We bought a pig. A whole pig. That’s a lot of meat. And because we like food projects we told the butcher we wanted all the scraps, organs and leaf lard. We knew we wanted to make sausage with the scraps instead of having the butcher make all the sausage for us. That way, we could try some recipes in the Charcuterie book we’d purchased earlier this year. We made hot Italian sausage, sage and ginger breakfast sausage, chorizo, as well as pancetta, guanciale, and two types of pate. I’m sure we’ll highlight some of these meat projects in the months to come as the Dark Days progress.
When we received our meat, I didn’t know what we’d do with the organs including the liver, heart and kidneys. All I knew was that I didn’t want the butcher to throw them away. For the past three years I’ve become more and more involved with where my food comes from, how it’s raised and what I chose to spend my food dollars on. I’m a big proponent of “nose to tail” eating. It makes economic and environmental sense to me. It respects the animal you chose to eat. I just hadn’t actually done it. So, since we were grinding all those pork scarps for the sausages anyway, I figured it was a good time to decide what would become of the organ meat.
First off, we didn’t didn’t eat the kidneys. Based on an experience I had with my husband and brother-in-law (hi Ryan!) a few summers ago at a lamb roast celebration in Canada, I wasn’t interested in trying them. That’s saying a lot because I’ll usually try almost anything once. It annoys me when I hear people says, “I don’t like xyz”, when maybe they just haven’t had it prepared the right way. And who knows, maybe I’d like kidneys if they were prepared well, but based on Tyler and Ryan’s description (rusty pipe) and the look on Tyler’s face, AND the fact that I did cook them and our cat wouldn’t eat them; we didn’t eat the kidneys. But I digress.
What did we do with the pork liver and heart? We made meatballs.
We made a British dish called Faggots with Onion Gravy from The River Cottage Meat Book . It is an excellent book about what to do with the bits and parts you’re inexperienced cooking with. I was nervous! I wasn’t sure I’d like liver and heart meatballs. I like liver pate to a point, but it has a strong flavor and I can’t eat too much of it. So the thought of eating liver and heart meatballs (there’s sausage and bacon and spices in them too, but c’mon!) was challenging. Eventually I thought to myself, “Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall is a meat expert and I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t at least try this, Who who knows, maybe I’ll even like it.”. They were wrapped in bacon after all.
So I ground up the liver and heart and, I’m not going to lie, it was kind of gross. Liver has a slippery texture and a strong smell. The recipe warned that because liver is so juicy, as it goes through the meat grinder it might squirt.
I’m not selling this very well am I?
Well, I just powered through it. I tried not to get turned off by the texture. I tried to think about how the pig we purchased had a good life and a humane death and I was doing my part to not be wasteful with the meat that pig had provided us.
In the end, they were tasty. Tyler and I both liked them. They tasted a bit like liver, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Plus, like I said, they were wrapped in bacon instead of caul fat, as the recipe had called for. We thought the bacon was a good choice because in our house we like to say, “Either you like bacon or you’re wrong.” I totally stole that from a Facebook post someone linked to a few weeks back, but I love it.
There were a lot of steps to this recipe and I’m sure most of you won’t make it. But if you find yourself with 8oz of fresh pig’s liver and a pig’s heart, email me and I’ll send you the recipe.
The onion gravy consisted of classic stock reduction. I reduced 2 quarts of homemade beef broth with a half a bottle of red wine until it was thick and glossy. I caramelized two onions from Nate of Frog Song Farm and added them to the reduced stock.
I boiled two pounds of organic, WA grown Russet potatoes with one pound of celeriac from our garden until they were tender. Then I drained them and added some butter and milk.
We also enjoyed a simple cabbage salad adapted from a recipe in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg. I shredded some green cabbage from the garden and dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and lots of fresh ground pepper.
It felt good to like this dinner because not only did it taste good, it pleased me to eat something I wasn’t sure I would like.