Barbecued Mutton - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Barbecued Mutton

The slow-smoked sheep is a Western Kentucky specialty.

Barbecued mutton became a staple in Daviess County, Kentucky, with the rise of the area’s wool industry in the 1800s. Since young lambs had plenty of wool production ahead of them, farmers held off slaughtering their livestock until they were older. As such, the mature mutton meat was tough. But it was nothing that traditional barbecue techniques couldn’t fix.

Slow-smoked over hickory wood and basted with a sauce of water, vinegar, salt, and hot peppers, otherwise unwanted mature sheep meat turned into a smoky and spicy local delicacy. Though Western Kentucky doesn’t produce nearly as many sheep or servings of the dish, it’s still the only place you can tuck into the unique barbecued specialty.

While early pit masters roasted the whole sheep, modern barbecued mutton usually features the shoulder. Its basting sauce has also evolved, with most variations adding the likes of Worcestershire, garlic, and lemon. Though you can enjoy the barbecued meat mixed into a hearty local stew known as burgoo, its most common form is sliced on bread with a side of dipping sauce.

Need to Know

The city of Owensboro in Daviess County is known as “the barbecued mutton capital of the world.” You’ll find several restaurants serving the dish there.

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