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Middle Eastern Spiced Preserved Lamb (Qawarma)

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A good example of meat preservation in the Middle East is the Lebanese qawarma. Qawarma is highly seasoned pieces of lamb or mutton fried in melted fat from the fat-tailed Awassi sheep,then packed into earthenware,clay sealed jars and stored in a cool dry place. Once popular in the in the rural areas of Lebanon, this ancient dish is almost but forgotten.

Used to be a very young, usually six month old sheep was force fed grain, mulberry and vine leaves during the Spring/Summer months, then came early Fall was butchered in preparation for the coming months. But nowadays with modern conveniences and time constraints this ancient method of preservation has been lost.

Qawarma served a several purposes. It was mainly used to impart a meaty flavor to rice dishes when meat was unavailable. It also formed the basis for winter stews. Other uses included using it as a cooking fat and as a spread for bread. Below is a simplified, modern version recipe for qawarma.

*Note: Qawarma will keep well for 1 year and does not need refrigeration.

Yield:4-6 qts.

Ingredients:

-2 1/2 lbs. beef fat or margarine,melted

-5 lbs. lean lamb or mutton, cut into 1/2″cubes

-5 tsp. salt

-2 1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Place the melted beef fat or margarine in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add in the lamb or mutton, if using, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered. Stir regularly to make sure the lamb does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until lamb is well cooked.

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Place the meat in clear glass jars covered with 1/2″ of the fat. Seal tightly.

4. Store qawarma in a cool, dry place till ready for use. Before using, slightly warm the qawarma and discard the fat. Always return unused qawarma to cool, dry place after use.

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