I got lucky! I managed to get a beautiful shoulder of mutton locally. This is a rare treat.
While mutton has a reputation for strong flavor and aroma, I find this to be misleading. The meat has a distinctive flavor, yes, as opposed to the bland meats of the supermarket, but the flavor is in fact a component of the dish, rather than an obstacle to be overcome. We don’t need to season as assertively if the foods we are working with bring plenty to the table.
I love mutton.
. I had a shoulder, not a thigh. Thigh is the same cut as leg of lamb, minus the shank. Leg has more meat and simpler carving, and less intramuscular fat. Surface fat is where stronger flavors tend to lie, so peel off any fat that has yellowing to it, no matter what cut you may have. Shoulder is a bit of a bear, as it has all kinds of bones and things going through it, it’s the tough end of a tough animal. It takes some care to carve, but with a little patience pays off quite nicely. A major modern advantage is that a shoulder fits pots more easily. Please don’t get one of those boneless legs of lamb in a net, they are not going to offer enough in the way of flavor to be worth the cost.
Beef or veal fat is suggested as the cooking grease because sheep fat sets at a low temperature, causing objectionable texture. It’s important to peel off that surface fat. Hand it to a soapmaker if you are uncomfortable discarding it.
This translation is from http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html
Item MUTTON PIE in a POT. Take a thigh (of mutton), and grease or marrow of beef or veal chopped small and onions chopped small, and set to boil and cook in a well-covered pot in a small amount of meat stock or other liquid, then put to boil in it spices, and a little vinegar to sharpen it, and arrange it in a dish.
Item, if you want to salt mutton in hot weather, moisten beforehand, and sprinkle with coarse ground salt.
1 leg (or shoulder) of mutton (goat, lamb, venison), about 4 lbs including bone.
2-3 baseball sized onions, cut to a fine dice
1/4 lb suit, optional
a quart of good stock or broth
1 TBSP salt
1 tsp grains of paradise
1/4 stick cinnamon, or a quarter teaspoon
heads off about a dozen cloves, or about a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 c red wine vinegar
Choose a pot with a well fitting lid, that the meat will fit snugly. A slow cooker is an excellent option for this dish.
Place the meat, onions, and stock in the pot. Add suet if you feel you ought to add some fat to the dish. This will help temper the mutton flavor. (I did not add fat)
Seethe on a low flame with the lid on for approximately two hours, then add the spices to the pot. Add about half of the vinegar at this time as well.
Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes. The meat ought to be rather tender and fully cooked to the falling-off the bone stage.
Remove the meat, reserving the cooking liquid. Taste for balance, add more vinegar and reboil, if needed.
If the sauce is too greasy, you might use a gravy separator, float a towel on top to absorb, or carefully drag an ice cube across the surface to quickly set the fat, making it easier to remove.
Allow to cool, slice, serve. with the sauce made of cooking liquid.
I chose my spices based on what blends are common in the book, what would taste nice together, and what I believe would play nicely with the flavors inherent in the onions and meat. You may choose your spices differently. For instance, the dish Yellow Mutton calls for saffron, ginger and verjus, while another note says that if venison is basted, it may be served with cameline, which implies to me that a poached dish should specifically not be served with cameline. Other notes in the manuscript say that in summer use saffron, but in winter use pepper. I feel my choices to be internally consistent, and successful.
I cannot grind my cloves as finely as commercially available. I would use commercially ground cloves, or perhaps stick whole cloves into one section of onion in order to more easily remove them later.
The onions as I presented them were not chopped finely enough. I suggest making them about the size of modern gambling dice.
While this has little to do with our modern understanding of pie, lacking crust and being a very simple pot stew, it is not roasted before seething, nor after. The meat is intended to be cooked once, so it must be cooked fully.