How to Cook Deer Liver

Deer liver – it’s one of the things I started eating many years ago and never really enjoyed it. Once I moved out of my folks house and started hunting again, the inevitable happened – I shot a deer and we let nothing go to waste around here.

 

In fact, my hunting buddies will probably make fun of me, but I am going to make a european mount for the skull.

Now, the heart. Aside of having a broadhead mangle it up a bit, it’s like steak. The bottom (the point) is tender and delicious and it gets less tender but no less delicious as we move up. I hit the top of the heart with an arrow so it looked ugly but otherwise didn’t impair the taste. You cook it like steak, you eat it like steak, it’s good. But, moving down, oh, the liver…

I eventually figured out several things. Onion salt (or garlic salt) is better to use here than just onions. You can pile it on your plate. These tastes are supposed to go together, so put onions in the pan, put onion salt on the liver. It’s good. The second thing I figured out is to cook it in butter. In oil, it tastes dense, which is what oil does, but the meat is already super dense like the heart. If you use real, honest to God butter, you’ll have a meal you can eat.

Recipe time!

  1. Shoot a deer. Easier said than done. Once you have a dead deer in your posession, grab the liver. It’s the purple one. In young animals, the spleen is also purple but it has a wavy texture. In mature animals, the spleen is green and has a feathered texture on half of it. Not sure why. Don’t grab the spleen. They’re joined at the artery that feeds them both so sometimes some creative cutting is required.
  2. Wash it off. Take the liver home and just wash the crap out of it so you can actually see everything.
  3. Trim the liver. This means cutting off any nasty parts, the artery should be cut out, and I like to cut it in half here at the artery so I can inspect it. If it looks gross or doesn’t have a uniform dark texture, toss it. There’s a few veins in there, don’t sweat those. Giant disgusting cysts should go. Fatty livers get tossed.
  4. Brine. Make up a salt solution and let it soak 24 hours overnight. It will bleed into the bag, so consider changing the water. We’re trying to get as much blood out as possible. You’re ready to cook after 24 hours…
  5. Slice. Cut the liver up into quarter inch strips. Longways, sideways, it doesn’t matter. Also trim the outer skin. This does two things – more area to adhere butter to and it gives it a more uniform texture. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes – just trust me. This is also a good place to cut out any more thick walled veins you find or artery you didn’t slice out previously. You just want the inner dark meat of the liver.
  6. Butter. Heat a pan on medium heat and toss in a stick of butter. Toss in two! I don’t care! It will brown if you heat it too much so it’s best to start out on medium heat, melt it, then crank up the heat shortly before tossing in the meat.
  7. Massage. Wait, what? You cut the meat into strips. It will benefit from being washed again under running water and tenderized a bit. You should get even more blood and little stringy blood clots coming out of the meat. This is where most people call liver “irony” or “mineraly”, because they didn’t get the blood out. However, before you get tempted to slice and soak overnight, I’ve found it makes the liver less tender.
  8. Dredge. I keep a bowl of water with the meat in it and a bowl of flour next to it. That’s it, just flour. You can always salt and onion salt it to taste later. If you have a favorite steak rub for making country fried steak, it might also work.
  9. Cook. Set the heat on high and let the pan warm up for a minute. When the butter just starts steaming or popping you’re hot. Take your dredged pieces and toss them in the pan. Cook them two minutes or three minutes per side. I like to feel up the small ones. When the small ones are getting stiff, the big ones need to be flipped. The liver should firm up when you cook it, but it’s a fine line between “firm” and “rubber”. The flour should be golden, not white.
  10. Season. It probably doesn’t need anymore butter but if you promise not to sue the blog you can have it. On the other hand, consider using garlic salt, onion salt, or cooking some onions in that butter. I also put a dash of pepper on mine, but whatever. If you know what you want, put it on before letting the meat rest for a few minutes. If you’re not sure, put it on after. There’s no right or wrong.

Enjoy!

Brewers Deal Alert: Giant F’ing Pot

Free shipping, 50 quart enameled steel pot: $53.20

Check it out here!

That’s 12.5 gallons, more than a keg cut in half, steel and coated for easy cleaning. This is enough space to do two 5 gallon fermenters at once or a wine kit from grapes. Also suitable for canning.

The Spoils of Wort: IPA, Mead

I took a hiatus from brewing because I bought a house and had a kid. The one-two punch really put a dent in the hobbies. More on the point I couldn’t find half the fucking equipment for the longest time and there was one totally aborted batch somewhere in the middle due to the electric range not cutting it for brewing.

