Mutton Ham

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Mutton Ham

Mutton hams are a well-known dish of the Highlands and the Borders of the 18th century, made from old sheep as there were few pigs in Scotland. Mutton Hams were even a major export overseas from Glasgow.
In Shetland the cured meat was called Reestit Ham.

We have not found out yet whether this was hung first - Ageing the meat before will change its texture and its curing qualities…



Reestit Mutton

Reestit Mutton is mutton which is first salted in brine and then hung to dry traditionally in the rafters (Reest) of the house above a peat fire. The smoke from the peat fire helps to season the meat and after being smoked, the meat is cut up and put into a secret brine recipe which one butcher describes as approximately 80% salt to 20% sugar.
The mutton is left for 10-15 days and hung on hooks to dry. Once dry it will keep for years. The mutton has pale creamy fat, deep red meat and possesses a salty flavour due to the curing methods. The texture is hard and dry. The meat is often used as the basis for stocks, broths and soups and can also be eaten cold in a Shetland bannock which is a flat bread made of wheat.


The term ‘Vivda’ is said to be old Norse for ‘leg meat’. It is probable that Vivda was more traditional in Shetland that Reestit Mutton, certainly until salt became more widespread as a preservative.
The meat would be dried in special ventilated stone houses called ‘Skeos’ and would be sited nearby the seashore in order to harness the salty air. Some meat was actually dried in caves. Many of these Skeos can still be seen today. Vivda would be dried without any salt being applied and would hang for around 4-5 months before being consumed.
Unfortunately, consumption of Vivda began to die out in the late 18th century and by the mid 19th, had disappeared almost all together. Vivda remains a steadfast delicacy in the Faroe Islands and variations on a theme are widespread in the other Scandinavian territories.

one of the things about curing is that older animals have a more appropriate ph for curing. The older legs cure more successfully and have a much more complex flavour profile (which is one of the reasons why the best Prosciutto’s are made from older animals).
one of the reasons for there not being an established tradition in the UK of Italian style salami curing is the good old British weather
The high humidity does mean that there isn’t the possibility of making any air-dried product that would be safe to eat.
The cured mutton is to be cooked as you would do your ham and eggs for breakfast or for dinner at night. To add additional shelf life to the cured leg, it is (was) smoked (over the peat fire)

To dry a leg of mutton like ham:
Cut it like a Ham and take 2 oz. salt-petre and rub the Mutton all over and let it lie a day and make a Pickle of Bay Salt and spring water and put the Mutton in and let it lie 8 days and take and hang it in a chimney for 3 weeks, and then boil it till it is tender. The proper time to do it is in cold weather.
Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: Macdonald & Co., Ltd., 1962. p. 159.

1940 newspaper cutting

more modern

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