Antelope Liver Pate

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to eat was my grandmother’s liver ball.  Any time the family would get together there was sure to be a liver ball.  It is a simple enough recipe, you mix a pound of Braunschweiger with one packet of Hidden Valley ranch dry mix, stir them together form it into a ball and coat the ball with cream cheese.  It was and is one of my favorite things to eat.  There was a period of my life when I realized what I was eating and refused to eat it but got over that in a hurry and have been in love with it ever since. 

Note the multiple liver balls at Christmas
Many people are not fond of the flavor of liver, for some, it is the texture and for others it is just the thought that it is organ meat and that puts them off.  Liver has a very strong somewhat mineral like flavor and as far as I can tell doesn’t get better with age.  With all organ meats it is always a good idea to eat them as fresh as possible.  As far as texture is concerned when liver is over cooked it becomes dry and mealy and can be like taking a bite of really nasty sawdust.  I personally believe that taste and texture are completely controllable and can be controlled enough to make liver delicious.  If you don’t like liver because it is an organ and that’s more than your mind can take, I can’t help you.
Freshness is the key to taste in my opinion, the fresher the liver the better.  On a recent trip to Wyoming I shot an antelope and actually tried a piece of raw liver right after it was cut out of the antelope.  It had a completely different flavor than any other liver I have ever had.  It was sweet and had a hint of sage in it from the antelope’s diet.  It was perfect, I used the rest of that liver in a camp stew that afternoon and it was fantastic.  The second key is to not overcook the liver.  Liver should be cooked medium rare to medium with just a little bit of pink in the middle.  This can be tricky because liver cooks so quickly, it will burn if you are not careful. You should cook the liver over medium heat and keep a close eye on it.  If you use a meat thermometer shoot for 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once you figure out how to cook the liver then you can try it in different dishes.  I have been playing around with a recipe to make an antelope liver pate that would be similar to the liver ball my grandmother makes.  After some experimenting I think I finally got the right flavor and texture.  The pate is creamy and smooth and has a beautiful earthy flavor with a very mild liver finish.  I tried it with three different toppings; the first was a port and honey jelly that was fantastic.  The second was a quick onion jam with nettle salt that complimented the natural sweetness and earthiness of the pate.  But hands down the very best topping were the pickled ramps, the vinegary bite and the powerful garlicky goodness made the pate bright and delicious. 

Antelope Liver Pate

10 oz liver (deer, antelope, pig, duck doesn't matter)
1/2 of a small white onion sliced
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1/4 cup grated onion
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 teaspoon each Dry thyme, white pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves
pinch of mace
4 oz cream cheese
salt to taste

Saute the sliced onions and the livers in bacon fat until the liver is done to your liking. Place the liver and onions and bacon fat all in a food processor and pulse until well chopped.  add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Add salt to you taste but remember that this is going to be served cold so the flavors will mellow.  Chill in the fridge for a couple of days to let all the flavors blend and enjoy.