The previous electric range in the apartment was actually better, but did nothing to spread the heat so the eventual outcome was scorching on the brewpot until I figured out the flashing trick.

If you are interested in brewing on an electric range, the quick fix for hotspots is to buy a turkey fryer and never brew on your electric range again. If you absolutely insist on not owning a turkey fryer, then go to home depot, buy a piece of flashing (for a building) and so long as it’s not lead, it will work as a heat spreader. If you have an electric cooktop, it already has this. But seriously, buy a turkey fryer.

BEER
I’ve been getting hops off my Goldings rhizome for several years now and they just end up in the freezer. I think I killed it this year transplanting it into the garden, which sucks, but three years for a hop vine is actually a fairly long time. Point being, Goldings are supposed to be piney, sweet and floral. These were headed towards grassy. However, being an IPA, I decided to toss them in anyway for aroma. Hops tend to depend strongly on where they’re grown, so the “apartment hops” are going to be different from the “house hops” if they survived. More on the point hops don’t have very strong separation unless made in tightly controlled conditions, which tends to lead to hop of the month. I also grew chinooks, but it was never very good and finally expired, probably due to acidic hops needing more neutral soil than I could provide in a balcony pot.

The recipe was a basic IPA base, which is to say 16lbs pale and 1lbs caramel. Actually I made that 2lbs caramel and dropped the special B, pils and special roast because at .25 lbs, they don’t contribute anything. If it were black patent or chocolate, they would have made the beer roasty. Also my mash water is slightly on the high side since my thermometer didn’t survive the winter and I need to purchase another one. My best guess is that the water was 175F to 180F since the thermometer now has the column of color and then a thin line of it 5 degrees higher up. Fortunately they’re only $3. I also disagree with the 45 minute mash, generally longer is better when it comes to mash with the cutoff being when the mash drops to 160F or so it’s time to drain it before it really cools down and makes grain jello. My mash was roughly 1h15m.

I ended up using more make up water than I wanted due to me not paying as much attention as I should be and letting the mess boil over. Plus the late addition of hops usually means the brew kicks up. I need a bigger pot is really the root cause of this so I can keep a hard boil on while not worrying about what the hops are going to do to nucleation. This isn’t a huge problem with IPAs since the emphasis is on the hops and I had planned to use some of my own anyway.

The cooldown I decided to do entirely differently. Normally I’m a fan of the hot water bath or wort chiller, but now I’ve got a basement which hangs out at about 70F. A bit warm for lagering but perfect for just about anything else. The new plan was to simply put the beer in the carboy and put a plastic bag loosely over the top and let it sit overnight. The airlock here is a trap because the wort will suck in air as it cools. The air in the carboy is going to contract, the more it does so the more vacuum is built up in the fermenter and it’s perfectly capable of sucking all the water out of the airlock. The double-bubble airlocks really shine here because it works both ways. If the water is below the half way mark, it’ll keep the nastiness out. 3 pieces will pull the water right into your beer. So, if you have a double-bubble, use that if you’re not going to chill the beer ahead of time. It’s not the best filter, but it’s better than the bag. My double-bubble went AWOL in the move, hence the bag. Water isn’t the best filter, but as the K5 Bong Squad will tell you, it does filter whatever bubbles through it to some extent.

Dry hopping – I put in hop flowers and I really should have shredded them before doing it. Since they’re frozen, they’re plenty crumbly. It made a real mess to clean out of the fermenter. Plus they float. Not only do you lose the trub on the bottom but you lose the beer on top now that it’s filled with hops. I think I only lost four bottles out of what I expected to get but that’s four less bottles to drink. There’s a reason why those wine filters are so popular in the brewing community, and this is the reason.

Yeast – I double-pitch now because I’m paranoid that the long cooldown period will let things get into the beer I don’t want. Buying two yeast packets instead of one is cheap insurance.

A week later and the beer hadn’t settled, so I let it sit for two weeks and some change and things had improved. Also make a mental note to buy a keg kit. Actually washing out two cases of bottles, sterilizing them, and then washing them out again is crap. Not that kegs are easier to clean but they’re certainly better than 50 bottles. The beer is good.

