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Lamb Shoulder Croatian Style

With some much-needed comp time off from work, I've decided to try to replicate the slow-Roasted lamb of my forefathers from Croatia. The style there, and throughout much of former Yugoslavia, is whole lamb slow cooked on a rotisserie over coals. Most common seasoning ar simple: garlic, salt, maybe an herb or two.  We don't do lemons--that's more of a Greek thing (and very, very good). My ethnic kin men do prefer a week-done lamb, no pink, and this is the most-common centerpiece of any celebration. See The Lamb Roasters of St. Jerome



(In fact, there's an island in the Adriatic Sea called Pag, where the lambs roam free end eat aromatic herbs like rosemary and oregano beside the sea---they literally season themselves and that roasted lamb is famous for its flavor.)


Becaue There's no egg large enough for an entire lamb, I decided to try to a shoulder instead, picked up from Nea Agora lamb on Taylor street, an old-school place in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood where three generations of my family have bought lambs, whole or in pieces. The shoulder was about 8.5 pounds, which Nea Agora rounded down to $40. That's a really good price for US lamb in Chicago. 



I trimmed the waxy fat, and then pierced the meat in several places and inserted some kosher salt, a tiny bit of dried rosemary and marjoram, and a hefty helping of slivered garlic cloves. As the counter guy said to me yesterday, "You Croatians like a little lamb with your garlic," which is definitely true. I finished it off with a dusting of kosher salt and let it sit overnigt for a dry brining effect. 



The shoulder want on the Egg a few minutes ago, atop my AR and a bed of coals (Kamado Joe Big Block from the Costco Road Show).  Grate temp is holding steady at 225°. I threw on a small piece of post oak for flavor because the KJ lump is so very neutral. (Keep in mind that when my grandfather came to this country, they immediately moved to Kingsford, so I need something with a little smoke flavor and I don't have any petroleum refining byproducts available.)  




I'm figuring I have about 5-6 hours minimum until we get to 185ish, and I'll start probing for the feel I'm used to.  I have no idea how this will turn out, and this is a Thursday test run for possible cooks is the future. I'll update with details and finished pictures once the cook is done.  

If if all else fails, I have my grandpa's spit and can do things that way. The whole point was trying to see if the Egg can do it and avoid burning a patch of grass in my very small city backyard. 

Thanks for looking. 

Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
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Comments

  • kl8tonkl8ton Posts: 2,296
    AWESOME!
    LBGE - 36Blackstone
    Grand Rapids MI
  • HeavyGHeavyG Posts: 4,934
    Looking good!

    There is a rotisserie available that works on the BGE XL. Regrettably, it still won't help to fit a whole lamb on an XL tho. :)

    It's a little pricey but if one does like to spin meat frequently it is probably worth the money.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XCGTT9D/ref=s9_dcacsd_dcoop_bw_c_x_1_w
    Camped out in the (757/804)
  • Looking forward to the results!!

    In a full time state of entropious nebulinity as Head Brewmeister and Chief Flatulator @ Rancho Loco Brewery and Flatutorium, Kirkland, TN

  • LegumeLegume Posts: 8,206
    Watching this.  Looks and sounds great.
    Austin, TX
  • TheophanTheophan Posts: 2,127
    Wow -- this is SO COOL!!!

    I LOVE learning about traditional methods of cooking/smoking/grilling, and though my church have met a few people from the Balkans and became very interested in the foods of the many countries in that region.  Thanks for posting this, and I'll be very interested in the final results!

    FWIW, I usually get better results at 250° or above, and I think the BGE just seems to work better than below 250°, but whatever works for you!  I'm eager to see more pictures as this cook progresses.  Thanks for sharing!
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    danguba78 said:
    With some much-needed comp time off from work, I've decided to try to replicate the slow-Roasted lamb of my forefathers from Croatia. The style there, and throughout much of former Yugoslavia, is whole lamb slow cooked on a rotisserie over coals. Most common seasoning ar simple: garlic, salt, maybe an herb or two.  We don't do lemons--that's more of a Greek thing (and very, very good). My ethnic kin men do prefer a week-done lamb, no pink, and this is the most-common centerpiece of any celebration. See The Lamb Roasters of St. Jerome



    <snip>

    Becaue There's no egg large enough for an entire lamb, I decided to try to a shoulder instead, ...

