Cut by cut Part 2: The WHAT of the sheep??
I am currently on a cullinary journey to discover the new and classical uses of the delicious cuts of lamb and mutton and to experiment with it. . Join me in part two of this four part series as I discover delicious recipes and easy cooking methods for sheeps tails.
Lamb and sheep tails. I am not going to lie or deny it. The first time somebody offered me a sheep’s tail, I was very hesitant and approached this with great caution. As a city girl I did not grow up with this delicatessen on any menu (I did not even know you could eat the tail?). Now, sheep’s tails are high on my list of favourite foods, as long as the correct prepping and cooking procedures are followed of course!
There are two very important things to remember when it comes to sheep’s tails. This little piece of meat requires quite a bit of preparation and it will not be included in any type of weight loss plan. This however does not mean it is any less of a meat cut when compared to the other cuts of the carcass, and the preparation is not that complicated when preparing it once in a while for special occasions. Come to think of it, it is as easy as a pot of boiling water on the stove! Some people suggest that the tails should be cooked in Salt water – then the temperature will be higher, while other prefer to cook it in a pressure cooker. I am wary of old fashioned stove top pressure cookers and do not have an electric version in my trousseau as yet (hint-hint) and therefore prefer the saltwater method. The cooking time is about 90 minutes for the tails to be tender. When the meat pulls away from the bones it can be taken out of the water to be grilled on the braai. It was Oom Floors’ (Francois Botha) sheep tail recipe and method from the Free State that won me over. He prepared and made these little delicious tails at home to be braaied at the Bloem Show and made quite a name for himself. According to him the success of the recipe lies in the pre-cooking and the secret ingredients of is marinade and sauce. The type of sauce is really one of preference, but the timing of when you add it to the process will determine the success of the recipe. Oom Floors told me that he had accidentally determined this method, when he had to prep sheep’s tails in a hurry. It works particularly well when you dunk the boiling hot sheep’s tails (straight from the pot) into the sauce. This allows the meat and fat to absorb the flavours of the marinade. After cooling a bit, the marinated tails can be packed and frozen for a braai at a later stage.
Sheep’s tails seems to only be a “foreign-food” to Gautengers. The Northern Cape locals are very accustomed with this delicacy. I had some very tasty tails at a restaurant in the Williston Mall, supplied by Karusaf. These Karoo tails were pre-cooked to perfection, seasoned with only salt and pepper and then braaied for that lekker taste of chargrilled chrunch. The salt and pepper seasoning compliments the natural flavours which are only offered by the Karoo region. The Hantam Vleisfees in Calvina is no stranger to celebrating this occasion with these meaty treats. Event hough there were about four food stalls selling skaapstertjies by 14:00 that afternoon, all tails were sold out. Stertjies are without a doubt the favourite food at these type of feeste in the platteland, loved by young and old!
After my visit and experience in the Northern Cape, I was quite sadden about the fact that kids growing up in the cities are missing out on this delicious spoil. This motivated me to go and find out where in Pretoria I could find some stertjies. It’s not really an easy cut to find in any butchery or supermarket fridge. Through the power of social media, I finally found a reliable supplier in “KLH Oos-Kaap Lam”. These guys started their company as students when they realised there was a demand for the so called 5th-quarter in the city, due to the reason that it is not readily available in our butcheries and supermarkets. The stadsjapies reaped up their stock and ever since then, they almost couldn’t keep up with the demand. They very successfully run their business from their Facebook page.
I think it is only a matter of time, before the food market culture in the cities, discover the taste phenomenon of these little delicacies. Until then, it will remain one of the platteland’s best untold tales.