MEAD
My wife eventually got the beer envy and said “Lets try making mead!” Note that we still have that lonely bottle in the basement from beeguy via Rusty, I keep saying we should drink it and she keeps coming up with reasons why not. I think it’s getting on four years old now. One of these days I swear it’s going to grow wings and fly away.

Now, BEERLAB 2021 is already setup to do wine because my wife thinks Arbor Mist is good wine. Then, just because Arbor Mist wasn’t shitty enough, there’s a brand of wine kit called Harbor Mist which is absolutely fucking foul. Any wine which requires you to add “concentrated watermelon flavor” to the mix – probably crap. The two year old bottles are actually passable because that shit gets toned down but no-one is going to mistake it for wine. We’ve had OK luck foisting it on people as wine coolers. Also a note on better bottles versus glass. Better bottles, despite all claims, pick up the hop smell. If you use a better bottle for beer, you cannot use it for wine. I have been playing with the idea of adding noble hops to wine or fermenting wine in a beer bucket if the nose is right, but I want to hear from more winemakers before committing to it. I’ve had the better bottles for a few years so they’ve got some wear on them. I also have a glass carboy and I prefer to use that.

Anyway, mead is interesting. The Northern Brewer will ship just about anything for $7.99. While it’s not a huge savings for one kit, if you order two it’s a steal. In fact they have an extremely nice selection of mead kits so I just picked a beer kit (petit saison) and we got them both. Of course, she got sweet mead and let me tell you it lives up to it’s name. The mead kit comes with energy mix, whatever that is, and three more small satchels of the same. It also comes with the standard overpitch of yeast. Of course it also comes with a metric ton of basswood honey.

Now when I link to that, it’s so you can see the color and get some tasting notes. Be that as it may, this honey from northern brewer was raw. It was slightly darker than that, strong smelling, had shit floating in there to the point of being opaque and it had a layer of stuff on the bottom. NB sends a note with it – “it’s normal for the honey to be opaque since this is brewing honey, not table honey”. OK maybe it’s a UK thing, but I wasn’t aware there was “table honey”. The instructions said it would clarify when it was warmed, which to their credit it mostly did but I’m still not sure you would want to eat it straight from the bottle. There were no mummified bees present in it’s golden depths.

Now, if this were wine there would be warming, a brief boiling period, etc. Mead is a lot more raw than wine and the process is dead simple: Warm bottles in a hot water bath, boil some water. Stir in big yeast nutrient phial in boiled water and add yeast. Fill fermenter half way with warm water. Pour in honey. Top up. Done.

I changed this a bit.

I’m in the camp that the yeast should be re-hydrated with whatever you’re going to put them in. Reason being that the yeast are sensitive to temperature and they are strongly sensitive to Ph. I could have saved some honey and put that in the water but the easiest way of doing it is to toss the yeast straight way into the fermenter. Since we already have to stir up the honey and we need to stir in the yeast food, it only makes sense to put the yeast in the must (unfermented wine-product) and stir and stir again. I did not observe any adverse effects.

The honey at this point was quite pretty and golden.

The next day – it stank. To make it more fun, there’s three additions of yeast food 24 hours apart. If it stinks now, you can bet that it would stink for subsequent feedings. Trust me, it did. It only got worse. Every time we fed it for the next three days it smelled like all sorts of strange smells. Sulphur and overripe apples abound. I was actually getting worried it had spoiled, except every time we gently stirred it we got CO2 out so I knew the yeast was working properly. Fortunately we have a radon mitigation system in the basement and it’s fairly flowy so most of it was going out the top of the house. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was unique. Once you smell it you notice it’s everywhere.

A week later I went downstairs for something unrelated and noticed it was cloudy and highlighter yellow. I was starting to fear the worst so I got out the trusty wine spoon and gave it a quick cleaning. I stick it in there and KABOOM. All the suspended CO2 came out, it looked like soda. Six gallons of highlighter yellow mountain dew. I decided to lick the spoon and it was delicious. Honey, apples, flowers and sugar. Oh this is going to be dangerous. Yes it is.

