I am a big fan of eating heart, its not just my favorite cut of offal but might just be my favorite cut of meat. I save all the hearts of all the animals I hunt and I have asked my friends to save me all of their hearts as well. I was down in Wabasha a few weeks ago and my buddy Eric gave me a bag of hearts. That's right, I said a bag of hearts. Eric and his family had saved me the hearts of the deer they got this last year and I was given four hearts to do with as I pleased. But what did I want to do with all those hearts. In the past I have fried or pickled most of the hearts I had. I have also made some very good grilled hearts and of course heart tartare is always a possibility. Being that I had four hearts to play with I thought I would try a couple of new recipes and see how they turn out.
The first thing I did was put together a salt cure so that I could try to dry cure a heart. I was watching a show with Jamie Oliver and he was in Sweden and was given some dry cured reindeer heart and it just looked to good not to try. For my cure I used Cure #2, salt and maple sugar along with thyme, pepper and juniper. I left it in the cure mix for about 10 days and then hung it in my drying chamber. It will hang in there until it loses a little over a third of its overall weight. I am really looking forward to tasting it and when it is all done I will post it here.
For the other three hearts I was thinking about making something that might last a little bit. I have been using a corning brine for a lot of wild game lately and thought maybe I would do something similar for the hearts. Pastrami and corned beef are very similar in how they are made. The seasonings are different and pastrami is usually smoked where corned beef isn't. The pastrami brine I used for the hearts is the recipe from Michael Ruhlman's book Charcuterie, I changed it just a little but for the most part it is all his.
Heart is an incredibly versatile piece of meat and can be cooked in many different ways. When ever I cook heart the first thing I usually do is trim away the arteries and all the fat around the top of the heart. Heart already has a very chewy texture and that can be off putting to some. Whenever I prepare heart I always try to find ways to eliminate some of that chewiness. trimming away the arteries and fat is a very good start. After that I usually fillet the heart open and trip away the valves and connective tissues inside the heart. You can see in the picture above what the hearts look like after I trim away all the bad parts of the heart.
My heart Pastrami turned out incredible, it was tender and smokey and made one hell of a sandwich. I like my pastrami on rye bread with a little Jarlsberg cheese instead of Swiss. I also like a little horseradish sauce on my sandwich as well. My horseradish sauce is very simple. It is just one tablespoon each of grated horseradish, sour cream and mayo with a little salt pepper and fresh thyme. If you have never tried heart I would highly suggest it. It is a beautiful piece of meat and once you try it you will probably be hooked.
Deer Heart Pastrami
this is enough brine for 3-4 hearts
1 quart water
90 grams of salt
55 grams of maple sugar
11 grams of pink salt
5 grams pickling spice
25 grams of brown sugar
2-3 large cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 tablespoon of black pepper
Combine all the ingredients and bring to a hard rolling boil. Make sure all the slat and sugar is dissolved. Let the brine cool to room temperature before adding the pieces of heart. Let the heart sit in the brine for 4-5 days. When the heart is done in the brine, dry each piece completely and make sure to rinse off any spices. Grind the coriander and black pepper and then sprinkle it over the pieces of heart.
Smoke the pieces of heart in a smoker at about 180 degrees using you favorite wood, I like oak chips for this. Smoke for 2-3 hours or until the heart reaches a temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wrap each piece of heart in syran wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 days. After that the pastrami is ready to be eaten it can be a little tough, if you don't like the texture you can place a couple pieces of heart in a pan with a little water and simmer it for 1- 1 1/2 hours this will help make it more tender. Then slice it up and enjoy.