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article number 469
article date 07-28-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Selecting Your Cuts of Mutton, Lamb, Veal and Pork, 1881
by Maria Parloa, Principle, School of Cooking, Boston

From the 1881 book, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book and Marketing Guide.


Mutton is very nutritious and easily digested. The best quality will have clear, hard, white fat, and a good deal of it; the lean part will be juicy, firm and of a rather dark red color. When there is but little fat, and that is soft and yellow and the meat is coarse and stringy, you may be sure that the quality is poor.

Mutton is much improved by being hung in a cool place for a week or more. At the North, a leg will keep quite well for two or three weeks in winter, if hung in a cold, dry shed or cellar.

Mutton, like beef, is first split through the back, and then the sides are divided, giving two fore and two hind quarters. Diagram No. 18 is of a whole carcass of mutton, and half of it is numbered to show the pieces into which the animal is cut for use.


1, 2, & 4; Hind quarter.
3, 5, & 5; Fore quarter.

1. Leg.
2. Loin.
3. Shoulder.
4. Flank.
5, 5. Breast.

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Hind Quarter of Mutton.

This consists of the leg and loin, and is the choicest cut. It makes a fine roast for a large family, but for a moderate- sized or small one either the leg or loin alone is better. A hind quarter taken from a prime animal will weigh from twenty to thirty pounds.

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Leg of Mutton.

This joint is nearly always used for roasting and boiling. It has but little bone, as compared with the other parts of the animal, and is, therefore, an economical piece to select, though the price per pound be greater than that of any other cut. It is not common to find a good leg weighing under ten or twelve pounds. A leg is shown in plate No. 19.


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Loin of Mutton.

In a loin, as cut in Boston, there are seven ribs, which make a good roast for a small family. This cut is particularly nice in hot weather. It is not as large as a leg, and the meat is, besides, of a lighter quality and more delicate flavor.

The cost when the flank is taken off will be about seven cents more a pound than if the loin be sold with it on; but, unless you wish to use the flank for a soup, stew or haricot, it is the better economy to buy a trimmed piece and pay the higher price.

When the two loins are joined they are called a saddle. Plate No. 20 shows a saddle and two French chops.


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Fore Quarter of Mutton.

In this is included the shoulder and breast. When the shoulder-blade is taken out, the quarter makes a good roast for a large family. The shoulder is separated from the breast by runing a sharp knife between the two, starting at the curved dotted lines near the neck (shown in diagram No. 18), and cutting round to the end of the line.

The shoulder is nice for roasting or boiling. The breast can be used for a roast, for broths, braising, stewing or cotelettes. Rib chops are also cut from the breast, which is, by the way, the cheapest part of the mutton.

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Chops and Cutlets.

Chops are cut from the loin. They are called long when the flank is cut on them and short if without it. When part of the bone of the short chop is scraped clean it is called a French chop.

The rolled chops sold by provision dealers are the long chops with the bone removed. One often sees them selling at a low price. They are then the poor parts of the mutton, like the flank, and will be found very expensive no matter how little is asked.

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The price of mutton varies with the seasons, but a table giving the average price may help the purchaser to an estimate of the comparative cost of each cut.

Price of mutton per pound.
Hind Quarter . . . 15 cents.
Leg . . . 17 cents.
Loin, with flank . . . 13 cents.
Loin, without flank . . . 20 cents.
Fore Quarter . . . 8 cents.
Trimmed Chops, . . . 20 cents.
Untrimmed Chops . . . 12 cents.

When one has a large family it brings all kinds of meat considerably cheaper to buy large pieces untrimmed, as the trimmings can be used for soups, stews, etc.; but for a small family it is much better to purchase only the part you want for immediate use.

Although mutton costs less per pound than beef, it is no cheaper in the end, because to be good it must be fat, and mutton fat, unlike beef fat, cannot be employed for cooking purposes, as it gives a strong flavor to any article with which it is used.


Lamb is cut and sold like mutton. Being much smaller, however, a hind or fore quarter is not too large for a good-sized family. Lamb will not keep as long as mutton, for, being juicy, it taints more readily.

It is of a delicate flavor until nearly a year old, when it begins to taste like mutton and is not so tender. The bones of a young lamb will be red, and the fat hard and white. This meat is in season from May to September.