Things are Getting Silly: Beer Glasses

First, it was Sam Adams with their special pint glass. While it claims to help you better taste their beer, I suspect the real reason for it is to try to please the Sir Chugsalot crowd. There are some people, myself included on occaision, who simply drink beer too quickly. For something like Sam Adams which has enough taste to stand up to careful drinking and enjoyment, this might be something they think people miss. On the other hand, Sam Adams is Sam Adams. It’s not going to change – looking at you Yeungling – so I don’t feel guilty when I drink one quickly. For the crowd that always drinks one quickly, they might be interested in this glass, it might do something for them. On the other hand, glassware does change how a beer presents, and that’s part of the fun. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind having one for the sake of having Option 4 when it comes to glassware. For those wondering what the beer glasses are – the standard pint, the pilsner flute and the snifter are the “standard” glass styles. Little variation exists, although I usually just use a wine glass instead of a snifter. Having some kind of weird combination glass might get more mileage out of a pint, I suppose.

New Belgum decided they wanted to get on the failwagon with their own glassware. This is fine except it’s a snifter. There’s nothing really custom about it. The fact they pitch it as the same thing as the Sam Adams glass is an affront to common sense.

Turkey Fryer

For my birthday and Christmas, people usually give me gift cards to either Cabelas or Northern Brewer. In the spirit of “people have to come to my house because I’ve got a baby”, I bought a turkey fryer with the gift cards this year. I ended up paying only $22 (I had the oil and needed to get propane anyway). But, oh god, the turkey was good. Last night we had a test run of the thing to see how well we did and my folks brought over a turkey. If you’re wondering, it’s a King Kooker. Not the huge one, but the smaller one up to 18lbs turkeys. Reason being that most turkeys at the store are less than 16 lbs so there’s quite a bit of extra room.

The process is dead simple – thaw turkey, bring heat up to 350F, toss turkey in, cook for 3.5 minutes per pound. This actually results in the bird being slightly overdone, so if you want less crispy turkey, knock off a few minutes.

King Kooker also has the Right Stuff for BTUs (plenty) and their kits all have parts you can buy online. So the turkey fryer kit can convert to the steamer kit and can convert to the fry basket kit all by purchasing all their optional accessories. But the most importantly the burner puts out 60k BTUs and the stand will accept my brew pot for boiling beer.

And the turkeys?

This was the first time we’ve ever had turkey in my family and there weren’t a ton of leftovers no-one wanted to eat in the fridge.

The First Lager

First Lager

First Lager

Well folks, there is is. The first lager. It will be done in two months, so basically this is my birthday beer and my beer for my son. Maybe I’ll save him a bottle until he’s 21. OR MAYBE DRINK IT ALL MYSELF.

The fridge is a freezer I sourced from craigslist. The temp control is a Johnson’s temp control I got on the cheap because they’re redoing the probes to not break when you freeze them. (Good thing I am not freezing beer). The yeast, Saflager 34-70, says it should be kept between 60F and 70F, so I have the controls set to 60F figuring the beer will always be a bit warmer on it’s own.

The kit, and yes I brewed with a kit this time, is Bavarian Dunkel. I was genuinely impressed with Northern Brewer, they included a bunch of first timer swag and the stuff all came extremely well packed. The instruction sheet wasn’t in there but I know how to brew so I’m comfortable with this. The kit inventory is online, which is nice, as is the promash script for it.

The only gotcha was my stove can’t do a rolling boil, but I still got a hot break out of the mash. Strange, but now a burner is on my christmas list.

Now the hard part – waiting.

Napping in the Car

I detect a new trend: Napping in the car. Kelly has decided she’s going to pee every 30 minutes on the dot as Alex tapdances his way to his due date on her bladder. This is fine, until she comes home, then I wake up every 30 minutes with her.

The joys of being a light sleeper.

Between fighting off the sinus infections (finally going away) and the 30 minutes deal I’m woefully sleep deprived. I’ve taken to napping in the car, which is actually quite nice since the seats are wonderfully contoured. Folks, this is the future – INDIVIDUALLY FORMED BEDS WITH FAUX LEATHER AND 7 WAY LUMBAR SUPPORT.

I also bought a Brinkmann Smoke & Grill (charcoal) for $30 from Home Depot last weekend. It’s a manly grill, and having two heights for smoking and grilling means you can pull the dutch cooking trick of cooking poultry under a steak. While not heart healthy, this is fantastic when it’s done. I like them because they offer recipes on their websites, and they also sell the conversion kit just in case you want to make an electric smoker. While I’m a diehard fan of cooking with charcoal on a grill, moreso than gas, the smoker is more about making smoke out of wood than it is anything else. Then again, my argument for charcoal is that the propane/electric grills don’t get the smokey taste, so it’s a tough call.

This weekend: Smoke meats, work on the chimney. Maybe fish depending on the weather.