    <snip>

    If if all else fails, I have my grandpa's spit and can do things that way. The whole point was trying to see if the Egg can do it and avoid burning a patch of grass in my very small city backyard. 

    Thanks for looking. 

    Duuuuuude!  I love where you are headed with this.

    I have two conflicting comments to this:
    1. The BGE is a great tool for (relatively) easily replicating the  roasting/grilling/smoking processes from traditional food ways.  I love it that instead of another pork butt (no offense, pulled pork is great), you are bringing forward a traditional preparation.  If you figure it out, you should take your show on the road and do an EggFest with it
    2. Success or no, you will have a hollow place in your heart until you put a very big pit in your very small backyard and do a whole lamb.  Do, however, keep a fire extinguisher handy.  I recommend a CO2 one, since it won't ruin your food.
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • danguba78danguba78 Posts: 74
    edited September 2017
    Thanks to all for the encouragement. The Egg has crept up to 250ish, which is where always ends up after a couple of hours, and I'm fine with that.  Meat is 120ish, not even at the stall. (I assume there's a stall with lamb--we'll see.). It's true that nothing will ever take the place of turning a whole animal, and I do miss being able to watch it cook, but if this works, it just might be a good way to continue the tradition in those situations where an entire lamb might be overkill. (Or so I'm told.  To me, there's no such thing as overkill. ) 

    I had a rotssierie for my Weber, and I have been coveting the JoetisserieXL for a while. I haven't pulled the trigger yet, still new to Egging and want to improve basic skills before jumping into that. Also, I continue to hold out hope that BGE might come out with an EggTisserie™ of its own some day. Plus, I spent a ton outfitting my AR--money well spent, mind you--and I can't justify the spend right now. 

    I'll update further as the cook progresses. 
    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • kl8tonkl8ton Posts: 2,296
    Don't hold your breath for the eggtisserie.  Did you see the new cap they are purportedly releasing! :smile:


    Update us with pics.  This is a fabulous cook.

    LBGE - 36Blackstone
    Grand Rapids MI
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 22,993
    what texture are you looking for, ive gotten to semi pullable with an internal just over 210 for a leg of lamb, never tried the shoulder
  • Looking for semi pullable to pullable. I know it by feel, which is how dad and uncles always tell. We never used thermometers, so I figure I'll start probing at 185ish, but taking it to 200 might where it goes. 
    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • bgebrentbgebrent Posts: 16,468
    This looks tremendous.  Standing by.
    Sandy Springs & Dawsonville Ga
  • Carolina QCarolina Q Posts: 12,994
    Love posts like this! With some background, family history, "old country" stuff!  Looking forward to the results!

    @SciAggie should be along shortly, drooling over this as an idea for his next experiment. :) And BTW, I'm not so sure a pit like his would be too hard to create - or too large for a small yard. His is permanent (and then there's the WFO right next to this), but this part could really be nothing more than some dry-stacked blocks and a rotisserie if you wanted to do a test run. 

    I hate it when I go to the kitchen for food and all I find are ingredients!

                                                                …Unknown

    Michael 
    Central Connecticut 

  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    edited September 2017
    ...And BTW, I'm not so sure a pit like his would be too hard to create - or too large for a small yard. His is permanent (and then there's the WFO right next to this), but this part could really be nothing more than some dry-stacked blocks and a rotisserie if you wanted to do a test run. 
    You mean something like this:



    Cinder blocks are cheap, and you don't even need the thermal mass of the sand if you are keeping a fire rocking.
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • SciAggieSciAggie Posts: 3,564
    @Carolina Q There are a lot of great ideas if you search the internet or Pinterest for "Argentine grill". I took my ideas from a cross section of what I saw online.
    Coleman, Texas
    Large BGE & Mini Max for the wok. A few old camp Dutch ovens and a wood fired oven.
    "Bourbon slushies. Sure you can cook on the BGE without them, but why would you?"
                                                                                                                          YukonRon
  • Update, about 6hours into the cook: We still have a way to go. Probing at about 175 in various spots. The shank is, as I expected, a lot further along than the rest of the shoulder. The bulk of the meat mass is still very firm.  

