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!

Post Deer Season Wrapup and One Year Homebrew

The last day of flintlock hunting and I’m empty handed. Not from lack of effort, mind you, but more from the weather. There’s a reason they didn’t fight battles in the civil war when it was the middle of a snowstorm.

My brother and I had been hunting the farm all day. I was using the flintlock but having serious doubts about this being a good idea. The problem was a constant wind (I’ve never winded the flintlock, I had no idea what the drift was) and when they called for six inches of snow, they were talking about “over the course of the day”. It was snowing when we got there, there were periods of hail, and it was snowing at sunset.

I had followed a deer trail from one side of the farm to the other end, the deer was there but having seen no deer beds and nothing but tracks, I doubted the deer was stopping. Given the weather I figured it might have gone to the pines on the far side but it went straight through. I knew the tracks were recent because they were on top of the snow but since the deer didn’t bed down, it wasn’t waiting for me or anything else. I took this as an opportunity to hike around the other areas to check for tracks or beds. Even in the places you would expect to find deer (acorn mast), there were no tracks and no beds. I checked mostly point to point, there’s no sense in line hunting alone. My brother doesn’t own a flintlock and has no interest in it so he was out with a shotgun for small game.

I had resigned myself to sitting on top of a hill in some light cover waiting to see if the deer would circle around. I had about 1h30m until sunset, so I figured it would be cold and boring. It managed to be both. With single digit temperatures in the valley and windchill on top of that, taking off my gloves to type on my phone quickly turned into OH GOD MY FINGERS ARE SO COLD THEY HURT. I was never so pleased with shoving my hands down my pants in public as I was Saturday on that hill.

Suddenly, a deer! Hunting goes from slowly poking around to sheer excitement with nothing in between when game is found. My brother was up the next hill over chasing a snowshoe hare when a deer came crashing through the bushes trying to avoid him. The deer was as suprised he was there as he was suprised he nearly got run down by the deer. I had heard the whole thing and suddenly my well placed stand with brush behind me became a liability as I tried to bring the gun around. I finally brushed the snow off the sights and found a lane to shoot through. I pulled the trigger and…

I actually watched the spark blow sideways off the frizzen and fall into the snow. George Washington’s ghost was laughing at me.

I reset the lock rested the gun again, and once again pulling the trigger lost the spark in the wind. I was trying to fire between gusts but deer rarely sit still and my firing lane was crowded anyway. There was a very real chance the deer would spook, especially since the lock isn’t exactly quiet and the delay between sparking and firing is enough to let the deer “jump the string” over enough distance. Given this was about a 50 yard shot, I was worried. One more spark in the snow.

Ripping my hat off, I supported the front of the gun on a thorn bush, aimed, then put my hat over the pan. This time the spark landed in the pan, but didn’t catch. By now the flint and frizzen were getting polished, where the face of the flint matches the frizzen so well it can no longer scrape the surface. Figuring I needed fresh powder I took down the gun and opened the lock to see that my pan had collected a layer of snow with all this false firing. I dumped out the pan and cleaned the rest with my fingers, which were now hurting again since I had discarded my gloves to help with the aiming and priming.

I pulled the powder tube over the pan and pressed the button. Nothing came out. Looking down the tube, it was also filled with snow, and to make matters worse the button to dispense powder bound in the down position. If George Washington were laughing before, his entire regiment was laughing now. I started to look for a place to lay the flintlock before realizing that six inches of snow is more than enough to lose a rifle in. I resigned to holding it across my chest in my elbows while I unscrewed the powder horn’s lid. I managed to dump powder into the pan wholesale (and all over me and the ground with the wind) and shove the horn in the snow upright with the lid laid on top.

Bringing the sites back onto the deer I see… Nothing. The deer probably winded me because she took of running away from my stand and onto the neighbors property, far and away from the longing sights of my gun.

The woods win again.

But all wasn’t lost, my brother shot a squirrel at about 25 yards, I was suprised he connected with it. We took it home as our only prize that day.

Dad always lightly fried up squirrels in butter, but Dad also really sucked at the whole preparing the other white meat. His squirrels always came out too small and cut to hell. There had to be a better way – and there was! In a stroke of brilliance, he prepped the squirrel shirt-and-pants, soaked the blood out, and what could we replace the blood with? BUTTER. How do we get it there? 15PSI. What do we use? PRESSURE COOKERS.

“But butter is insufficient!” you say?
ADD BACON.

The squirrel, now stuffed with bacon and butter, went into the pressure cooker along with about a half cup of water. We didn’t want to completely die. Actually we just wanted to hydrogenate that oil, as hydrogenated oil is the most flavorful of all the oils. Put the lid on, set it for chicken (lower heat) and let it roll for 20 minutes. The result was a forkable culinary delight. I could hear my brothers heart from across the room as he enjoyed the bounty of the woods.

