It's not every day that you run into a shepherd.
Well, technically I didn't run into him, I ran over to him to get a better look at what he was using to baste a lamb on a spit. "It's rosemary," said Craig Rogers, shepherd and owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick Springs, Virginia, holding up a handful of branches tied with twine. "Rosemary and lamb go together like peanut butter and jelly, or bourbon and a big ice cube."
I knew the hearty herb paired well with lamb and other meats, but I'd never considered its usefulness as both a tool and ingredient. This is one of many reasons why I'm a writer and not a shepherd.
"The idea is to continually infuse the marinade with the rosemary and if a few needles fall onto the lamb, all the better," Rogers explained with a smile. "And if some falls into the fire or onto the coals, it adds a fabulously herbaceous smoke."
Rogers roasts his lamb with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then mops on a marinade made with the traditional Greek "SLOOP," or salt, lemon, olive oil, oregano and pepper. To make the rosemary mop, he takes a wooden dowel or spoon and ties several branches of rosemary to it.
"Rosemary holds up well during hours of immersion in liquid where other leafy herbs will wilt," Rogers says. "It takes six hours to roast a lamb, so having a mop with some structural integrity is important."
In addition to the rosemary infusion during the cooking process, Rogers adds freshly chopped rosemary to any of his lamb cuts—chops, loin, sirloin, shoulder, leg—a few minutes before they're done. "Encrusting the meat with rosemary allows the grill to toast the herb and make it even more delicious," he says.
For some great lamb recipes—and adorable photos of lambs frolicking in the field—visit borderspringsfarm.com.