12 October 2007

Pickled Heart

Grandma Beryl Nell Munday, good Scot Irish Presbyter that she was, wasted not. Though I now wish I had recorded her recipes for things such as stewed deer kidneys, I did not like such dishes and so paid as little attention to them as I could. For some reason, however, I liked her pickled deer heart as one of my earliest memories of food. Call it comfort food, perhaps, but the memory of those thick slices of pickled deer heart with butter-laden hunks of fresh "Colella bread" (from our neighborhood Italian bakery) still makes my mouth water.

Gram's recipe was pretty simple, and it's tasty in all its forms: pickled deer heart, pickled elk heart, or pickled antelope heart. First, you need one dead critter with a heart.Her are the steps:
  1. While field dressing the animal, cut the heart away from its connecting arteries and veins.
  2. Set the heart aside in a clean place to drain and cool while you are finishing the field dressing job.
  3. Carry a clean ziplock bag to transport the heart in your pack.
  4. Once home or back at camp, rinse the heart in fresh cool water, poking your finger into the ventricles to help remove any blood clots.
  5. Soak overnight in a cool place with enough water to cover plus a handful of salt.
  6. Rinse again, and place whole in a pan of cool, salted water, over medium heat and boil until done: this takes about a half hour (once the water begins to boil) with a small antelope or deer heart, and about one & one-half hours with a large elk heart. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. After cooling, cut the heart into three or four pieces by inserting the knife lenghtwise into the chambers. Carefully trim away all fat and surface blood vessels, cut and peel away the outer layer (epicardium) and the inner layers of the chambers ("heart strings" or tendineae).
  8. Slice the trimmed pieces into strips approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  9. Place in a clean jar, add about a tablespoon of pickling spice, cover with vinegar, fit the lid and store in the 'fridge.
  10. The pickled heart slices are ready to eat in about five days.

I have tried different vinegars, and like red wine vinegar the best. Vary the recipe with other spices: dill, hot peppers, garlic cloves, and onion are all good additions to the pickling spice. Some people add sugar, but I care for sweet pickled heart about as much as I care for sweet pickles.

Serving suggestions: Bring the slices to potluck parties as an appetizer, arranged on a small platter with crackers and perhaps some pickles and/or peppers such as jalapenos. People -- many of whom do not especially like "game" or venison -- seem to enjoy this treat. You might want to explain that "the heart is just another muscle" (and not an organ per se such as liver). The best serving suggestion of all? Eat the slices with fresh, buttered slices of Italian bread and wash down with a cold beer on a hot afternoon.

Pickled heart will keep at least one year. Enjoy!


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Dee said...

Just wanted to thank you for sharing your Grandma Mundy's recipe for pickled heart. I ran across your blog last fall when my grandson gifted me with an elk heart. Just finished up the last of it today. Excellent. Just excellent.

Susan said...

Susquehanna Valley,here!!!Of course you would eat heart with hardy bread and butter. It's the same recipe as my dads but he put the pickling spices in a tea ball and cooked the heart in it. Then put the heart in white vinegar.