gently toast on med / hig temp until fragrant. Be sure to stir around so spices don't burn.
  3. Add the garlic powder,thyme and salt and mix.
  4. Slather onto lamb with enough olive oil to form a runny paste. Let marinade overnight.