     What’s interesting is that very little of the fat has rendered off the surface, and there’s not a whole lot of fat in the drip pan. Also, when doing this on the rotisserie, it’s very aromatic—the whole neighborhood knows what you’re up to. Here, I’m not getting any of those smells. Maybe direct v. Indirect? Nothing dripping on the coals?

    Good thing I wasn’t planning on this for dinner, it’s going to be a few more hours. I’m thinking about bumping the temp to 300-325 to help the rendering along. 


    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • I am enjoying this cook.  My grandmothers family was from the island of Krk in Croatia and growing up we had a lamb roast each summer in a cinder block pit.  The whole family would come over when it was put on the spit and hang out drinking and partying all day.  Looking forward to how yours turns out.
    Valley City, Ohio
  • Krk? We're practically neighbors. One side of my family comes from outside Rijeka, on the mainland just up a bit. You can see Krk from the house my grandfather was born in. (It's gorgeous.) 

    probing now at about 190°. Getting close. The biggest muscle mass is still a little firm. I'll check it again in 30-45 minutes. Kicking up the temp helped render the day a bit and improved the color. 


    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • Carolina QCarolina Q Posts: 12,994
    Hope it tastes as good as it looks!

    I hate it when I go to the kitchen for food and all I find are ingredients!

                                                                …Unknown

    Michael 
    Central Connecticut 

  • bgebrentbgebrent Posts: 16,468
    And...?
    Sandy Springs & Dawsonville Ga
  • I took it off at 10, when the color and texture seemed right. 



    I let let it rest for 20 minutes, but couldn’t resist taking a taste. 




    I chunked it up, not pulled, more like pieces or individual muscles. 



    The verdict?  Good, but no substitute for a rotisserie.  The texture was there, and it looks right, and the salt and garlic definitely came through, but something was missing. I don’t know if it’s because the shoulder was done direct the entire time and didn’t get any flame, but a certain flavor was missing. Maybe it’s because the KJ lump is so neutral, but it almost didn’t taste like I had cooked it on a grill or over fire at all. Also, I was surprised by how much fat didn’t render out. That could be a function of the meat itself, but when turning a lamb, a lot more is liquified and ends up on the fire. 

    If if I do it again, I’ll run at a higher temp the entire time.  I might also try doing it raised direct, high up in the dome atop my AR. 

    I also realize how how much I actually enjoy watching it turn and cook. 
    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    Great cook.  Thanks for walking us through it.

    I predict a proper fire hazard in you future.
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 22,993
    when i did this cook with the leg i had similar thoughts about it. if i did it again i would have a strong garlic type sauce served with it. i like lamb with some charring as well, direct over the flame would really help. the other thing with the low and slow was the fat, i did not like it at all compared to other lamb type cooks, it needs to be removed before cooking low and slow in an egg
  • Yeah, I was really, really surprised about the fat.  When doing a rotisserie lamb, it almost all renders out.  The hard part was trying to convert old folkways into something more scientific.  

    Uncle 1: It's too hot. I can feel the fire on my shins, you're not supposed to feel the fire on your shins.
    Uncle 2: Then raise it up a bit.  Use some bricks.
    Cousin1: No, we need more heat. You're supposed to feel the fire on your face.  
    Dad: Look at the leg, it's gotta get floppy.  It's not floppy yet.
    Grandpa [heavily accented English]: In old country, we used to turn lamb by hand.  While fighting Nazis and Communists.  When you do that, you can have opinion.  Leave it alone.

    Then everyone does a shot of homemade plum brandy and does what grandpa said.  

    Because I have no idea what temps we used on the spit, I just used pork shoulder techniques. Lesson learned--a higher temp would help.  

    I still wonder how a cut like the shoulder would do over the flame, high up in the dome at a lower (325ish) temp.  I may try this again, or I might do a leg next time, but I have to do something to get a bit more char flavor on there.  

    All in all, it was a fun cook, and the lamb tasted better than most of what I could get in a restaurant, but it still isn't a full replacement for spit turning.  Of course, I'm not sure I want it to be.  Half the fun is trussing (with all the argument you'd expect about the proper way to tie an animal to a spit with the group of jokers in my family), and then sitting around, watching it cook, listening to people tell stories and BS.  


