Roasted Leg of Lamb

Roasted meat was the staple of the English and colonial diet of the 18th century. This recipe demonstrates the true process of roasting as it was practiced by our forefathers. Archeologists tell us that lamb or mutton were the third most-consumed meats in colonial Virginia.

18th Century

Observations on Roasting and Boiling (Leg of Lamb)
When you roast any Kind of Meat, it is a very good Way to put a little Salt and Water in your Dripping Pan, baste your Meat a little with it, let it dry, then dust it well with Flour, baste it with fresh Butter, it will make your Meat a better Colour; observe always to have a brisk clear Fire, it will prevent your Meat from dazing, and the Froth from falling, keep it a good Distance from the Fire, if the Meat is scorched, the Outside is hard and prevents the Heat from penetrating into the Meat, and will appear enough before it be a little more than half done. Time, Distance Basting often, and a clear Fire, is the best Method I can prescribe for roasting Meat to Perfection; when the Steam draws near the Fire, it is a Sign of its being enough; but you will be the best Judge of that from the Time you put it down.

Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, p.42.

21st Century

  • leg of lamb
  • butter or olive oil for basting
  • salt and pepper to taste

Rotisserie method

  1. Using modern rotisserie equipment, follow the manufacturer’s directions
    for trussing, timing, and safety.

Oven method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting rack and pan. Baste the leg with butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake at 450°F for ½ hour until dark crust is starting to form on the outside of the meat.
  4. Reduce oven heat to 325°F and bake for 2 hours or until the desired internal temperature is reached.

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8 Responses to “Roasted Leg of Lamb”

  1. February 27th, 2011

    Jo Ann Ptack says:

    I first larded this leg of lamb so that it would be self basting then roasted it using a bottlejack.

  2. February 28th, 2011

    Jan says:

    What’s a “bottlejack”?

    • March 1st, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Bottle jacks are a form of clock jack for turning the meat in front of the fire. They are usually circular and hang in front of the fire or off the bottom of the mantel. The video shows a standard clock jack for this recipe.

      Frank Clark

  3. May 13th, 2011

    Sarah says:

    I am doing a reasearch project on this in school!

  4. August 11th, 2012

    Charles says:

    I was wondering you said in the video that Lamb was the the third most eaten meat I was wondering what the first two were.

    • August 13th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Good question. Beef and pork consistently vied for first and second place throughout the 18th century with lamb/mutton coming in third. Beef and pork are still number one and number two with chicken vaulting into number three in modern times.

      Dennnis Cotner

  5. March 18th, 2013

    David Baylor says:

    We are coming over spring break. Is this served in any of the taverns?

    • March 18th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:


      Menus for the historic taverns can be found here. Enjoy your visit while you’re with us!

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