Alice Ball Strunk, proprietress of Hudspeth River Ranch Lamb, is descended from a long line of Texas ranchers. The family has been in the lamb business since 1905.
The Hudspeth River Ranch is located in Comstock on the Devil’s River, a pristine, benchmark river in West Texas on the edge of the Edwards Plateau and Chihuahuan Desert.
Claudia Ball, Alice’s mother, spent summers with her grandparents Claude B. Hudspeth and Elizabeth Ann Royal Hudspeth on the Hudspeth River Ranch where she actively participated in roundups and shearing. She would tell stories of leaving the house in the wee hours to ride horseback to the roundup at the other end of the ranch. This is when her love of ranching developed and is the legacy of Texas ranching shared by her daughter and instilled in her grandchildren.
When her mother passed away in 2011, Strunk began to explore the possibility of expanding the lamb business. In September of 2012, she and husband Billy Bob Strunk continued selling lamb to a few friends, including members on the board of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation where Alice Strunk has been a volunteer member for twenty years.
“They kept asking me when I was going to start a business,” said Strunk. “We had to figure market price, cuts and where we were going to sell our lamb.” The learning curve also included figuring out how to keep enough product on hand to provide year-round delivery.
Hudspeth River Ranch follows a holistic ranch management plan. Stock moves from pasture to pasture every three to five days. The Dorper sheep, a domesticated South African breed has been crossbred with the St. Croix Hair Sheep at Hudspeth River Ranch because of the breed’s remarkable resistance to parasites and excellent lamb production. Hudspeth River Ranch lamb graze on grasses, wild sage and oregano, as well as drink from spring-fed waters.
The breed of Dorper sheep has been specifically developed over many years to produce meat — not wool. The meat from Dorper lambs is superior to most lamb on the market in a variety of important ways.
First of all, it possesses a mild, delicate flavor, unlike many consumers’ perception of lamb. Hudspeth River Ranch lamb inspires culinary creativity. Traditional cuts of lamb chops, racks, leg and shank make memorable meals.
The leanness of the Dorper lamb ensures that there is little trim necessary. Not only does this increase yield, it also significantly reduces lamb fat, a leading source of distaste by many diners.
Hudspeth Dorper lambs are bred for meat production, and are more heavily muscled than most wool breeds. This means that, pound per pound, there is more meat on the Dorper. In addition, grass-fed lamb has been shown to average at least 25 percent more omega-3s than conventionally fed lamb.
The first restaurateur to purchase lamb from Hudspeth River Ranch Lamb was Randy Mathews of Boudros’ Texas Bistro on the Riverwalk and Zinc Bistro and Wine Bar. He purchased boneless legs, shanks and ground meat for lamb burgers. “He sold 30 lamb burgers the first day they were offered,” Strunk said.
In January of this year, the Strunk and her husband began selling to retail customers at the open air Quarry Farmer’s & Rancher’s Market every Sunday at The Alamo Quarry Market, 255 E. Basse Road., from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Whole and half lamb, as well as racks, Frenched rib chops, leg, shoulder, shanks, loin chop T-bones, ribs, ground and stew meat are available.
For those with a palate for offal and byproducts, lamb belly, heart, liver, kidney, tongue, head and sweetbreads are also sold.
Strunk has produced a cookbook, Hudspeth River Ranch’s Lamb Cookbook, with her mother, grandmother and many friend’s recipes. She is currently working on a second edition of the cookbook.
For more information on Hudspeth River Ranch lamb contact Alice Ball Strunk at 210-602-8501.