I have always considered myself an adventurous eater, naturally that has translated into my cooking. I like to try new things and I enjoy the challenge of finding ways of making things most people turn there nose up at into tasty and edible dishes. From time to time I hear about something that is a little off the wall and it will eat at me until I give it a try. I have been curing and drying meat for a while but have not tried any type of organ meat. I had heard about dry cured lamb kidneys and had read about confit'd liver but could not find any methods for how to do them. My first attempt at liver confit didn't turn out the way I had hoped. I was hoping for a very tender delicious piece of liver, what I got was a hockey puck that didn't taste bad but the texture was to hard.
I had this thought that it might be possible to dry cure a liver. what I would do with it once it was done I had no idea. In my opinion antelope liver is some of the finest liver you can eat. and last year I was lucky enough to shoot two antelope while out in Wyoming. Raw antelope liver right out of a freshly killed antelope is one of the most interesting things I have ever eaten. The texture was almost crunch and it had a very sweet, sagey flavor. I knew that if I was going to try to dry cure a liver it was going to be an antelope liver. The hunting party I was with ended up shooting 8 antelope so I had 8 livers to work with. I had made an antelope pate that was delicious and used one of the livers to make a camp stew. An antelope liver is only about a pound so I split one of the livers in half and used half for the confit and the other half for the cured liver.
I had no idea what to expect from a dry cured liver, I knew there was a lot of water in the liver but had no idea how much or how long I would need to hang the liver for. I figured that I would just hang to dry and check in frequently to see how hard or soft it was getting. I put together a salt rub and covered the liver in it and let it sit for a week in the salt just to make sure it was salted all the way through. after salting I let it hang for about a month in the back of my fridge. for most of that time it was kind of spongy and only in the last week did it get firm. I started with an 8 ounce piece of liver and after it dried I ended up with a 3 ounce piece of liver.
The taste and texture were different than anything I had ever had before. I may have used to much salt because it is a bit on the salty side but all the other flavors are there as well. the juniper and garlic and bay leaf really accentuate the nature flavor of the liver. The texture is the strange part for me, it has a dry leathery outside but is like the most brilliantly flavored gummy bear on the inside. It sticks to your teeth and is very chewy.
Now that I had a finished product I needed to figure out how I would use it. It doesn't slice very easily because of the gummy consistency and it is to powerfully flavored to eat in bigger pieces so I was kind of stuck and didn't know what to do. Then I remembered a meal I had at The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. They served a duck fat roasted beet with chopped nuts and grated Bottarga. Bottarga is the roe sacks of mullet that have been salt cured and dried. I figured if they could use Bottarga to flavor the beets I could use the dried liver to do the same.
What I ended up with is a magnificent dish that is both visually stunning and beautifully flavored. The flavor of the liver complimented the natural earthiness of the beets and I ended up with one of the best dishes I have ever made. Duck fat roasted beets with chopped pecans, fresh dill and grated dry cured antelope liver.
Dry Cured Antelope Liver
8 oz antelope liver
3 grams insta cure #2
2 grams juniper berries
1 gram allspice
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup kosher salt
grind the allspice, juniper, bay leaf and garlic in a mortar and pestle then add to the salt, rub the liver with all the cure mix and let sit in a ziplock bag for one week. Rinse all the sure off the liver and pat dry with paper towels. wrap in cheesecloth and let dry in the fridge or somewhere cool and dry for one month or until the liver is firm to the touch.