What’s so awful about offal?
A few weeks ago I had the intense pleasure of attending an Offal workshop put on by a dear friend Susan Quirk of Quirks & Quarts on Facebook or you can visit her website as well. You will never be bored or come away without learning some wonderous new trick you had not known or thought of before.
The day was spent with my favorite parts of the animals I have grown to love even as a small child. Raised by my thrifty war veteran Grandfather who did not hesitate to send me to school with beef tongue sandwiches on homemade rye bread. I attribute my ninja fighting skills to him and my unique and usually odiferous school lunches (in paper bags and wax paper sandwich backs when everyone else had the magical Suran Wrap and designer lunch boxes. Instead of digging in my heels and refusing these oddities in lunch fare I embraced them and at an early age to as I write this blog I acquired a love for all the chewy bits most people feed to their lucky dogs or into the trash. in favor of the (to me) bland, boring and unpalatable white, dry, bland, even
To this very day I favor these mishappen, flavorful, mouth gymnastics versions of good to their, boring, unpalatable, white, dry, bland, even textured, socially acceptable counterparts. Even as I reflect upon this splendid workshop my mouth waters and the idea of a mundane chicken breast makes me cringe, but bring on that amazing chicken feet soup! ~Lana Salant
And so it begins!
The inny bits of the animals that most people throw away today are called offal. Traditionally these bits were saved for the ill, pregnant or newly married and children. Offal was considered sacred by many cultures around the world. It seems people understood without labs telling them so that these bits were the most nutrient dense.
Liver is the most nutrient dense traditional food. It is advisable for people to consume 3-4 ounces once or twice an week. If you are pregnant, nursing, preparing to become pregnant, convalescing or anemic, an athlete, or under great stress, it would be best to eat liver more often.
The liver filters toxins from the blood but does not store toxins. Toxins are stored in fat tissue. Pastured animals will have more nutritious livers and organs because of their diet. Liver is high in vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, antioxidants, copper, iron, and zinc.
A great way to get more liver in your diet is to cut frozen liver in to bite size pieces and swallow whole while still frozen. Make sure to freeze for 14 days. You can also grate into tomato juice, or add grated liver to meatballs, meatloaf or hamburgers.
The inny bits are super nutrient dense in vitamins and minerals but so are the outer bits. Generally we don’t eat the feet, though the most adventurous may add some to the stock pot. Feet are a powerhouse of gut healing gelatin. They do take a little more work than just throwing a slab of meat on the grill to make them edible but they are worth the extra work!
Heart and tongue are the muscleyist of the inny bits. They are the bridge between the muscle meats and the offals. More flavour and nutrients than a steak without the soft texture of liver. If you’re new to offal these are the cuts you should start with. They also require some cleaning, an unpeeled tongue is not for the squeamish!
Animal fats are still given a bad rap but they were given this reputation but the vegetable shortening producers at the beginning of the twentieth century. Science is finally coming around to show that the vegetable fats are inflammatory and health reducing while animal fats, along with avocado and olive oil, are found to be health promoting. In fact, lard from pastured pigs is one of the best food sources of vitamin D.
Bone marrow. Blends wonderfully into bone broth or stock. Is terrific roasted and slathered on toast, almost a browned butter flavour. Makes a delicious base for custards, savoury or sweet. You can mix it raw with cacao and honey for the most amazing truffles. Something like that should be the most super of the superfoods! It does all this and packs a nutritional punch.
Weston Price provides us with a good example: “For the Indians living inside the Rocky Mountain Range in the far North of Canada, the successful nutrition for nine months of the year was largely limited to wild game, chiefly moose and caribou. During the summer months the Indians were able to use growing plants. During the winter some use was made of bark and buds of trees. I found the Indians putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including the wall of parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. It is important that skeletons are rarely found where large game animals have been slaughtered by the Indians of the North. The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones. These Indians obtain their fat-soluble vitamins and also most of their minerals from the organs of the animals. An important part of the nutrition of the children consisted in various preparations of bone marrow, both as a substitute for milk and as a special dietary ration” (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 6th Edition, page 260). Learn more here.
