How does liver, heart, lung, whiskey, suet, and sheep gut sound? If you want to use all the edible parts of an animal it means finding creative recipes, sometimes those with long and storied histories.
Long before the likes of AncestryDNA and 23andMe my family had a tradition of first speculating on what our heritage was, and then rejuvenating traditions first established by those geographic distributions. For instance. We sat one November during deer camp soaking in our own sweat from our Finnish inspired sauna we built the year prior. We speculated on what parts of the whitetail that were edible, that we had been leaving for the coyotes and crows this whole time.
Deer cheek. No, deer are definitely not like walleye by any extent of the imagination. Reproductive glands. Nope, that’s a stretch even for us. Not unless you’re talking prairie oysters, then yes. Testicles may go by many names, cowboy caviar, swinging beef, Montana tendergroins, but to be certain they are btw delicious. How about Intestine? Something like cow intestine soup perhaps. Yotes are known for being opportunists and devouring undigested and partially digested vegetables from a deer’s stomach. Intestine, though probably not.
That night we didn’t land on anything promising. But, by the following deer season we had decided on a well known Scottish dish. Haggis. Traditionally made with lamb tripe, haggis uses the animal’s lungs in addition to various other organs and straight up lard from cow loin.
The rest as they say is history. That year we were fortunate enough to harvest several deer during bow season with their internal organs intact and untainted. We bought good whiskey, contacted the local Butcher at Dublin General Store and procured some cow lard (technically lard is from a pig, I’m being euphemistic because prior to dining on suet I had only ever fed it to the birds). We purchased sheep stomach casings and left the oven to do the rest of the work.
The first year we had eight (8) people in total try our ‘use every part of the animal’ cuisine. One of those was my Grandma Kenita who tried it in spite of the fact that she doesn’t care for liver at all. Well, year one we didn’t soak the liver in milk; we didn’t trim hardly any of the bronchiole from the lungs other than the trachea; and the tripe exploded in the oven.
In a word, it was a disaster. But you know what. We still broke bread with family and friends around a table. We laughed, we ate, we drank a few fingers of damn good whiskey, and to this day we all tell the story of year one haggis.
We no longer buy sheep stomach and we no longer use suet or make haggis the traditional way. But, all these years later we still eat every edible part of the animal. Our haggis ingredients are now used in shepherd's pie. Funny thing, come to find out, our heritage is more Welsh anyway, which like shepherd's pie, is also ‘from across the pond.’
Into the wild and HangryOutdoors,
Article written by Mike (budding Genealogist) Hiller