Giblets. Innards. Offal. The nasty bits. Whatever you call them, you shouldn’t be throwing them away.
Warning: this post contains images that may not be suitable for those that are squeamish, scared of blood, easily grossed out, or, depending on your office mates, those of you on a work computer.
It’s no secret to our friends and family that we are perfectly willing to travel outside the ‘normal’ boundaries of food. Truth is, most of these boundaries are very modern, catering to our fragile Western sensibilities and espousing a system that is, quite frankly, very wasteful. The closer we get to becoming full participants in our food, the more these out-of-bounds day trips turn into an extended vacation in food’s nether regions.
Let’s start with waterfowl. I’ve mentioned before that the Mr. and I pluck all the ducks we come home with, rather than simply “breasting out” the birds. This gives us a freezer full of familiar looking food – they’re essentially mini-chickens, but with way more flavor. This also gives us whole birds to smoke or roast, braise, pop in the pressure cooker for duck tacos, or really whatever else we can dream up.
(For really great information and tutorials on how to pluck and process, visit this page on Hank Shaw’s site, Hunter Angler Gardner Cook.)
Each of those emptied cavities yielded us a heart, a liver and a gizzard. And we save every one of them, from every bird we shoot. We also save necks for stock, and extra skin, fat and the Pope’s nose to be rendered down for cooking fat. If I kill it to eat it, I’m going to eat all of it and I’m going to be grateful for it.
You might think that collecting all those innards is tedious and doesn’t amount to much reward for your work. Well, you’d be wrong. The 2014-15 season was very good to us, and by the end of it we had many, many little vacuum sealed bags full of hearts, livers and gizzards. Turns out, we had amassed 9lbs of giblets! This was 9lbs of very edible, very nutritious meat that many people simply throw away without a second thought! It was at this point that I realized how amazing the opportunity to hunt is, how monumentally flawed the sheltered, shrink-wrapped meat case at the grocery store is, and how important a little insight and experience can be in shaping the way we look at the world.
So how do we forge a path into the unknown regions of animals and eating? I mean, I know not everyone likes the taste of liver, and the texture and consistency of gizzards can be a challenge starting out. Maybe, then, the best way to break into new food territory is to make a familiar dish with some of these unfamiliar ingredients.
This is dirty rice. Looks good, right? I bet I could serve this to a dinner guest and if I never named off the ingredients, they’d never suspect it was organ meats dirtying up the dish. Path. Forged.
(Recipe from Duck, Duck, Goose)
But what about that 9lbs of giblets from the freezer? That’s a hellofalotta dirty rice… naturally, the man brain kicks in and the Mr. suggests sausage. Blood sausage. Now this was new territory for me – I’d never had blood sausage, pudding, cake, etc until I met this guy. Before eating with him, I’d really never even considered the concept of blood in food. And yet there we were, heading out to procure 3 quarts of pigs blood. I won’t lie, the macabre scene that played out in our kitchen that afternoon forced my brain and stomach over some pretty big hurdles in a pretty big hurry. But in the end, we produced 13lbs of deliciousness from the throw away bits, and a year and half later we’re still enjoying the fruits of that labor.
There’s that idiom about “how the sausage gets made”, alluding to the unpleasantness of the process and how people would rather not know the details. The logic of this is lost on me. The process intrigues me, it inspires me to do more and be more involved. And besides, if you see something you don’t like, wouldn’t you rather know and act accordingly than live blindly, participating in that which you despise?
I’ll continue to make sausage, fully informed of all the gory details. And I’ll continue to save the nasty bits, the scraps and throw away pieces, because the animals we take for our food deserve at least that much respect.
Duck Giblet Blood Sausage
Note: This is a big batch. Keep the proportions the same and adjust as needed.
9 lbs giblets
1-3 quarts pigs blood
3 lbs fat (pork works well)
3 onions, diced
2 cups raw rice
80 g paprika
18 g black pepper
15 g ground bay leaves
10 g cayenne
18 g Insta Cure #1 / pink salt
114 g kosher salt
- Cook the rice, set aside and let cool. Cook the onion until just transparent.
- Cut the fat into approximately 1×1 inch chunks and place in the freezer (spread out on a sheet pan works well)
- Grind the giblets and any additional meat you might be supplementing with using the coarse die. Mix in the spices only – not the salt or Insta Cure. Place in the freezer and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes at least.
- Rinse your casings and allow them to soak in cool water. Fill a large pot with water and start heating it up – you want 170-180 F, not boiling.
- Using the fine die, grind the cold fat. Send the ground meat through one more time. Mix the fat, meat, rice, onion, salt and Insta Cure together. Add the blood and mix until it is a uniform consistency.
- Stuff the casings. Depending on how loose your mixture is, this is where it can get tricky. Our mixture was like a stiff batter, just firm enough to use our vertical sausage stuffer without disaster. Keeping it very cold will help, as will working quickly. Also, keep in mind, you will need to tie off between each link with kitchen twine to keep the slurry contained – don’t stuff the casings too tightly!
- Get an ice bath ready. Working in small batches, poach the sausages for 12 minutes in your 170-180F water. You want the mix to set, but you’re not cooking these completely.
- Cool the links in the ice bath and allow them to dry. Now you are ready to package and freeze, smoke, or cook and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Hank Shaw’s Portuguese Blood Sausage. (Seriously, if you have any interest in food, especially wild food, you need to know about Hank Shaw. Just go check out honest-food.net and thank me later.)