To celebrate the end of deer season, I pulled out my mad elf clone. It had been sitting in the fridge lagering for an entire year, and this was the last growler from last year. How was it? Completely lacking in carbonation, which pissed me off. The growler top gave up at some point and all the carbonation seeped out. However, it wasn’t oxidized. The cherries were completely gone, but it was still tart, and very dry on the finish almost to the point of mouth puckering. It would have passed wonderfully well for a lambic if I chose to blend it. With it’s new status as a barleywine, we both enjoyed a pint before realizing it had refermented in the bottle. The ABV had gone through the roof, and after a pint and a half we were well on our way to being sloshed.

From my Father – Deer Safety

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it.The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope.

The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it.

After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up — 3 of them. I picked out.. ..a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw.. my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me.

I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation.

I took a step towards it…it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and then received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity.

A deer — no chance.

That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined.

The only up side is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.

I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.

Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder – a little trap I had set before hand…kind of like a squeeze chute.

I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist.

Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head –almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds.

I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it.

While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose. That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.

Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp. I learned a long time ago that, when an animal — like a horse –strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.

The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.

I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a  rifle with a scope to sort of even the odds.

Bagged and Tagged

I got a deer.

The Pig Deer

Not the biggest deer we’ve ever seen on the farm but a fat, fat little buck. He was post shed, so he went on my antlerless tag, and it was a clean lung-lung kill.

Me and my father went up to the farm Friday morning, and got into the woods. I snuck to my standard stand which gives a commanding view of the intersection of the valleys, while dad pressed back into the pines he likes to hunt. I saw a much larger doe over a bush, and tried to take the shot. As much as I love the Marlin 336, the 30-30 caliber with it’s thin jacket doesn’t make it a fantastic bush pusher. The 30-06 is a much better caliber for this with it’s much thicker jacket around the bullet. I’m playing with the idea of loading 30-06 flat-nose bullets into 30-30 cases but without the velocity, I don’t know if this is a fantastic idea. It’s one of those where you make 10 or 15 rounds and then test-fire them. But back to the chase, I saw a doe over a bush and thought I had a shot through a gap between the bush and it’s buddy. The first shot caused the deer to pause, but not panic. It also cleanly missed. When I racked the next round, the deer took off. I took another shot at the back of it’s neck and was outmaneuvered again by the bush. Dad radioed me to ask if I had connected with anything. Since the deer slowed down going up the hill I said I maybe hit something, I knew the first shot was a miss but the stumble up the hill made the second shot a likely hit. Dad volunteered to come by and help search for hair and blood. Hunting in a lot of ways is like a very cold, wet episode of CSI. Hair and blood indicates a hit and provides a trail, no hair and no blood means no hit.

Dad started to press his way through the bushes when another deer tried to sneak out. This deer was doing the sneaking crawl which deer do where they try to crawl under bushes with their head down and evade people. He almost made it too, I saw his head as he passed between two bushes and had the crosshairs on him. Had he crossed the gap faster, he might have made it, but curiosity killed the deer. Actually that’s wrong, the 30-30 killed the deer, but curiosity gave him pause long enough to make it an easy shot. I cracked the rifle once, the bullet hit just behind the shoulder blade, passed through the first lung and blew up over the heart. With no blood pressure, the deer stumbled once, laid down, and died.

Dad, hearing the next shot, assumed the first deer had come back down the hill and I had put another round into it. He was obviously elated to have both deer tags filled in the first hour of hunting so easily. I put a spare blaze orange hat on a tree over the deer to mark where the first one fell and we pressed on to try to find the second deer. There was no sign after a this second, more extensive search, so we returned to the first one. We looped a rope around it’s neck and pulled it out of the woods. The drag always sucks, 125lbs of dead weight is nothing to sneeze at, and we paused several times so we didn’t die of a heart attack. Gutting the deer is a pretty standard affair, start at the bottom and work your way up. Tie off the intestines on both sides to prevent poop from pouring out of the asshole and the bowel, then remove all the lower organs in a bundle. Next cut out the kidneys from the backstrap, pull out the stomach and liver, and cut the diaphragm. Fountain of blood! The lungs and heart pour blood into the chest, which is always a mess, so cutting this open always results in a gore-bath. Unfortunately this is the only way to do it, so the best bet is to just pour out the blood once it all flows out, reach in with a knife, and cut the windpipe. With any luck, the whole pulmonary system (heart and lungs) will come out intact. The good stuff is the liver and heart, those go into a bag, and cut off what used to be the lungs from the heart. The heart is like fillet mignon, it’s layers of fat and muscle built up as the deer grows. The liver is an acquired taste, but I like it. Finally you need to get the genitals out of the deer. This is accomplished by cutting the pelvic bone in two (this is where a heavy, sharp knife comes in handy) and cutting out the asshole along with the rest. If the ass was tied off first thing, this is easy. If you forgot to tie it off, expect to get covered in piss and shit from the intestines collapsing and the bladder opening from the loss of pressure. If you do screw it up, hose out the deer, otherwise it should come out cleanly as an entire unit of excreting organs. Cut carefully and think about it. Dump out the body one last time after freeing the genitals. The rest of the deer is run to the butcher shop to be turned into sausage, ground deer, steak, and cutlets.