WARNING: If you do not like the sight of raw meat or a little blood move along, this is not the post you are looking for.
We have tried so many new things since moving to our farm. We would never have thought about having the kids do 4-H projects if it was not for the neighbors, but that turned out to be a good experience for all of us. Growing more of our own vegetables has been great and adding chickens for meat into the mix has been the latest exciting food production challenge. Each of our lovely birds came home with a heart and liver that in the past we would not have eaten. All that has changed. Part of this experiment is to honor the animals we raise for food not only by trying to care for them in the best way we can, but also to make every effort to utilize all the components possible once they’re harvested. If that animal is going to give it’s life to nourish us, this is the least we can do to honor it. With that in mind we cooked up our first batch of chicken liver and heart recently.
This was super simple. We put a bit of bacon grease in the cast iron skillet and then added some diced onion, jalapeno, and a little garlic. Once that fried for a bit and the onion caramelized we added some salt, pepper, and paprika. The liver went in next for a couple minutes on each side and the heart was added for the last two minutes or so. The result was actually delicious.
We had recently discussed with a local hunter friend that we were interested in trying deer heart and liver. Since he typically does not eat those parts, he offered them to us the next time he got a deer. He contacted us early one morning this week, he had shot his first deer of the season. Within an hour he was at the house with a bag of organ meat and we were scrambling to figure out how to process it for consumption and storage.
After watching a few YouTube videos and reading a few blog posts we got to work processing. The heart was simple: cut and remove all the “heart strings” (chordae tendineae). We then cut half the heart into cubes for marinating and the other half we froze for later. The cubes were marinated in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
After an hour marinating we fried the heart up in bacon grease and it was ready to eat.
The liver was a little more involved than the heart. Since the liver functions as a filter, extracting toxins from the blood, it has a good bit of blood in it and in order to mellow the flavor somewhat you want to extract as much of the blood as possible before cooking or freezing. Wet first cut the liver into sections to expose the inside; there is a skin on the outside of the liver. The cut pieces were then soaked for a few hours in a brine to extract some of the blood. We then rinsed the pieces and put them back into a lemon juice and water solution to soak overnight to extract more of the blood. The liver looked very different by the end than it had at the beginning, much less blood and the color had lightened significantly.
We cooked part of the liver for dinner (it was almost 3 1/2 pounds!) by slicing it into 1/4″ strips, soaking it in milk for an hour, rolling in coconut flour, salt and pepper, and frying in bacon grease; we like bacon grease. The heart is absolutely delicious and the liver is not bad but not anyone’s favorite, although very nutrient dense. We may try some variations on the liver in the future to see if there is a preparation we enjoy more. We have a recipe for meathloaf that we’ve been wanting to try using ground beef and liver. We also have about 4 pounds of liver from the 1/4 cow we bought earlier in the summer. We will continue to try new things since that seems to be a theme.