Slowly I pull the heart from my deer and carefully remove it from its protective sack, my hunting buddies look at me and ask…. “Why are you saving that?” I get that question asked to me more times than not, and asked by veteran lifelong hunters. My simple and truthful answer is always “To eat it.”
Where did we lose our taste for the good stuff? When did Hearts, livers and kidneys become taboo in the Western World?
I did not grow up eating hearts, livers or kidneys. When I heard of these items of the animal I was disgusted at the thought of eating them. I remember taking a bite of the heart, a disgusting tradition you would have to do on the first animal type you killed. I remember the time I caught my first tuna off the shores of California and the Captain jumping out from the wheel house, cutting the tuna open and shoving a heart in my face. The whole boat yelled “TAKE A BITE” I grabbed the heart, closed my eyes and gagged as I bit off a chuck of warm tuna heart. To my surprise the flavor was not bad, but the idea that we aren’t supposed to eat hearts caused my brain to tell me spit it out.
Now why do I tell you this story? I tell you this story because we as Americans are some of the most wasteful creatures on Earth. We love to eat the fancy cuts of meat because we have been told that these are the meats to eat. But, looking back at our forefathers and beyond they ate everything. In many cultures today hearts, livers, kidneys, brains and even testicles are still eaten as common foods. I spent some time in India and can remember when our host came out with lunch. Lunch consisted of Rice mixed with goat brain, sautéed goat testicles and kidneys. I remember as the group of us Americans ate it and liking it, then when we were told what it was people began to spit it out, gag and even push the plates away in disgust. Their minds told them “We Don’t Eat This, It’s Wrong”. I’ve won more anti organ fans over with nothing more than a perfectly cooked heart.
The heart is a muscle just like every other piece of meat you eat. It takes on flavor like a champ and when cooked right can be the tenderest melt in your mouth piece of meat you’ve ever eaten. I decided to try my hand at smoked a heart today and WOW, it was a real crowd pleaser. Below you’ll find the recipe and some picture. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it might surprise you.
Most foods are taboo just because we don’t understand them
1-2 Game Hearts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon McCormick Meat Tenderizer
2 cups water.
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Start out by rinsing the hearts out, take time to pump water through each vent and get out any blood clots you can. Next add heart to brine and soak for 1-2 hours.
While hearts are marinating start soaking your woodchips. I chose Hickory because I like the mild flavor it offers. I would avoid mesquite, it tends to add a very bitter flavor to red meats and with hearts sucking in tons of flavor because of the spongey texture this would be bad.
Bring your smoker up to 230-250 degrees add wet wood chips and get a nice smoke going.
Remove hearts from brine and rinse well with cold water, pat dry and coat inside and out with your dry rub.
Add hearts to the smoker and allow to cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours or until internal temp reached 145 degrees (For medium Rare) you do not want to cook your hearts past that Medium temperature range because they will tend to get chewy. I place a Wi-Fi thermometer in the heart so I do not have to continually open the door thus releasing the smoke.
When temp reaches 145 degrees remove the heart and wrap in foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Within this 10 minute rest the juices with be retained within the heart and keep it moist and tender.
Slice heart against the grain starting at the base
Serve and enjoy!
It really is that simple, I urge you on your next wild game kill to keep the hearts. Some of my family’s favorites are sautéed dove hearts. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it might surprise you.