Presented by Kentucky Proud, The American Lamb Board, and Freedom Run Farm, the first annual Lamb Jam is from 2 to 4 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, April 8 at 21c Museum Hotel, celebrating the culinary heritage of lamb. Tickets are $25 and is for the public as well as culinary industry professionals who want to learn about the nose to tail method of cooking with lamb. The ticket price includes a Michter’s bourbon cocktail (followed by cash bar), live bluegrass music and attendees will enjoy lamb canapes as they watch chefs from Proof on Main and Harvest give live demonstrations.  Proceeds will be benefit Les Dames D’Escoffier Kentucky to provide scholarships to train female culinarians in the whole use of lamb. Read More to see the schedule and learn more about Kentucky Heritage Lamb.

This event and movement has been a collaborative process spearheaded by Valerie Samutin at Freedom Run Farm, who left her real estate career in Chicago — where she was also involved in the food scene — to follow her passion for sustainable meat at her farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky in 2010. She says that she has been thinking about Lamb Jam for years — “probably since she first moved to the farm” and was trying to decide what to do with her pastures. She decided on raising lambs and said that our state was once known up and down the Eastern seaboard as the best place to get premium lamb. She and her circle of collaborators, like Kentucky Proud,  are working to bring premium Kentucky lamb back to the market year-round

“[In Chicago] we had a get-away farm and enjoyed meats on the other side of the plate,” she said. “ In the course of the 2008 housing crisis, I felt like harvesting and bringing good food to the table and a variety of people joined to a table,  that celebration at the end of every day, is what it’s all about. It’s definitely been a journey of blood sweat and tears, but it’s so exciting to see it finally taking hold. I’ve been thinking of the lamb jam for years, and it’s come about through a collaboration with others of like mind, who are just as passionate about bringing premium quality sustainable Kentucky lamb back to the table. It gives real meaning and purpose to my life.”

The sustainable model she mentioned is a farm to fork approach. The farm is partnered with Superior Meats in Portland, the last family owned purveyor of meats to restaurants in Louisville.  They offer a larger clientele with larger kitchens and larger volume that in turn fuels that whole economic aspect of their sustainable circle. The meat is distributed to restaurants like Harvest, who has made a lamb tartare with added Benedictine or Red Hog, who has a roast leg of lamb sandwich with Benedictine.

“Lamb doesn’t have to be process or chops all the time. There’s this revival of using heritage recipes with heritage lamb, and it’s very dynamic and exciting — recipes that have a real sense of place,” said Samutin. “We’re developing a Kentucky Heritage Lamb Ham, and it’s wonderful served with heritage bourbon, which is why Michter’s is a good partner for our event.  I don’t think people have made it for over 100 years. It’s so exciting to think we’ve discovered something historical that we can bring back to the table.”

She went on to say that they are also working on some fun summer events with lamb barbecue, and that this circle has gained national attention. She said they are in dialogs with New York distributors and that their lamb was part of a dinner at the James Beard House in New York.

“I really think Kentucky is poised to be on the cutting edge of a new trend with whole lamb butchery. It is the easiest animal to begin familiarizing yourself with the nose to tail approach. It’s an ethical use of meat and it’s sustainable, and that sustainability is a cycle and it starts with our partner farmers. It’s a consortium of farmers that share the same genetics, management and methodology — back to our basics, back to our roots—  that has produced this quality reliable consistent premium lamb we will bring back to the market place year round.”

Learning about this ethical use of meat is what the Lamb Jam is all about. The event will happen in three rooms:

Main Room: Live bluegrass music and a demonstration of the sustainable processes with the chef’s approach to full lamb butchery with Proof’s Chef Mike Wajda and Chef Ouita Michel. As they demonstrate using different parts of the lamb, different canapes will be passed around for sampling.

Adjacent Room 1: The team from Harvest (Chef Jeff Dailey and Chef Ryan Smith) will be concentrating on the leg of lamb, performing their culinary art and talking about each muscle to gather as much center-of-the-plate cut as possible.

Adjacent Room 2, referred to as the  Offal Room: Proof’s Chef Noam Billitzer will showcase the culinary talent of using the liver,  heart, tongue, cheeks and other lesser known parts of the lamb, which Samutin says are also incredibly tasty.  

Raffle: Also benefiting the scholarship fund, there will be a $5 raffle  to win a the ultimate farm to table experience for four people. You can purchase tickets in advance when you buy tickets online. The winning group will schedule a day to learn about the process and start the day at Freedom Run Farm where they will be able to take a look at the flock and see how they are raised. Then, they will go down to Superior Meats to see how they are broken down and handled (not a slaughter, an animal after being harvested), followed by dinner or a late lunch at Proof on Main. The raffle will be held about 3:30 p.m. You don’t have to be present to win.

When Samutin asked if I’ve had lamb, I had to be honest in saying “I’ve maybe tasted it once, but I don’t remember much about the experience.”

She replied, “I think a lot of people are like that. There is so much lamb out there that isn’t fully finished or so many qualities of it. I was so delighted when our director of tourism — who had not had a good experience with lamb —  came and had our lamb and became a lamb lover. I think once people have had a fully finished lamb, they’ll be a lamb lover the rest of their life.”