Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hermaphrodite Stew

Guess what we're having for supper?

Yes, that's right: Hermaphrodite Stew.

You see, last fall we bought a group of ewe lambs from a breeder. Over the winter they grew and matured as lambs will do. Except, as time went on, it became obvious that one of them, a black mouflon ewe named Sonnet, was maturing a little differently from the others.

Our first hint that something wasn't right was the confusion that happened at breeding time. Sonnet seemed to go into heat like the other ewes. She allowed the ram to breed her one day, just like normal. But then, for the rest of breeding season, SHE acted like a ram, doing all the typical courtship behavior: sniffing, pawing, and following the other ewes around. She even started fighting to defend "her" ewes from the ram!

She never did have a lamb from that one breeding. By late spring, she was bigger than the other ewes her age. Her horns were two or three times the size of her sisters' horns. She developed a prominent hump on the bridge of her nose. And her genitals, while basically female in outline, were shaped a little funny.

When shearing time came and all her thick wool was removed, we were able to get our first proof that Sonnet really was not "all girl." Her udder was completely undeveloped, to the point of being practically nonexistent. And beneath the skin near where the udder should have been, there was the small but obvious shape of a partially developed, undescended testicle!

We're not sure exactly how it happened, but Sonnet was a triplet. My guess is that maybe she was supposed to be a quad, but she ended up absorbing the fetus of her brother in utero, and ended up with a few of his "parts" mixed in with hers.

Since you already read the title to this post, there's no need to draw out the suspense about her ultimate fate. This is a breeding farm, and Sonnet was never going to be a breeding animal. So around midsummer, she went to the butcher. He was amazed---in all his years, he said he'd never seen a hermaphrodite before.

In the end, Sonnet made her contribution to the farm. Her meat went into the freezer, her hide is salted and waiting to be tanned into a pelt, and her horns were sold to someone for a craft project.

Oh... and you may be interested to know that Sonnet's breeder gave me a replacement lamb this year, to make up for the problem. Guess who that was? That's right: the famous Trouble the Runaway Lamb, whom I've written so many posts about.

What a bizarre chain of events this has been!

So, just in case you ever want to make a really tasty lamb stew, here's my recipe, which I've named in honor of Sonnet.

It's extremely flavorful, rich, and slightly sweet. It makes a very large batch---I like to make a lot at once, and freeze some for later---so you may want to cut the amounts in half.

Hermaphrodite Stew

  • 6-8 lbs. of Icelandic lamb shanks and/or necks (bones included)
  • Water enough to cover the meat (about 4 quarts)
Put the meat in a large pot with enough water to cover the pieces. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender and falling from the bones (about 2 hours).

Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, scoop out all the lamb chunks and remove the meat from the bones. Break up any large chunks of meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the broth. Give the bones to your dogs!

Cut up into bite-sized pieces:
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 large stalks of celery
  • 1 lb. carrots
Add the vegetables to the pot of meat and broth. Return to a simmer.

As the vegetables are cooking, add:

  • 6-8 bay leaves
  • 2 x 6-oz cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 TB crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 TB minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Cook until vegetables are tender (about 1 hour).



Meggie said...

Hey Nancy: That story sounds like something that should be on The Oprah Show. Too bad he/she had to go to the butcher but I know it's all part of running a farm.

Mark said...

I think it might help if you changed the name to "Sonnet Stew". Not only is it more alliteratively appealing but it doesn't raise uncomfortable questions about the orientation of the meat. Cheers!

Nancy Chase said...


I'm sure you're right about it having more general appeal that way, but come on... As a title of a blog post "Hermaphrodite Stew" is just irresistible. You read it and think, "What the heck---?" and then you have to read the post to find out what it's all about!

As for the stew, the only people who are going to be eating it are Ken and me, so we know what went into it, either way! :-)