Overlooking organ as table fare could be a culinary miscue

Keith Sutton/Contributing Writer Published January 5, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Keith Sutton/Contributing Photographer

The recipe for Venison Heart Teriyaki requires few ingredients, is fast and easy to prepare, and provides a delicious way of serving one of the choicest parts of a whitetail or other hoofed game animals.

Long ago, Native Americans believed eating the heart of a deer transferred to the hunter the animal’s strength and courage. Today, few of us bother to test that theory. Instead of keeping, cooking and eating one of the most delectable parts of the big-game animals we kill, we toss the heart in the gut pile with the rest of the offal and leave it for the coyotes.

There was a time not so long ago when such wastefulness would have been thought ridiculous. But today’s culture of American hunters seems to have developed a bad case of squeamishness, or perhaps laziness, that makes such occurrences commonplace.

That’s a shame because venison heart is easy to clean, easy to cook and delicious on the table. It’s loaded with B vitamins and protein, has little fat, and the flavor is mild despite common misconceptions. Some people don’t eat heart because they expect a muscle that never stops working to be tough and unsavory. But when properly prepared, venison heart is as tender and delectable as a piece of loin.

Heart is best eaten fresh, not frozen, within a day or two of the kill. To prepare a heart for cooking, split it in half lengthwise so you can open it out flat. Then use a knife to slice away the whitish outer membrane and the veins, arteries, valves and fat, all of which will be light in color — almost white — as compared to the lean, red muscle you want to eat. Rinse the trimmed meat in cold water to remove all clotted blood, then cut out and discard any portions that might have been damaged by the bullet.

The heart of a white-tailed deer will typically feed two people of modest appetite. The hearts of elk, antelope, moose and other hoofed game animals also are delicious and big enough to provide a scrumptious meal for several diners.

Methods by which heart can be cooked range from simple to sublime. Many cooks slice the meat thinly, roll it in seasoned flour and fry it fast and medium-rare. Venison heart also is delicious grilled, baked, broiled, slow-cooked or prepared in combination with other foods. The results are best if you cook the meat medium rare to medium. If you cook it until it’s well done, heart tends to get tough.

Following are some tried-and-true recipes from our home kitchen that make the best of these tasty organs. Have a heart. You’ll like it, you’ll see.

Grilled Marinated Venison Heart


1 trimmed venison heart, cut in 1-inch squares

1 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt


Toss the pieces of heart in a mixture of the remaining ingredients. Place all in a zip-seal bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Drain the pieces, and cook on a grill over a hot fire for about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Serve as an appetizer. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Sautéed Heart With Bacon, Onion, Wine and Tomatoes


1 venison heart, cut in 1-inch squares

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 strips bacon

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup red wine

1 1/2 cups peeled, diced tomatoes

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Sauté the pieces of heart in hot butter melted in a skillet, along with the bacon and onion. Add the water, wine and diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, then stir in the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Heart of Venison With Vegetables


1 venison heart, cut in 1/2-inch-wide strips

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 cups carrot slices

1 1/2 cups diced celery

1 medium onion, sliced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons dried parsley


Dredge the heart strips in a mixture of the flour, salt and pepper. Heat bacon drippings in a skillet, and sauté the strips until lightly browned. Add just enough water to cover the meat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add more water if necessary. Stir in the vegetables, cover and continue to simmer until the meat and vegetables are tender. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Venison Heart Teriyaki


2 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 venison heart, cut in 1/2-inch-wide strips

Salt, black pepper


In a large skillet, heat the butter, teriyaki sauce and oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until tender. Place slices of heart in the pan and cook 2 minutes on each side. Don’t overcook. Salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Pickled Venison Heart


1 well-trimmed venison heart

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

3 small white onions, sliced

1 1/2 cups cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

White cider vinegar


Boil the heart in a pot with enough water to cover. When the water starts boiling, add the brown sugar. Continue simmering 30 to 45 minutes. Drain the heart and cool in the refrigerator.

Dice the heart in small chunks. Place in a quart jar, alternating with slices of onion. Add the cold water, salt and pepper. Finish filling the jar with white cider vinegar. Place a lid on the jar, shake and refrigerate. Leave two to three days and then enjoy. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Baked Stuffed Heart


1 well-trimmed venison heart

1/2 pound venison or pork sausage

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

2 cups dried breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter or margarine


Slice open one side of the heart and stuff with sausage mixed with the herbs and spices. Truss with cotton twine to close, and place in a pot. Cover with water. Heat to boiling and cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Remove the heart, and wet with milk. Roll in breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Repeat to thicken the coating. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, basting frequently with melted butter. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

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