Variety Meats - Beef Liver, Tongue, Rocky Mountain Oysters
(Testicles) & Sweetbread Recipes

Beef Sweetbread Picture and Recipe

Beef Sweetbread

Sweetbread is the thymus gland of animals. It is a light meat that is firmer in texture than brains. The sweetbreads of veal are considered the best. Beef sweetbreads are rather fatty and coarse, but if well prepared, they will taste almost the same as veal.  No on bothers with pork sweetbreads.

Beef sweetbread is found along the top of the neck vertebrae on the Front Quarter of the beef.  After the age of 1 to 1 1/2 years, the beef Thymus Gland usually shrinks. After the age of 2, it is usually gone completely from the beef.
Such foods, along with other internal organs are called "Offal," meaning, literally, the "off-fall" or off-cuts from the carcass; many call these items "variety meats."

Up until the time that America starting enjoying the luxury of large supermarkets (mid-1940s), people would butcher their own cattle for consumption. As times were hard and money was scarce, nothing was wasted. This included all parts of the animal butchered. Everything was used and eaten by the family. Now days, these foods are considered a delicacy by the people who enjoy them.

Sweetbreads are the ultimate organ meat, highly prized by chefs and connoisseurs for their mild flavor and velvety texture. They are the most versatile of offal meats and can be prepared using virtually any cooking method. They can be sautéed, braised, poached, grilled, fried, and even roasted. In addition to center of the plate entrees, sweetbreads can figure prominently in hot or cold appetizers, stews, salads, pates, terrines, and sausages.

These tender and delicately flavored meats come exclusively from young animals, most often lamb or veal. Veal sweetbreads are the most commonly used by chefs today. Sweetbreads come in two varieties. The first is the thymus gland, also called the throat sweetbread orgorge in French. The second variety is the pancreas, also referred to as the stomach sweetbread or noix in French. The stomach sweetbread is most prized because of its larger size and oval shape. It can easily be presented whole or sliced into medallions. Some claim that the throat sweetbreads have less flavor than their counterparts. Because the throat sweetbreads are elongated they are usually reserved for dishes like stews and ragouts where they will be presented in small pieces. Lamb sweetbreads are much smaller and have a less delicate flavor compared to veal sweetbreads.

Regardless of how they will be cooked and presented, all sweetbreads must follow the same initial preparation. First, sweetbreads should be soaked in cold water for a minimum of several hours (many chefs soak them up to 24 hours). This removes any traces of blood. This soaking , or degorging, produces a whiter and milder tasting sweetbread (both of which are desirable characteristics).

After soaking, the sweetbreads should be blanched. Begin by placing them in a pot and covering them with cold water. (Some chefs add a touch of salt, and lemon juice or vinegar to the blanching liquid.) Bring them to a boil. If they are stomach sweetbreads, allow them to simmer for a few minutes.

Beef Tongue Picture and Recipe

Beef Tongue
Scrub the tongue very well and put in a huge pot with cold water to just cover.

 Add an onion, sliced or not, a carrot, grated, 8 allspice berries, 1 tsp. black peppercorns, 5 cloves, a bay leaf, 3-4 cloves of garlic, and some salt.

 Simmer for about 3 hours, keeping the tongue just barely covered.

 Remove from stock and let cool, just a bit! The skin of the tongue on the taste bud side will have pulled away a bit from the meat. Slit this with a sharp knife, don't hit the meat. Scissors work well. Then just peel off both sides. Cut the root end off and freeze for a soup. It has a lot of gnarly things in it, but makes a good little soup when picked apart.

Slice the tongue and put into an oven dish with a ladle-full of the stock.

Cover and keep warm in the oven. Strain the stock, pressing hard on the solids. Bring to a boil and reduce to 2-3 cups. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a cornstarch paste. Pour the liquid in the baking dish into the gravy and whisk it in. Pour over the meat.

Note: After the gravy is poured over the meat, I like to broil it for just a few minutes to brown the top. Even better!

 Beef Liver Picture and Recipe

Beef Liver

Beef Liver with Onions

5 slices of bacon
3 cups of boiling water
1 pound of beef liver
2 1/2 cups of sliced liver
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 cup of hot water

Fry bacon until crispy, drain on paper towel leaving fat in pan.
 Pour boiling water over liver; drain and dry.
 Dip in flour and sauté in hot bacon fat until light brown.
Arrange in greased casserole with onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add hot water.
Crumble bacon on top.
 Bake covered in moderate oven at 350ºF. for 40 minutes.

Beef Liver with Onions

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon chicken soup base or bouillon granules
1 pound beef liver
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  1. Combine soy sauce, sugar and chicken soup base in medium bowl. Add liver; stir to coat. Cover; marinate in refrigerator, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

  2. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Place liver over onions; cook on each side for 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer pink in center.

Makes 4 servings.

Bull Fries and Rocky Mountain Oyster Picture and Recipe

Rocky Mountain Oysters
AKA - Prairie Oysters, Mountain Tendergroins, Cowboy Caviar, Swinging Beef, Calf Fries and Bull Fries

The bulls (or calves)  testicles are cut off and thrown in a bucket of water. They are then peeled, washed, and cooked. Like other meats, testicles can be cooked in a variety of ways, however generally those served in restaurants are deep-fried whole.

Calf/Bull Fries Recipe

2 pounds calf testicles*
2 cups beer
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmea1
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil**
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce

*  You can use bull or calf testicles. Calf testicles are the size of a walnut and are more tender than the larger bull testicles.

** Use enough vegetable oil to fill your frying container halfway to the top (to allow for bubbling up and splattering) and to completely cover calf testicles while frying.

With a very sharp knife, split the tough skin-like muscle that surrounds each testicle. Remove the skin (you can remove the skin easily if the testicles are frozen, then peel while thawing). Slice each testicle into approximately ¼- to ½- inch-thick ovals. Place slices in a large pan or blow with enough beer to cover them; cover and let sit 2 hours.

In a shallow bowl, combine eggs, flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper. Remove testicles from beer; drain and dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture. In a large, deep pot, heat oil to 375° F. Deep fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown (will rise to the surface when done). Drain on paper towels.


Last Updated:  Thursday, August 09, 2012 10:52 AM