A few years ago, my friend Sarah Beth and I were prepping some wild game appetizers for a Women’s Shooting Event that Cal Waterfowl was hosting the next morning at their Grizzly Ranch Property. Sarah Beth is an amazing hostess and had wrangled herself up a variety of wild game cuts from her hunter connections. SB asked me to help do some prep and I didn’t mind one bit. I was sort of shocked however, when she assigned me the task of prepping the elk heart following a recipe by none other thank Hank Shaw himself! I looked at her like she was crazy! I had never, ever even packed the heart out of the field of any game animal I had harvested. “Who eats heart?” and “who did you get this heart from?” I asked with a look of “eeewww” written all over my face! She laughed at me, and told me to just follow the recipe, promising that I would love it! Turns out, SB wasn’t wrong and I, as well as the 20 other ladies who got to try elk heart for the first time that next day, were truly impressed!
That one experience, set me out on a mission to eat the heart of any buck, elk or moose that I should have the opportunity to harvest from then on! I think heart is often overlooked by many folks, not just hunters, but consumers in general. I mean, when was the last time you saw beef heart in the meat case at Bel Air? Yeah, me either! I would honestly, compare the heart of a deer, elk, or moose (I haven’t tried antelope, but it’s heart would most likely fall into this category too) to the flavor and tenderness level of any tenderloin cut I’ve tried. It’s great stuff and if you are every blessed with the fruits of a successful kill, I would certainly say, don’t leave the heart behind in the gut pile!
Funny, quick story! Last year when I killed my moose in the Yukon, we could only break down so much of the carcass the same day that I shot him. The next morning when we returned to finish the job of breaking down and packing out such a beast of an animal, I went to cut out the heart from the sack of his organs. I rolled through all those body parts like I was performing some sort of an autopsy and was beyond confused when I couldn’t find the darn heart! What the heck, I really thought I had a pretty good handle on this gutting and skinning thing! Well, it turned out the large grapefruit-sized or even cantaloupe-sized heart that I was searching for, didn’t exist! Because a moose’s heart is more like the size of a small watermelon! I couldn’t believe the size of that thing when I finally discovered it!! It was incredible! It tasted incredible too when we cooked it as our celebratory meal a couple nights later!
So just recently, Casey killed a young buck and of course I brought the heart home to fix up. A blacktail deer heart is not very big, so portion wise I knew it wasn’t enough meat to feed our family of four as a main course. Instead, I opted to prepare this heart as an appetizer; veggie and heart kabobs. Heart on a stick is what I called it and it actually turned out decent enough to share as a blog post recipe! If you ever end up trying this recipe, please please let me know how you like it! I also think you could chunk up goose breasts as a meat sub, if venison heart is hard to come by.
Anyhow, lets get going on the how to:
The breakdown of the heart can be a tad important. A heart has a lot of chambers, arteries and webbing that all needs to be cut out. I have included a couple pictures that really explain more than I can with words, but first you are going to want to run cold water through the heart until it runs clear. Be sure to get all the coagulated stuff out of it. Next you should brine the whole heart overnight in a ziplock bag and salt water. Two tablespoons of salt and enough water to cover the heart. Don’t overthink this part, its just to help lessen the iron taste of blood. When you are ready to prepare it, run the heart under cold water again to rinse the brine. Easy.
Now comes the cutting part, a slicing type sharp knife is recommended. When looking down on the top of the heart, you will see all the tubes and arteries. All those need to be cut off the top as well as to trim the hardened layer of fat on the outside of the heart. Now that you can clearly see the chambers (holes) from the top side of the heart, you are going to open the heart up like a book, slicing between those two chambers.
Trim out any webbing that you see and any tubes as well. Lastly, you will simply cut the heart into strips, then the strips into chunks, and season however you would like.
I have included the recipe I used for the meat marinade below. FYI, I left the chunks of meat in the marinade overnight. The next day, I soaked my wooden skewers for about two hours and then loaded them with the meat chunks, mushrooms, and mini peppers. Then BBQ’d them for roughly six – eight minutes, turning half way through. Just enough for the peppers to soften a bit and the mushroom to warm through.