Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Thursday, 13 March 2008

On Homely Fare We Dined.

As for meat,it was exclusively mutton we ate, fresh or salted. Lamb, being under one year old was never slaughtered, since there would a better return as a ewe,ram or wether(or wedder). The young tups were castrated to give us the wedders which provided us with the meat. Lewis mutton has a distinctively sweet taste,which,they say,is due to the young heather shoots they eat amongst the grass. The carcass is cut up into manageable size pieces for salting. The intestines are used to make "maragan" (like a sausage,but no meat)whose contents are oatmeal,mutton fat and onion. These are forced into the intestine to give the white puddings,so called in the rest of Britain. "Marag gheal" we called them(geal - white). If sheep's blood is added to the mix,we get the famous black pudding (marag dubh),which has for many years been exported far and wide by two Stornoway butchers. Sheep's head and trotters,I saw prepared only once. It is time consuming as all of the wool has to burnt off,using red-hot irons. A soup is made with these and the flesh on the cheeks is most tender. My mother said that it was very popular in the exclusive gentlemen's club where she worked in Glasgow. Eggs we had in abundance. They would,I believe, qualify today as "organic" eggs,as the hens and cockerel were free to roam in the fields at will. They ate only seed corn,cold cooked potato and any porridge left over from morning. The empty egg-shells were never discarded,and these were crushed and added to their feed. They were happy hens! The eggs had shells as hard as porcelain.
Milk was very important in the Lewis home,and because of the numbers in the family home during school holidays,there were always two milking cows,usually Ayrshires. Hand milking is an art,and cows appreciate the gentle touch . Their response is seen in a greater milk yield. Cattle in Lewis were not tuberculin tested until 1951,and the milk was never pasteurised while it was a "cottage industry". Two large white enamelled pails would arrive full of milk on the kitchen table,and my aunts and my mother were transformed into three experienced dairy maids. The "cop" (foam) was removed and offered to our three demented cats. Fancy got some hot milk in her bowl,as we did(but at the table,of course). A bowl of warm milk straight from the cow - just what the doctor ordered. When I was tested for tuberculosis years later in school,the scratch resulted in a reaction the size of an old penny. I wonder why ! We liked it then,but I cannot abide hot milk now. No latte nor cafe au lait - just strong and black for me. Believe me,there's much more to say about milk. We'll do more on milk in the next blog - fresh milk,sour milk,thick milk,single cream,double cream,crowdie(curds)and butter.I did say that milk was important in the Lewis home.

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