There are three reasons I took half of a venison liver and made it into a spreadable meat-paste, more appetizingly known as pâté.
The first was to avoid waste. In general, if you can eat it I want to eat it, especially when the death of another creature is involved. A highfalutin ideology, I know. Rob kept the heart and liver of that deer for me, knowing I’d eat them, so eat them I will.
The second reason was a challenge; Organs are not generally considered tasty by most folks, at least not today. The very old cookbooks I’ve been reading tell a different story. Other cultures have plenty of recipes for offal, but it seems the more “modern” a society gets, the more they want to avoid the nasty bits. Perhaps that’s a gross generalization based on my limited perspective, but at the very least it’s a thought. Another one of my aspirations (read: not likely to happen) is to get hunters to use more of what they kill. Every deer comes with a liver, and it can be delicious. Maybe I can get more people to eat it.
Researching pâté and related dishes, it hit me like a ton of bricks: We had it in the house when I was growing up! Maybe it’s not a strange thing to keep in the fridge, but it is a pretty weird thing to be in our fridge. Organ meats was not something on the menu at home, and yet there it was all along: liver sausage. I asked my mom about it; It was there because dad liked it and had it growing up. I’d bet that comes from our German side of the family, since braunschweiger and liverwurst are about as German as it gets. The third reason to make this was to see if I could bring back some liver sausage memories from growing up, and tip my hat to my German ancestors.
So I cut up the liver, which did not make me hungry.
In fact, the entire process up to actually eating the finished product was yucky. Yes, yucky. Raw deer liver doesn’t smell great, and it has an unusual, off-putting consistency.
But killing animals is yucky too. Good with the bad. Yucky with the tasty. Yin and yang or something.
I found a great recipe for liverwurst by Jesse Griffiths, who by the way has an excellent game cookbook called “Afield.” Awesome, simple recipes, enlightening stories and stunning photography. I trusted his method would do the trick.
So I put a chunk at a time into my old school cast iron meat grinder, and what came out was even more disgusting than what went in. Especially when I ran it through the grinder a few more times.
But when I added a spice mixture of caraway, mace, ginger, thyme, sage, salt, and black pepper, suddenly the gloppy mess became something I’d think about eating. I added a few pounds of fatty pork side, ground that, mixed everything together. I ran everything through the grinder some more, adding half an onion toward the end. I threw in a splash of cognac, which is apparently traditional in various pâté recipes. (Cognac, by the way, is delicious!)
What I got was a slightly-less yucky mixture of meat, fat, and seasonings. It looked weird but it smelled good.
I took that mixture and filled three small Ball jars. This was my take on the recipe; I didn’t have any sausage casings and didn’t want to risk poaching in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. A few internet searches later and I concluded poaching in Ball jars could be done.
I put the jars in a pan, added water so it almost came to the rims, and turned on the heat. When steam came off I adjusted so it never boiled. Apparently, this is poaching: Some bubbles, some steam, no boil.
Not sure how long I poached the liverwurst. Might have been two or three hours. As it cooked it rose a bit like bread in the oven, and the color changed from a brilliant maroon to a dull gray-pink. Now the specs of seasonings and onion were visible and it looked a lot more appetizing. It looked a lot like the liver sausage we had growing up.
I didn’t eat any right away. I let it cool down in the poaching water, then I put the jars in the fridge for a few days for the flavors to really blend… And to put some distance between the yucky liver grinding and the hopefully tasty spread.
Later I pulled a jar from the fridge, grabbed some crackers, and tasted my creation.
Excellent. Truly delicious. Rich, creamy, deep, meaty; A really nice thing to eat. Great with crackers, olives, and something good to drink.
I know it can be strange to think about eating a spreadable meat-paste, but once you get past the textural thing it’s tasty. I know a lot of anglers smoke fish and then blend the meat into a spreadable consistency; This is basically the same thing, but with liver.
Do I think I’m going to convert anybody that reads this? Not really.
But if you kill a deer (or any other critter) I challenge you to try cooking some new part of it. The process might seem yucky, but the end result can be something really good.