Smoked Lamb Fries
Here at Shepherd Song Farm, we think that appreciating the whole animal–any animal, is a good thing. In our modern day, mostly we want tender, lean cuts that are easy to cook, with no fuss.
There’s nothing wrong with cooking what you like, but roasted lamb chops, delicately carved saddles and tenderloins are only part of a whole creature, and in order to make more of the cuts everyone wants, it’s good to appreciate different parts. Most parts like liver, kidneys are hearts aren’t a hard sell for us (thank you!) but we do offer other parts too, other offal off the beaten path. Lamb fries, along with sweetbreads, are two good examples of different offal you might try and experiment with. Historically, too, organs were often prized more than other meats, due to the short shelf life, and high nutrient density.
Lamb fries, or testicles, aren’t generally sold in many places. Just like kidneys and liver, they’ll have a more pronounced flavor than other, milder offal like tongue and hearts. So, if you’re curious, if you’re brave, Chef Bergo, (an offal specialist chef trained in whole animal butchery) has something special for you to try: smoked lamb fries.
Admittedly, chef was a little skeptical at first, having memories of strong-tasting wild boar testicles, but using a few tricks he uses with game meat, we can just about guarantee that these smoked lamb fries will fool even picky eaters into thinking they’re a kind of smoked ham, especially served on a cracker with salami, cheese, pickles, and mustard, of course.
The secret is in soaking the fries. Brining in saltwater, or soaking meat in milk is often used with things like livers and kidneys, especially from ruminants like deer and game animals that can have varying flavors and aromas depending on their seasonally changing diet. The liquid helps draw out some flavors, and allows you to add others of your own, if you choose. Corned beef, even though it isn’t offal, is a great example, since it spends an extended amount of time in a brine, it has more time to soak up aromas and flavor from pickling spices in the liquid. With the smoked lamb fries, chef layers subtle flavors of brine with a smoked taste everyone loves for a really special, nose-to-tail experience.
This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a culinary industry veteran, former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Founder of the website Forager Chef, he’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at Forager Chef.
Shepherd Song Farm: Grass to table. We raise lambs & goats traditionally, humanely and sustainably. 100% Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, Never Confined, no Hormones, Grains or Animal Byproducts. Born, raised and processed in the U.S.A. Good for you and good for the environment.
Smoked Lamb Fries
- Lamb testicles
- 1 quart water
- 90 grams salt roughly a heaping 1/3 cup
- 10.5 grams roughly 2 teaspoons pink curing salt (sodium nitrite)
- 2 Tablespoon pickling spice
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Bring the ingredients for the brine to a boil, then chill completely before adding the testicles. Clean the testicles by trimming and removing the outer membrane using a sharp paring knife.
- Brine the testicles for 4 days. After 4 days, bring a pot of water to a simmer, turn off the heat, add the testicles and allow to sit in the hot water for 10 minutes, then remove and chill in cold water.
- Remove the testicles from the water, dry with a paper towel, then, using a sharp paring knife, carefully remove the inner membrane to reveal the inner meat.
- Transfer the testicles to a smoker, and smoke the testicles at 225 degrees for 1.5 hours, then chill. The smoked “oysters” are now ready to serve, and will keep refrigerated for 4 days. Serve with crackers, mustard, pickles and cold cuts.