All of the great reasons we have for eating offal, feet and fat apply to pastured, grassfed/finished animals. Happy animals that lead healthy lives. If money is an issue, and honestly in the Alberta right now money is an issue, and you need to eat store-bought meat muscle cuts are your best option. When we talked about liver I told you that the toxins are stored in the fat. You don’t want to eat the fat of a CAFO animal. The good thing is that the cuts of meat we’re talking about today are more nutrient dense than lean muscle cuts and are usually way cheaper.
Today I’m going to share my favourite recipes with you. Everything is tried and tested on my family and I hope your family likes the just as much! Other organ meats can be found, brains, kidneys, etc but they still give me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe if there is enough interest they can be Offal 2.0. Some of these recipes are just the way I cook and more steps than actual recipes. Some are inspired by others, some I’ve been doing for so long I’m not sure where they first came from, maybe Nourishing Traditions?
Any of the ingredients can be subbed out for whatever version you like the best. Flour? Could be wheat, arrowroot, or anything else. Soy sauce, coconut aminos, etc are all interchangeable. My kids like hoisin better than oyster sauce but use whatever you and your family like the best. We always try for organic or better but you need to use what you are comfortable with.
Beef Liver “Pills” (easiest way to get a little liver everyday)
- Freeze liver for 14 days.
- Partially thaw, cut into pill sized pieces.
- Spread on baking tray to freeze individually, put in freezer.
- When solidified store in baggie or freezer container.
- Swallow one “pill” everyday.
- Finely grate frozen liver
- Add to your favourite tomato juice
- Seasoning ideas: Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper, lemon or lime juice, horseradish
- Thaw liver and soak for several hours, overnight, in lemon juice, whey, vinegar or yogurt.
- Rinse and pat dry.
- Remove outside membrane and any large veins to prevent curling when cooked.
- Cut into smaller pieces, dredge in salt, pepper and flour if you choose.
- Add fat, onions and garlic to pan. Sauté until translucent.
- Add liver and cook quickly. Enjoy!
A paté is a sauté with extra grassé. All liver can be soaked overnight to help diminish the strong flavours. Some people just soak their beef livers and clean/trim their chicken livers without soaking.
- Thaw livers, pick through and remove any unpleasant spots.
- Saute onions and garlic in fat until translucent.
- Add liver and cook quickly.
- Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar.
- Let cool.
- Add to food processor with additional fat, salt, pepper, herbs and puree.
- Place in dish and cover with melted butter.
- Place in fridge to cool completely.
Frying the chicken feet first helps to breakdown the tendons and hard spots.
Braised Chicken Feet – Inspired by Serious Eats
Heat tallow to 350 degrees.
- Trim nails from cleaned feet and dry with a paper towel.
- Fry for about 5 minutes and transfer to a towel lined bowl to drain.
- Add to a brine of 6 whole star anise, 4 slices of ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 dried bay leaves, 6 cloves and 1/2 cup salt mixed into a quart of water. Let sit overnight.
- Combine 1 quart of chicken stock with 1/2 cup of sherry, 2 green onions, 2 slices of ginger and 2 whole star anise. Bring to a boil and add chicken feet, cover partially and cook until feet are fully tender, about 2 hours.
- Reserve 1 cup of braising liquid and drain the feet. Fry 1 tsp chili flakes with 3 cloves of minced garlic. Add 2 T fermented black beans and cook until fragrant. Add 1 T hoison sauce, 1 t coconut aminos, 2 T water mixed with 1 t of arrowroot powder and the reserved braising liquid, mix well, then add the feet stirring until sauce clings to the chicken feet.
- Serve immediately or even better the next day.
Pigs feet are easier to eat if you have your butcher split them in half lengthwise. I didn’t have that option this time so we’re making do with whole feet, please don’t think they’re too groady!
