Waste not want not is a motto by which many Missouri whitetail hunters live. When you harvest a deer, using as much of the animal as possible should be a priority. Not only is doing so ethical, but it also gives you the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Although we all have our preferred cuts of meat that we enjoy most, consumption can go well beyond, sometimes delving into parts of the deer often overlooked.
Making a meal of the unexpected is something to consider as many parts of the deer can be surprisingly delicious. An example of this would be the heart, which is often discarded with the rest of the entrails. In disposing of the heart, however, you are missing out on a satisfying meal that is also a good way to add variety to the venison meals you prepare.
The first step in preparing the heart is to remove it from your kill. In some cases the bullet may pierce the heart, which can make a mess of things but does not necessarily render it useless; simply trim away damaged areas and eat what remains. Once the heart is removed, it will need to be cleaned as well as trimmed free of all veins, arteries, fat, and connective tissue. This applies to the valves as well, which can be tough or chewy on aged deer. Rinse thoroughly to remove clotted blood and refrigerate until you are ready to eat. For best results, prepare the heart prior to freezing, instead eating it within a couple of days of your harvest while it is still fresh.
Photo: From the Healthy Heart
At this point in the process, it is time to decide how you'd like to prepare your venison heart. Depending on the method of cooking and recipe you choose to follow, you may wish to cut the heart or keep it whole. For crockpot meals, for example, keeping the heart whole and slicing it later is one school of thought. When grilling, it is easier to butterfly the heart in order to prepare it in a uniform manner. Once heat is applied, take care not to overcook.
Though many people dismiss the heart as mere offal and toss it into the gut pile, there are reasons to reconsider this action. For starters, there are many health benefits associated with the heart, which is rich in protein and B vitamins and also has a very low fat content. Additionally, why discard an edible portion of your hard earned deer for scavengers to dine on when you could be doing so instead? Though there have long been whispers that the taste of venison heart is off-putting, it is actually quite mild. There is none of the mineral taste or bizarre texture that some hunters have come to expect.
Photo: Wide Open Spaces
If you are new to heart consumption, a variety of recipe ideas can be found here. In the event that you are not interested in consuming venison heart, your dogs will gladly do so for you. Do keep in mind, however, that consuming the organs of animals that appear ill, such as with Chronic Wasting Disease, is not advised.
Are you a fan of eating venison heart or would you rather pass? What are your favorite recipes? Let us know in the comments!