One of my great perplexities is and remains the extremely low consumption of sheep meat for a people with a consistent pastoral history. I wrote about this dilemma, about the time when the #alegeoaia campaign was launched, trying to figure out the answer.
Today I want to detail for the series of articles in collaboration with selgroscautapasiunea.ro a subcategory of the methods of using sheepmeat, that they are also on goats. More precisely: minced meat!
First let's clarify one aspect: exceptions do not become arguments against my thesis. An extremely local specific can be found, but when it has not managed to impose itself in customs, to expand, it remains only a culinary jewel that is still waiting to be discovered.
While some important recipes in the national recipe are built around minced meat (sarmales, meatballs, meatballs, peppers & other stuffed vegetables), ground sheep meat appears, and not always, in sausages and sometimes through mititei. If, in the case of the kebabs that were available to us, we can conclude that they attracted us too much, we should not fill bell peppers or other round vegetables with mutton, although we have such a recipe from a cookbook in 1863, and to leave only this privilege to the Macedonian cuisine seems inexplicable to me. Or, out of the dozens of stuffing for sarmale identified by me so far, I can't find any with sheep, although next to us, at Gagauz, they are just like that, and it gives me headaches.
Not you a meatball, not you a meatball, not you a burger (I'm exaggerating, I found sheep burgers), not a shepherd's pie in the Carpathian version, not even pies it seems either lack of inventiveness or something else that escapes me.
All that remains are the sausages, where the “falls” and the less “commercial” pieces of meat are usually used, ie the appetizing ones, and the liver that highlights the organs, which might otherwise remain uneaten even though they are delicious.
The dilemma remains and I would really like to know if you have an answer.
Until then, I leave you here some of my explanations for the limited consumption of sheep meat in Romania.
There is a dramatic scene in the series MASH. At the side of the road, the parents, next to a cow, look at their two already big girls who are checking a piece of land by me. A child can be done at any time, so a funeral is not really a big damage to the Korean man's house in the middle of the war. If the cow dies, the family is lost and all its members will probably starve to death.
The historical situation in our country is not far from this philosophy. Both cows and sheep have always been much more important for related products (milk in the case of cows, milk and wool in the case of sheep). Cheese is a term of autochthonous, Dacian origin (as well as Urda, Zara, Tittial). Curd, corasla, milk, butter, whey come from Latin, and cocârtiță and jintiță have an unknown etymology (Petronela Savin, Universul din larfurie, about Romanian food terminology, ed. European Institute 2012). And when we talk about cheese, sheep is perceived on a higher level than cows. It is even more expensive.
The animals were sacrificed only ritually and usually the old specimens, except for the lamb which became synonymous with the Easter feast.
Both cows and especially sheep have been destined for export (to the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, etc.) for centuries. Ours stayed with the pigs. Maybe in this case we were not interested in raising varieties of sheep and beef cows (the quality of the local ones is incomparable with others) but instead – by comparison – we have some very good pig breeds: Bazna, Mangalița, de Rușetu etc.
The pig remained in the country but the peasant had to be content with the peripheral pieces and organs. The lean meat reached the boyars' table. It is also the main reason why we excel in traditional dishes from these "leftovers": drum, caltaboș, leper, jumari, bacon, ears, rinds, sausages from falls, meatballs, etc. Pork also offered us great lard for both cooking and canning: pork for garnish.
See also the Romanian's predilection for pastrami and after mutton sausages, the only forms of preservation of sheep meat practiced in our country (there is, in some places, sloiul).
Shepherd's cuisine abounds with dairy dishes to which polenta and sometimes eggs and bacon are added. As proof of their condition and the fact that they did not sacrifice sheep for the reasons stated above. An exception, as is the sacrifice of sheep, is the shepherd's sloiul or piftia (aiture in Transylvania, from ai-alium-garlic).
Probably the most well-known recipe with our sheep is the so-called method of preparation: outlawry. Chopped sheep, stuffed with whatever you had on hand, if you had it, cooked in the pit. It is said that this was done in order not to make flame and smoke in the forest to avoid potency. The method is not patented in our country but appears as a logical necessity. Well, why outlaw sheep? Because it was the easiest to steal, carry and cook for some people who are always on the road, always on the alert.
As far as I know, in no variant of Miorița the sheep is not a negative character.
Photo source: www.epicurious.com