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Mutton is the meat of an adult sheep, not the lamb of the animal's first year or the hogget of its second or third. After butchers trim the prime cuts of mutton like the loins, shanks and racks, the rest is often used to make minced mutton. Though not as common a meat in the West, ground or minced mutton factors heavily into the cuisine of cultures throughout the Eastern Hemisphere — from Greece to Asia, Norway to Australia. In this part of the globe cows or pigs are regularly eschewed as food.
The primal sections of a sheep are similar to those of other livestock. Sheep are generally considered prime when slaughtered at about five years old, though the meat technically becomes mutton at about two years old when the animals have cut their permanent teeth. The most-prime cuts of mutton are the same as in the younger lamb and hogget like the upper leg, or shank, as well as the breast, loin and ribs. What is left over will often go to make mince, though many chefs will use prime cuts or lamb for this purpose too.
Minced mutton can be prepared in as many ways as minced or ground beef or pork: grilled into burgers, baked in loafs, smoked inside sausages. It is often substituted for lamb in Greek gyro meat, for a bolder, earthier flavor. This process, which includes beef as well, entails a grinding process that injects various other ingredients like breadcrumbs, oregano and other Mediterranean-style seasonings before hardening on a vertical spit. The spit can later be spun through an open-faced oven, which lets the cook trim off seared slices as the meat slowly cooks.
An iconic use of minced mutton alone can be found in a Middle Eastern dish called keema. Served or tossed with rice, this requires lamb or mutton to be sauteed over high heat in a pan with garlic and onion. The browned mutton is then lightly bathed in meat stock, tomato paste and India's ubiquitous spice blend, garam masala until the mutton absorbs all the liquid.
Many cultures use minced mutton or lamb, instead of beef and pork, to make sausage or hamburger meat. A gourmet presentation can be had with minced mutton tartare, which undergoes a grinding with vegetables, citrus, herbs and seasonings before the meat slowly "cooks" for three or more hours in the refrigerator. By adding fruits like orange, lemon or grapefruit to the mince, a cold acid bath prepares the meat for service. The dish can be garnished with fresh fruits and vegetables, crackers and toast.
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