Unless you’re an outdoorsman like me, that is, for we tend to be eking the last of the dwindling daylight hours, refusing to be penned into the house until at least the first frost of winter has bitten. Autumn is definitely a season for getting the most out of what we have left.
With the seasonal fat comes flavour, particularly in my favourite winter meat – mutton. To this day I remain baffled as to why so many people disregard mutton as a prime meat. I’d sooner use a superior cut of mutton loin than scrag end lamb for the same price.
Ian and Gillian Dixon introduced me to their flocks of rare breed sheep at South Yeo Farm East, near Okehampton. Knowing that I was on the hunt for a reliable source of quality mutton, they quickly led me to a nearby field of Balwen sheep. This hardy Welsh mountain breed may be small, but they produce exquisite meat – be it lamb, hogget or mutton – and their calm temperament makes them ideally suited to non-intensive farming.
It’s clear when talking to the Dixons that despite the farm’s size, they maintain that smallholder mentality, often referring to their livestock by given names. This level of care afforded to each and every animal is shown in the quality of the produce. The meat from their Balwen flock is rich, succulent, and gamey – not the tough-textured reputation that mutton wrongly holds.