Dry Curing Elk Heart


Heart is a misunderstood piece of offal. Like the tongue, and unlike the liver or kidneys for example, it’s a muscle rather than an organ. Like pig heads and other butcher-shop wastage that makes me cringe, the heart often ends up left in the gut-pile of a hunted wild animal, or tossed in the bin at the local meat processor. My guess is the big meat processors have figured out how to make some use of it by burying it in a processed meat of some kind. Which brings me to a story.

Last year, as I contemplated cutting the testicles out of a recently harvested bull elk, my dad expressed concern that I’d gone crazy. He dislikes wine too. My joking rebuttal at the time was that he eats hotdogs and drinks brandy, so he essentially eats testicles and drinks wine, in one form or another. In his defence, heart [and tenderloin] traditionally doesn’t leave moose camp, as it’s enjoyed first. My point here is that heart is meat. Not working with it is a waste.

As I cleaned up the fresh heart from my recent bull elk adventure [great video here re: cleaning one], I contemplated what its culinary fate might be. It then occurred to me that there was a nice thick slab, not too different in shape and size to a small pork jowl, that might be suitable to dry curing. A quick google of ‘dry cured heart’ turned up virtually nothing. Will it work out? No idea. But it’s worth a shot. For those interested: 356g bull elk heart, 1g instacure #2, 11g kosher salt, 1.5g black pepper. Into a bag, into the fridge, to cure for a week or so. It’ll then be rinsed, and I’m thinking lightly cold-smoked, maybe with a light dusting of ground dried herbs, then hung in the cellar to dry. I’m pretty curious to see where this goes – most of the dry curing I’ve tried have been variations on well beaten paths. This, not so much.

10 Responses

  1. Deb Krause says:

    i don’t see why it wouldn’t work. It looks like you’ve cleaned it up nicely.
    Just keep an eye on it this time ;)

  2. Marcus says:

    Congrats on the successful hunt! I have been considering cured heart since I saw this bit on the Ideas In Food blog:
    Interesting stuff for sure. Looking forward to hearing how yours comes out.

  3. Kevin says:

    Deb – Thanks for the reminder, I will. ;)
    Marcus – Thanks so much for the link to somebody else who took heart down a charcuterie path. I’m shooting for a bresaola type thinly sliced application, but grated is simply something I hadn’t considered.

  4. [...] Perennial Plate « Dry Curing Elk Heart 14 [...]

  5. Do you think that the veins and arteries will be a problem in the drying stage? Maybe they would create isolated air pockets that harbour moisture and rot? Or are they pretty well closed up at this point?

    Interesting project.

  6. Kevin says:

    Allan – I don’t think so, although I absolutely could be wrong. It’s just a slab of meat post-trim. A whole heart would certainly not be doable, for the reasons you mention + the nasty texture of the fibrous interior stuff. I’m working with one of the thicker walls of meat.

  7. Oh… that makes more sense.

  8. Andrew says:

    Saw your post and have adapted it slightly. First run worked to create something identical to deli roast beef: Open up heart and trim out tendony stuff, and fat.

    Pickled in salt, brown sugar, juniper, clove, thyme, allspice, black pepper for three days, then cook all day in water bath. Turned out really well.

    Now I’m trying the same thing but have added garlic and hot pepper to the mix, and have trimmed it so that it can be rolled and tied, and will be smoking it for a few hours and then doing the slow cook. More of a corned recipe than a cured recipe, but tasty nonetheless.

    3 down 4 more to go.

  9. [...] got a lot of questions about how the dry-cured elk heart turned out – and I didn’t know until today. Sliced into it exactly one month after the [...]

  10. [...] was trying to find a recipe for a some voodoo cow heart charcuterie and the best I came up with was this which is an idea for drying an elk heart. So following the same principal of salt rub in a bag [...]

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