10 Things You Need to Know About Reestit Mutton 17 January 2018
1. What is Reestit Mutton
Reestit Mutton is a traditional Shetland way of preserving mutton.
2. How was Reestit Mutton made traditionally?
In the traditional single-storey Shetland croft house there was no loft. The “reest” is the area in the rafters where peat smoke gathered, and where “tees” (legs) were hung to cure after soaking in brine. Today we do not have open peat fires, but the Reestit Mutton is still made by brining and then drying the meat.
3. Is Reestit Mutton produced only in The Shetland Islands?
Reestit Mutton is now produced solely in Shetland, and reflects the influences from Scandinavia on the islands where similar techniques are used for preserving meat in this way.
4. How long will Reestit Mutton keep for?
Once dry, it can keep for up to four years, if kept in the right conditions.
5. What is Reestit Mutton eaten with traditionally?
Traditionally it is eaten with Taatie Soup, in broths or in pies. We would also suggest trying the meat cold on a Shetland Bannock. See our recipes for Reestit Mutton here.
6. Why is it Reestit Mutton - not lamb?
The difference lies in the age of the sheep. The mutton to be reestit will be a hog – maybe 18 months or a bit older, certainly after their ‘hard teeth’ are through which replace the ‘lambing’ teeth.
7. How long does it take to make Reestit Mutton?
Producers of Reestit Mutton, Anderson Butchers, say it takes at least eight weeks to make. The mutton is in the brine pickle for two to three weeks. Then the meat is hung up to dry which takes about five weeks and gets even better the longer it is left to hang. Once you have your piece of reestit mutton it needs to be covered in cold water and brought to the boil, and then allow it to simmer for a good 30 minutes.
8. What role does Reestit Mutton play in Shetland life now?
Reestit Mutton is eaten at New Year to welcome “first footers”, and at Up Helly Aa's fire festivals which are held throughout January, February and March in The Shetland Islands. (See full list of dates here.) Meat was traditionally a cold-weather feast in Shetland as the older sheep would be slaughtered and prepared for the winter months. Reestit Mutton is a key ingredient of many favourite dishes today cooked at home, and Anderson Butchers makes and sells Reestit Mutton pies from locally reared sheep.
9. Do any chefs cook with Reestit Mutton?
Award-winning chef Martin Wishart certainly does and says: “If one dish sums up The Shetland Islands, where my family are from, it has to be Reestit Mutton soup… and I even made it for my boss, Michel Roux, when I worked at Le Gavroche.”
10. Is Reestit Mutton Shetland’s national dish?
Many folk in Shetland think Reestit Mutton is the closest contender to being Shetland’s national dish.
Where can I get Reestit Mutton?
Reestit Mutton is available to order from from the Taste of Shetland Online Shop.
What about some recipes for cooking with Reestit Mutton?
Check out our reestit mutton recipes on our blog page here. There is also a wonderful recipe in Marian Armitage’s book “Shetland Food and Cooking” for Taatie Soup with Reestit Mutton. And a traditional recipe for Pickled Mutton in “Cookery for Northern Wives” by Margaret B. Stout, first published in 1925. Both books are available to order from the Taste of Shetland Online Shop.
Do you have a Reestit Mutton fact or story?
Did your family make reestit mutton at home? Do you have recipes or stories you would like to share with us? If so please contact us here - we would love to hear from you.