Venison liver is usually the main course in deer camp. When you take the liver out of your deer during the field-dressing operation, wipe it clean and put it in a plastic bag. Back in camp, soak it in a pan of water with a cup of salt. Keep changing the water until the liver is thoroughly purged of blood, then pat dry.
Preparing liver is easy. All you need is about a pound of bacon, four or five onions, flour, and butter. First, fry the bacon in a skillet. In a second skillet, sauté the sliced onions in butter until soft and transparent. When both bacon and onions are done, set them aside. Now flour the liver, which you’ve already cut into slices a one-half inch thick, and fry them in the skillet with the bacon drippings. Take care not to overcook the liver. Serve the bacon and onions over the liver. A bottle of very dry Cabernet Sauvignon will further enhance the liver. Eating venison liver is a matter of taste. Some people will love it, and others will never touch it.
A word of caution: When you field dress a deer and remove the liver, it should be dark red and uniform in color. If you see white spots or flukes in the liver, these are parasites, and you should probably discard the liver. There are various opinions about the edibility of a liver with suspicious spots. Unless you are in a dire survival situation, I recommend discarding the liver.
It’s unfortunate that many hunters routinely discard the heart from a deer or elk. Venison heart can be tough, but it is truly a specialty dish when handled and prepared correctly. I’ve eaten deer and elk hearts several times on hunts with Jim Zumbo.
A deer’s heart is not big and will generally feed two people. However, an elk heart is about the size of a pineapple and enough for several people. I defer to Jim, an expert on wild game cookery. The following recipe is from Jim’s book Amazing Venison Recipes. Jim titles it “Venison Heart Like You’ve Never Had It Before.”
1 Venison Heart
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 cups of water
2/3 cup uncooked rice
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
2 ounces canned mushrooms, sliced
10 3/4 ounces condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 Tablespoons dry onion soup mix
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes
Rinse the heart and remove the outer membrane. Cut the heart open and cube tender fleshy parts of the heart, discarding gristle and venous hard parts and any fat—brown cubes in cooking oil. Add water and simmer for 45 minutes. Add uncooked rice, celery, and green peppers. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until rice is tender (about 20 minutes). Drain mushrooms and stir into heart mixture with mushroom and onion soups, salt, and parsley flakes. Simmer 10 minutes more. Serves 6.
When you drop that buck and field dress it, make sure you don’t leave the heart and the liver in a gut pile. You may be passing up a great hunter’s dinner.
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