So the other day I made a pork heart stir fry and it was so good. Not just the stir fry but knowing that we are doing our best to honor our animals who have provided us with nourishment but making sure we are using up all they have to offer.
When I started working with organ meat it was a bit of a mental thing to overcome but I did it because I wanted to honor my food. I didn't grow up eating a lot of nose to tail food but I did grow up around it enough that as I got older I understood things like bone broth, marrow, collagen and so on. When we moved to harvesting our own meat in the beginning it was merely hunted and farmed meat from other farms so we really saw first hand all that animals have to offer. When you go to a grocery store you see a steak or ground meat and occasionally if you look deep enough you might find some hocks or liver but very rarely in a grocery store will you find tongue, feet, heart, kidneys and more. You have to find the butcher and ask them if they have such and they typically do in a back freezer somewhere or in a box marked dog food. When you are butchering a whole animal you see how much "other" stuff gets put to the side as you harvest a bulk of the meat. That is where I first started asking myself what of this "other" stuff? Can I eat it? Is it good for me? If it's not great what else can be done instead of the landfill? I have learned over the years, blood, brains, stomach, bones can be used for so much more than just nourishment. Bones can be dried and broken down even powdered for a bone meal for feeding plants. Blood too can be added to your garden or compost pile or buried or mixed into your fall garden soil, this method however just needs a little thought so you don't have animals in your yard. I have not worked with blood in this manner but it is something I am very interested in. Last year when I knew there was certain aspects of the animal that I would not have time to process like a pigs head I buried it under a fruit tree. I dug a hole about 4 feet deep I would have preferred deeper but that is as deep as I could get tossed the butchered head in and some soil and then eventually my plant. As the head breaks down and bugs work it it will add nourishment to the soil as well as nourishment from all the bugs breaking it down and pooping as well. I am excited to see how much better this fruit tree does over others.
We have been eating deer heart for a long time I believe almost as long as I have had my first son and he's going on 12 this year. Deer heart is actually his favorite thing to eat and it's always a challenge as he is born during hunting season and each year my husband feels really blessed when he can gift his son with a deer heart that I then cook into deer heart tacos, his most requested meal. Not only is this meal healthy for all of us it is one of community. This isn't something we can walk into a store and acquire. This is something that takes time, surveying hunting lands and tracking. It takes days before sighting in guns and preparation and the stress as his birthday nears and no tags filled. Once we have our deer than the gift gets handed over to me to clean and process. This whole time we are thinking of our son. This isn't just about food for us this is about our child. Every year we have been able to gift him his special meal and it makes us all very happy and I think now as he is getting older he is understanding how precious this gift is.
The first year we raised pigs I was determined to use as much as I could. Hearts, kidneys, livers, lard which we used for cooking, baking and even skincare like a cold cream and lots of soap. I also was determined to see what their heads had to offer. I searched the internet for loads of pigs head recipes and felt kind empty with what was out there so I went off on my own. I made a bunch of broth from their heads and then I boiled down some with all the meat and such into a jelly like pate. I flavored it with herbs from our garden. It wasn't exactly the head cheese you see at the butcher shop but close enough. I served my version of head cheese over toasted homemade sourdough. The gelatin melted into the bread leaving a minced meat from the pig and with the sourness of sourdough it was simply divine. Something I don't know if I would ever be able to recreate. Again not only good but the density of the nutrients it gave to my family can't be bought.
Obviously we are still trying to figure out all the organs and how to eat them or consume them in a way that is edible whether it be jerky, capsules or ground into something else like a pate. Currently I am not able to make all the things with heads and organs last year I traded some organ meat with a friend for items for her garden knowing that this food was going to nourish someone else was better than being tossed to the side or sitting in the back of the freezer where it would get neglected and possibly tossed out.
We have so much to learn about our animals and how to be good stewards of them but I think we are off to a good start. Having my kids being nourished by animals that are cared for by us in an environment where they can roam and run and play. Surrounded by sun and forest and the squeals of little ones running around. Besides leaving you with the recipe for our pigs heart stir fry I will fill you in on some nutritional information.
Animal hearts are rich in zinc, iron, folate and selenium. All of which is needed for formation of blood, healthy cell growth and function. Basically they are all major players in creation of DNA, building proteins and supporting a healthy immune systems. Hearts are also a great source of B-complex vitamins. B2, b^ and B12 and they are recognized and easily absorbed by our body unlike pills. B complex vitamins have what is called a cardioprotective effect meaning they protect our hearts! Heart meat has also been found to be rich in Coenzyme Q10 which is an antioxidant and can help prevent and treat certain diseases. It has also been shown to improve energy levels and slow down the aging process. Besides all this nutritional information for us this is just good animal respect.
Pigs Heart Stir Fry:
1-3 hearts depending on size of family
mushrooms any kind and amount
sprouts if you have
*This dish I made recently I used premade coleslaw as we don't have a place to store all sorts of veggies at the moment and a small bag of coleslaw feeds us for one meal*
-Clean out heart. I like to cut down the middle and trim out vessels and the white stuff around the top. I slice my heart thinly so that I can get any of the tougher bits off. You can presoak your heart in some cold water which I do to get it cleaned of blood but it's not huge especially if you harvest your own animals.
-Get a cast iron nice and hot with a healthy amount of fat or oil. I use lard most of the time.
-Once hot add sliced heart and cook through season with salt and pepper.
You can remove the heart and cook veggies but I don't.
-Add onions cook for a bit before adding peppers then give pause and add cabbage and carrot shreds and mushrooms.
-You may need to add more fat.
- At this point I add a little water like 1/4 cup a spoonful of chicken bouillon and put a lid on to steam a bit
- I use a blend of soy sauce and hoisin sauce for the final. A tablespoon or two of soy sauce and about half a bottle of hoisin to get the consistency I want.
-Serve over rice or noodles.
Have you ever had heart before? If you would like to see a video of our meal you can check it out here.