    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • 20stone20stone Posts: 1,481
    danguba78 said:
    Yeah, I was really, really surprised about the fat.  When doing a rotisserie lamb, it almost all renders out.  The hard part was trying to convert old folkways into something more scientific.  
    When you get this wired (which I think you will with raised direct), you will be able to take your family back with you to the fire debate.  You are right in that it won't be the same, but, once you have it down, you can bang it out on demand.

    danguba78 said:

    Uncle 1: It's too hot. I can feel the fire on my shins, you're not supposed to feel the fire on your shins.
    Uncle 2: Then raise it up a bit.  Use some bricks.
    Cousin1: No, we need more heat. You're supposed to feel the fire on your face.  
    Dad: Look at the leg, it's gotta get floppy.  It's not floppy yet.
    Grandpa [heavily accented English]: In old country, we used to turn lamb by hand.  While fighting Nazis and Communists.  When you do that, you can have opinion.  Leave it alone.

    Then everyone does a shot of homemade plum brandy and does what grandpa said.  

    <snip>

    Half the fun is trussing (with all the argument you'd expect about the proper way to tie an animal to a spit with the group of jokers in my family), and then sitting around, watching it cook, listening to people tell stories and BS.  

    Two bits of advice:
    • I would learn to make rakija (or procure a reasonable substitute).  It sounds like a critical piece of the ritual.  I know it was a great accompaniment to cooking with my Croatian neighbors in the Chicago area
    • You really have to get this figured out (both on the egg and on the spit).  The way things go, soon enough, you'll be the uncle, then the dad and then the grandpa.
    LBGE since 2008 and a MM from 2016
    Karubeque C-60 Dishwasher (when time is no object)
    Owner of multiple large scale refrigeration devices (sometimes too many)
    Vertically integrated BBQ and charcuterie operator, for recreational use only
    Elicitor of secrets from goats through unconventional methods
    Sourdough bread enthusiast

    Houston, TX

  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 22,993
    the plumb brandy just might be the key. was introduced to Gazdina Rakija Plum Brandy by a bosnian friend a couple years back. keep it on the shelf now for visits. bothe the plum and the pear. that stuff is not what an american would call a brandy =)
  • If you know rakija, then you know what I'm talking about. Definitely a critical piece of the ritual.  The plum stuff we made is a version of rakija called šljivovicija.  It was fuel for a rocket ride, let me tell you.  

    I had an uncle whose specialty was taking rakija, adding a bunch of cherries and a handful of sugar to the bottle, and letting it sit for months.  That stuff was dangerous--no burn at all, but 100 proof.  



    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • Yeah, we always translated "rakija" as brandy or schnapps, and it was definitely misleading to Americans unfamiliar with the stuff.  They were expecting Apple Pucker and got something else entirely.  

    I think Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian jet fuel might make more sense.  
    Bridgeport, Chicago, IL
    XLBGE, MiniMax BGE
  • calikingcaliking Posts: 11,115
    Really enjoyed following along with you for this cook. The egg is good for different styles of grilling,  smoking, baking, BBQ, etc. but it often can't beat certain old school devices like a spit, WFO, tandoor and other stuff.

    I can hear your blood singing it. Mount a lamb on a spit over an open fire. You know you want to. We want you to. Then we want to come over and cook with your family. They sound like a fun bunch. :)

    #1 LBGE December 2012 • #2 SBGE February  2013 • #3 Mini May 2013
    A happy BGE family in Houston, TX.
  • thetrimthetrim Posts: 5,653
    My German in-laws love that "šljivovicija" stuff.  Me?  No thank you, sir!  That'll put hair on your chest, and back, and neck, and everywhere else.  I don't like that, but I do like this cook!

    =======================================
    XL 6/06, Mini 6/12, L 10/12, Mini #2 12/14 MiniMax 3/16
    Tampa Bay, FL
    EIB 6 Oct 95
  • bgebrentbgebrent Posts: 16,468
    Old school probably supersedes, but great walk through on a great cook.
    Sandy Springs & Dawsonville Ga
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