Braised and Grilled Trotters (pigs feet) – Inspired by Serious Eats
- Preheat over to 325 degrees.
- Rinse all the pigs feet. Place in a shallow pan and pour 1/2 cup hoison sauce or oyster sauce and 1/4 cup Sriracha, 2 t salt and 1/2 cup water over the feet. Cover with foil or a lid.
- Braise the trotters for 2 1/2 – 3 hours until very tender. Let cool briefly before next step or put in the fridge and continue the next day.
- Start one side of your grill for indirect heat. Grill for 25 – 35 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure skins aren’t burning.
- Mix 3 T oyster or hoisin sauce, 2 t Sriracha, 3 t honey and 1 t tamarind sauce together and toss hot trotters in the sauce or use as a dipping sauce.
Duck Tongues – Inspired by Green Eggs and Ham
Put tongues in a pot and cover with 1 ounce of sherry and 1 ounce of soy sauce. Simmer on medium until done. Easy, peasy!
Chicken Gizzard and Heart Stewp
This is something we usually just throw together. Not a real recipe. Sometimes I toss the hearts and gizzards in flour, salt and pepper and brown in whatever fat is beside the stove. Sometimes they go into the pot plain. I then fill the pot 2/3 full of water and bring to a boil then lower down to a simmer for 3-4 hours. During the last bit I’ll add potatoes, onions, garlic, frozen peas and corn, and dumplings.
We all like dumplings and usually just dump stuff into the bowl but here’s a starting gluten free dumpling recipe.
3/4 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Mix dry ingredients together and then trickle in the water until you have a dough. Drop by tablespoons into the stew pot, cover and steam for 7 minutes.
Fried Chicken Livers
Another one that I don’t use a recipe for. I toss the livers in arrowroot powder seasoned with salt and pepper and sometimes herbs. Fry the coated livers in fat and then pile onto a plate and top with chilies and serve with your favourite dipping sauce.
Kimchi Marinated Heart
No recipe here, either! Clean and trim your beef heart. Cut across the grain into little strips. Put 1/2-1 cup of kimchi in blender and turn it to mush. Mix it with your heart strips and marinate overnight or up to 24 hours. Heat your barbecue and grill the heart on high heat, quickly. Excellent with rice, kimchi, lettuce wraps. Yum, yum, yum!
Pickled Tongue – Inspired by Nourished Kitchen
2 cups of whey
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 T peppercorns
1/4 cup pickling spice
2 bay leaves
6 cups of water
Mix everything together and leave in the fridge in a covered container for 5 – 7 days
- Remove tongue from brine and brush any spices off. Place the tongue in a pot, cover with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until pierced easily with a knife.
- Remove the tongue from the pot and cover with cold water until it’s cool enough to handle. Keep cooking liquid.
- Trim and peel tongue.
- Return tongue to pot with cooking liquid and add celeriac, carrots, onion, potatoes and cabbage over the tongue. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes until the veggies are tender.
Serve hot or cold with a mustard beurre blanc sauce.
2 T butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 T grainy mustard
2 T chopped parsley
Mince shallot and sauté in butter. Add wine and reduce by half. Stir in the cream and simmer for 5 minutes, add mustard and parsley and drizzle over tongue.
Rendering Tallow or Lard from Suet
- Put suet in pot.
- Put pot in oven at 220 degrees.
- Check on the rendering fat periodically. The longer/hotter you render the stronger the smell will be.
- Strain fat into heat safe container thru cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
- The bits left in the pan can be fried up for cracklins and sprinkled with salt.
Vanilla Custard with Bone Marrow
2 pounds beef marrow bones
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the marrow bones for 10 minutes then using a slotted spoon remove the bones from the water to cool. Whisk all ingredients except marrow together and transfer to a blender. Scoop marrow out of bones and add it to the blender, just the marrow not the oil that collected. Whiz until smooth and pour into prepared ramekins in a water bath. Bake for 30 minutes or until just set. Serve with fruit for desert or breakfast.