The distance between South Africa and Elkhart is over 8000 miles, but that doesn’t mean the two aren’t connected.

Lamb ready to be taken off spit and craved after 5 1/2 hours of roasting. (Photo supplied by Sally Klopper)
Lamb ready to be taken off spit and craved after 5 1/2 hours of roasting.
(Photo supplied by Sally Klopper)

Born and raised in Free State, S.A., Jacques and Sally Klopper emigrated from their homeland in 1997. Employment opportunities took them to California, China, North Carolina and Holland before their 2011 arrival in Elkhart. According to Jacques, they “love [the] Midwest and plan to stay here.”

Last month, the couple hosted a Braai [phonetically BRY] in their backyard for a group of 40-50 people that included Barb and me. Braai is Afrikaans for grill or grilling, typically beef or lamb, and represents an important cultural tradition in South Africa. As a result, much experience and passion was put into this event.

Braai master, Jacques Klopper, monitoring progress during the early afternoon. (Photo supplied by Sally Klopper)
Braai master, Jacques Klopper, monitoring progress during the early afternoon. (Photo supplied by Sally Klopper)

I offered my motorized spit and a lamb was provided by Donna and Keith Glueckert. They raise sheep at their farm on State Road 2, just west of South Bend. Side dishes were brought by attendees.

During our meal, it was reported that Keith selected the lamb by asking his flock which one “wants to go see Sally” and an unsuspecting volunteer came forward. The animal was butchered the day before the braai. It had a dressed weight of 34 pounds and was kept for several hours in the freezer before being taken out and secured on the spit skewer.

Jacques mixed a “free hand” dry rub that was then applied to the animal’s interior body cavity and outside surfaces. Check out the list of spices he used below.  Rosemary is a traditional ingredient that he prefers to exclude.

JACQUES’ DRY RUB

• Salt and black pepper
• Coriander, cloves and garlic powder
• Mexican lime (found in the ethnic food section) that comes in a small container
• Crushed red chili peppers

SALLY’S LAMB BASTE

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoons garlic minced
• 2 tablespoons ketchup
• 1 tablespoon plum jam/sauce
• 1/2 cup original Coca Cola

The lamb was left cool overnight.

The next morning, a charcoal fire was started and the skewered lamb was placed over the fire box before 10:30 a.m. The meat rotated over the coals and was basted intermittently with a tangy and juicy concoction prepared by Sally (see recipe to the left).

For me, roasted lamb calls for a more fruit forward medium bodied red wine. A California Pinot Noir or Zinfandel would work well. A New Zealand Pinot Noir from the Central Ontago region is also a logical choice. Pinot Noir is to lamb and New Zealand as Malbec is to beef and Argentina. Nine bags of charcoal and 5½ hours later later, the meat was done and ready to be carved. The wind had been blowing and presented a challenge to having the heat properly directed upward.

I was most anxious to bring two Balkan Peninsula wines from my cellar. After all, lamb is a staple of that region.

Slovenian dry Riesling on left and a Croatian medium-bodied red on the right. (Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)
Slovenian dry Riesling on left and a Croatian medium-bodied red on the right.
(Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)
  • 2008 Verus dry Riesling, from Slovenia — purchased at Lush Wine and Spirits in Chicago:
    The Chicago Avenue store specializes in SE European wines. The wine had pronounced peach aromas with zippy acidity and lingering rich honey, apricot flavors. It made for a wonderful aperitif.
  • 2008 Neven Vuina, Plavac Mali, from Croatia — found at Andersonville Wine & Spirits on Chicago’s northside:
    Plavac Mali is an indigenous red grape that has parentage from the Zinfandel grape, also known as Primitivo in Italy. There were aromas of plum and earth with flavors of dark red fruit and herbs to the palate with a long finish.

The pairing of this rustic wine with the succulent lamb did not disappoint. Both offered distinctive taste elements which beautifully complemented the other.

Jacques and a friend carving the roasted leg of lamb. (Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)
Jacques and a friend carving the roasted leg of lamb. (Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)

I concur with Michael Broadbent when he said, “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”  To our friends the Klopper’s, “baie dankie” for your hospitality and sharing your heritage.  We’re glad you call Elkhart home.

VIGNETTES:

A portion of the Klopper braai attendees enjoying good food and good wine. (Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)
A portion of the Klopper braai attendees enjoying good food and good wine.
(Flavor 574 photo/Frank Piaskowy)
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