Deer fat. It doesn’t taste particularly good. To us humans anyway. Yet some deer will have a lot. I’ve pulled almost 20 pounds of almost pure fat off a large deer that seemed to be bulking up for a rough winter.
When field dressing a deer, you are going to need to make some important decisions: what parts to take, and what to leave behind. Hunters can debate for hours over what they think is worthwhile, but I think many will agree, you MUST take the heart and the liver. Here, we’ll focus on the heart.
While I enjoy some pan fried venison liver and onions, I also like variety. And if that variety involves sandwiches of some sort, well, sign me up! This recipe for homemade venison liverwurst may not be for everyone, but it does hit the mark when comparing it to a commercially made liverwurst.
Now, I’ll give you two warnings up front:
- This is one of the messiest venison recipes I make. It’s not messy in that your kitchen will look like a bomb went off, but you will essentially be making a meat paste. Wear some disposable gloves and have extras. And keep a spatula handy for scraping out bowls.
- While this is not a complicated recipe by any means, making it will be a challenge if you don’t have some specialized tools. You’ll want a meat grinder, a food processor, and a sausage stuffer.
To get the right consistency, the meat needs to be processed multiple times. If you have a food processor, but no grinder, you can get by as long as you buy some ground pork to start with. If you have a grinder but no food processor, you could grind several times with a fine blade, but the pastier this gets, the harder it is to put through the grinder.
As for the sausage stuffer, I recommend a stand alone compression style stuffer. Personally, I use a LEM 5 lb vertical stuffer. The gears are all metal (beware, some stuffers come with plastic gears), and 5 lbs is the perfect size for me. I avoid making any batches of sausage more than ten pounds – that’s just my personal limit. There’s only so much sausage I’ll eat in a given year. And when I run out, I can always make more. I usually stay closer to five pounds for any one recipe I do, and this recipe falls under that.
If you don’t have a dedicated sausage stuffer, but have a jerky gun, that would work in a pinch. Stuffing the paste in the small chamber will be a pain, but you can work with it. If you only have a grinder attachment sausage stuffer, you can use that as well, but because the paste gets more challenging to grind, trying to run it through the worm gear of the grinder stuffer will be just as challenging.
Now, just by the fact that you got here looking for a venison liverwurst recipe, I know I haven’t scared you away with any of these warnings. Plus, odds are, if you are still reading, you already have all the tools listed above. So, here’s how you do it:
Well, you know we’re using the liver. You’ll want to do some soaking on it after you dress the deer, like I laid out here. Making liverwurst is not one of my top priorities when I get home with a deer, I like to save it for a boring winter day, so I’ll use frozen liver. When I freeze the liver, I freeze it in approximately 1/3 pound packages of strips sliced to about 1/4 inch thick.
- 1 lb of diced deer liver
- 1.5 lbs of ground pork
- 1 small to medium onion, grated
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
I will usually start with a whole pork shoulder, so I’ll cut it all up into cubes and run it through the grinder once. Then I’ll take my pound and a half from that. Put it in a bowl with the diced liver and all the other ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Run this mixture through the grinder one more time with a fine blade. It isn’t pretty. Tell the faint of heart to look away should they wander into the kitchen.
Chill for about 30 minutes or so. As the mixture warms, it gets harder to work with. Plus this lets the flavors infuse for a little while.
Taking one third to one half of the mixture at a time, run it through the food processor till it get’s a nice creamy texture. The whole batch may fit in your processor, but most likely it will be too much all at once for your processor to handle smoothly. Pour/scrape it from the processor right into the sausage stuffer and stir it all together. Change your gloves. Probably for the fifth time. From here on in, it’ll be cleaner, I promise. Well, till you need to wash everything that is..
Stuff the mixture into a 2 1/2 inch casing of your choice. I always have mahogany casings on hand for summer sausage, and they work great for liverwurst too. The 20″ x 2 1/2″ will hold close to 3 lbs of meat, so this batch should fit perfectly in one casing. Tie off the end tightly enough to keep good form, but keep in mind you’ll need to jam a thermometer in there to check the temperature as it cooks.
In a pan or pot big enough to hold the stuffed casing (I use a roasting pan, it’s the perfect length, and since it’s oblong, there isn’t a lot of excess water), poach the liverwurst till the internal temperature reaches 160. You want to keep the water from boiling. Make it barely simmer and you should be good. It will take about an hour for the meat to hit 160, but that of course will vary depending on how you manage the simmer.
When it’s done, pull it from the water and let it cool to room temperature. If you used a mahogany casing, you can run it under cold water – this will clean the casing off, and help it cool down faster. Cut into lengths, and share or freeze the extra…
If you know about the origins of Venison Thursday, this particular meal is not one you want to start with. UNLESS.. (there’s always a caveat to most things in life now, isn’t there?) Unless your meal guests like liver.
I believe in harvesting as much from my deer as humanly possible. While there are a few parts I haven’t quite worked up to (kidneys, testicles – hey, people eat them in other animals..), liver and heart are some mainstays that you are really missing out on if you haven’t tried them.
I like venison liver over beef liver. So, as I mentioned, if your dinner guest likes beef liver, this meal should be a slam dunk. I think part of it for me is the size. Because it’s naturally much smaller than beef liver, while you still get a nice livery flavor, I think it has better texture. Or it could be all in my head. Either way, here’s how to prepare it.
In the field:
When harvesting the liver from the gut pile, clean it up as best you can. Cut off any arteries and such connected to it, wipe it down if you have something to wipe it down with, and get it in a plastic bag to keep it clean. ALWAYS keep a few gallon size zip lock bags in your field dressing kit for just such an occasion. The end result should look like a nice purplely slab, with two main lobes, and usually a little smaller flap where the lobes join.
Back at camp/home:
I don’t usually have the liver as a “camp meal”, because I like to do a little prep on it. First, rinse it off with clean cold water. Then pop it back in its (rinsed out) zip lock, and fill it with clean cold water. Let it sit in there a while (hour is good), then change the water. What we are doing is getting the blood out of it. The more blood you get out, the less metallic it will taste. Once you’ve done a few short soaks like that, mix a salt water solution in the same zip lock, or a bowl. There is no magic recipe that I’ve found, just make sure there is a good salt concentration, and that all the salt is dissolved in the water. Soak it in the solution overnight. This will really draw the blood out.
The next day, rinse it in some clean cold water again. NOW we are ready to cook it, or prepare it for the freezer.
Slice the liver into strips, somewhere between a quarter inch to a half inch. You’ll get an idea of your own preference once you’ve cooked some up. At this point, I’ll package up strips into serving sized portions and freeze them, keeping out only what I need for my current meal.
Get your cast iron skillet out, and slice up an onion. In the pictures here, I used a half of an onion and four strips – perfect lunch size portion for me.
Heat the skillet up, throw some butter in, and cook the onion till it turns translucent. Make a little room, and pop the liver slices in. They don’t need much time, a few minutes per side.
This is the hard part. I like to pull them off the heat while they are still just a little pink when you cut one – they will continue to cook once you take them off the heat. If you wait too long, they will get leathery.
They should have a nice brown sear on them otherwise. Plate everything up, and I like to let them set for just a few minutes, where they continue to cook. After a few minutes, if done right, the redness goes away, and you have perfectly cooked liver and onions.
This takes some practice (or maybe it just took ME some practice). But once you get the hang of it, you have a simple 3 ingredient meal that takes about 10 minutes to make.