The calf being so much larger than the sheep, the fore and hind quarters are not cooked together, and for an ordinary family both are not purchased. The animal is, however, cut into the same parts as mutton.

- The loin, breast and shoulder are used for roasting.
- Chops are cut from the loin and neck, those from the neck being called rib chops or cotelettes.
- The neck itself is used for stews, pies, fricassees, etc.
- The leg is used for cutlets, fricandeaux, stews and roasts, and for braising.
- The fillet of veal is a solid piece cut from the leg—not like the tenderloin in beef, but used in much the same way.
- The lower part of the leg is called a knuckle, and is particularly nice for soups and sauces.

Good veal will have white, firm fat, and the lean part a pinkish tinge. When extremely white it indicates that the calf has been bled before being killed, which is a great cruelty to the animal, besides greatly impoverishing the meat.

When veal is too young it will be soft and of a bluish tinge. The calf should not be killed until at least six weeks old.

Veal is in the market all the year, but the season is really from April to September, when the price is low. The leg costs more than any other joint, because it is almost wholly solid meat.

- The fillet costs from 20 to 23 cents;
- cutlets from the leg, 30 cents;
- chops from loin, 20 cents;
- loin for roast, 15 cents;
- breast, 10 to 12 cents.

Veal is not nutritious nor easily digested. Many people cannot eat it in any form, but such a number of nice dishes can be made from it, and when in season the price is so low, that it will always be used for made dishes and soups.



Pork, although not so much used in the fresh state as beef, mutton, lamb, etc., is extensively employed in the preparation of food. It is cut somewhat like mutton, but into more parts.

Fresh young pork should be firm; the fat white, the lean a pale reddish color and the skin white and clear. When the fat is yellow and soft the pork is not of the best quality.

After pork has been salted, if it is corn-fed, the fat will be of a delicate pinkish shade.

When hogs weighing three and four hundred pounds are killed, the fat will not be very firm, particularly if they are not fed on corn.

The amount of salt pork purchased at a time depends upon the mode of cooking in each family. If bought in small quantities it should be kept in a small jar or tub, half filled with brine, and a plate, smaller round than the tub, should be placed on top of the meat to press it under the brine.

The parts into which the hog is cut are called leg, loin, rib piece, shoulder, neck, flank, brisket, head and feet. The legs and shoulders are usually salted and smoked.

The loin of a large hog has about two or three inches of the fat cut with the rind. This is used for salting, and the loin fresh for roasting. When, however, the hog is small, the loin is simply scored and roasted.

The ribs are treated the same as the loin, and when the rind and fat are cut off are called spareribs. This piece makes a sweet roast. Having much more bone and less meat than the loin, it is not really any cheaper, although sold for less.
- The loin and ribs are both used for chops and steaks.
- The flank and brisket are corned.
- The head is sold while fresh for head-cheese, or is divided into two or four parts and corned, and is a favorite dish with many people.
- The feet are sometimes sold while fresh, but are more frequently first pickled.

The fat taken from the inside of the hog and also all the trimmings are cooked slowly until dissolved. This, when strained and cooled, is termed lard. Many housekeepers buy the leaf or clear fat and try it out themselves. This is the best way, as one is then sure of a pure article.

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These should be made wholly of pork, but there is often a large portion of beef in them. They should be firm, and rather dry on the outside.

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Calves’ liver is the best in the market, and always brings the highest price. In some markets they will not cut it. A single liver costs about fifty cents, and when properly cooked, several delicious dishes can be made from it.

Beef liver is much larger and darker than the calves’, has a stronger flavor and is not so tender. It is sold in small or large pieces at a low price.

Pigs’ liver is not nearly as good as the calves’ or beeves’, and comes very much cheaper.

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Both the calves’ and beeves’ hearts are used for roasting and braising. The calves’ are rather small, but tenderer than the beeves’. The price of one is usually not more than fifteen cents. The heart is nutritious, but not easily digested.

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The kidneys of beef, veal, mutton, lamb and pork are all used for stews, broils, sautés, curries and fricassees. Veal are the best.

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These are very delicate. Beef tongue is the most used. It should be thick and firm, with a good deal of fat on the under side. When fresh, it is used for bouilli, mince pies and to serve cold or in jelly. Salted and smoked, it is boiled and served cold. Lambs’ tongues are sold both fresh and pickled.

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