It is Saturday of Holy Week. We want to start with Kali Anastasi (Happy Resurrection of our Lord) to those who also celebrate Orthodox Easter. We are starting preparations for tomorrow (Easter Sunday), as are many families. Like ours, many other families who start preparing the Easter Feast from Saturday.
Actually, we probably started on Wednesday night after church, when we first made our Tsoureki. Then, Thursday (or Saturday for some) we dyed the red eggs. Thursday we also made our pites (pies) and started to pull out our serving dishes for various foods. We don't do any preparations on Friday because... well, because it is Holy and Good Friday, and that is just not right. So, Saturday comes and we scurry to get as much done as we can. One of the things that we cannot rush, and we cannot put off is getting the lamb ready for the souvla (the barbecue spit) . This year, we were lucky enough to have a good cousin to help us with this process. Cousin invited his father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law to join in the fun so that we had our hands free for photography. We wanted to find the best way to explain how to put the lamb on the souvla (the spit), season and tie it so that tomorrow, as it is cooking, you will know that the amount of work preparing the feast was so well worth it!
The first ting is that this is an art form. There are millions of people doing this same task, and we can safely guess that there are a million and one ways to do it the "right" way. Here are some links to YouTube videos on how some "Souvla Artistes" do their thing (here, here and here).
Different parts of Greece will have different seasonings, where different households will have different tools and methods. It just depends who you are with and what they like. We even know some people who will use all the same seasonings that we do, they tie the animal the same way, but they don't use a lamb -- they choose goat instead. So, you don't have to follow these exact steps; nor do you have to use a lamb!
First, buy the lamb. Most butcher stores around our house are aware of the Orthodox calendar, and know that they can get a good market on lambs this week. So, we did a little comparison shopping. The five stores that we checked all had similar pricing, with a $20 spread. For one 36-pound lamb, fully cleaned, we paid about $200.00 CDN. That may sound like a lot of money, but when you expect to feed 20 to 25 people off one animal, the price really comes down a lot. Everyone who comes is to bring a side dish or dessert. So, we don't really know what else will show up on the table, we just know that we are going to have lamb, and enjoy savouring the animal that we have not had since March.
So, with few words, here are the photographs which we took today. We would love to thank our cousin B., his father, his father-in law and his brother-in-law for giving allowing us to observe and record today's preparations. We not only appreciate their generosity but we also hope that today's entry will inspire some of our many readers (today we had over 300 from about 40 countries all around the world) to venture out and plan on roasting their own lamb on a spit next year.
|This is a custom-made 5 foot long (1.5 m) stainless steel spit ordered from Montreal, Canada. The sand in the bottom prevents flare-ups.|
|No motorized skewer for our cousin. He's lucky to have a father-in-law who insists on turning it entirely by hand. That way, the lamb is guaranteed to be beautifully cooked, not burned!|
|Small branches are used in the bottom to create the first embers...|
|...followed by larger, very dry thicker branches.|
|The tools were ready from the last time the souvla was used. The lemons, freshly cut and the spices were measured yesterday evening.|
|From top left to right (garlic powder, black pepper, salt)|
Bottom row left to right (chopped fresh garlic, Greek oregano, paprika)
|The star of tomorrow's dinner is about 30 lbs (about 12 kg). It is fresh, Ontario-grown lamb.|
|The organs are removed. The intenstines were already removed by the butcher.|
|The lamb is put on its side. The food stamp on the right shoulder is food-grade, usually made of a vegetable-based dye.|
|The skewer is pushed from the back of the lamb towards the front.|
|The big U-Clamp is pushed and secured into the hind of the animal.|
|Another U-Clamp is pushed and secured in from the back of the lamb.|
|Altogether, 6 U-Clamps have been used. Now, stainless steel wire is used to keep everything secure.|
|The U-Clamps as seen from the inside of the body cavity.|
|The squeezed lemons are left inside and the spices have covered the lamb's interior.|
|Next, the stainless steel wire is used to close the front of the lamb, with all the spices and lemons left inside.|
|The final 'suture' is closing the lamb totally shut.|
|About 6 complete lemons cut in half are squeezed all over the outside, top of the lamb and bottom.|
|Salt is applied to the outside (top and bottom)...|
|...as is black pepper and...|
|...and fragrant Greek oregano.|
|The spices are patted and rubbed into the skin to stick onto the skin well.|
|All the spices are in place. Now, for the...|
|...cloves of garlic which are pushed under the skin where a sharp knife has made holes throughout the lamb.|
|After the garlic pieces have bee placed inside the lamb's flesh, new, food-grade plastic bags (which came from the butcher) are put over the lamb.|
|The first of our two lambs (two will be cooked tomorrow) is ready to be put into our cousin's walk-in cold storage. Wow, we wish we had one of those!|
We are now going to get ready for an afternoon rest, followed by our preparation for the Resurrection Liturgy that will take place tonight.