I’m always on the hunt for the next recipe or experiment to try in the kitchen. While browsing the internet I came across this cured beef heart recipe and straight away I knew that I had to try to make it for myself, especially as I could easily obtain all the ingredients. The original recipe can be found here.
I really enjoy working with beef heart as it is a very cost-effective and versatile ingredient, particularly as the importance of eat nose-to-tail eating is becoming more apparent in this day and age. Heart shouldn’t be seen as a food fad but a common sense addition to your diet and recipes. Taste-wise it is a richer form of beef and is packed with protein and vitamins as well as containing less calories.
1kg Fresh beef heart (Ask your local butcher or farmer)
350g sea salt flakes
1kg sourdough starter
Note – For this recipe you will need a basic sourdough starter, if you don’t already have one you will need to prepare this at least 5 days in advance before commencing this recipe.
I started off by making the brine in a large stock pot so it could completely cool to room temperature during the time that I took to prepare the heart. For this brine you will need to make a 10% brine solution by dissolving 300g of sea salt flakes in 3L of water. To flavour the brine (this is optional but I do recommend it) I added peppercorns, juniper berries, chili flakes, coriander seeds, rosemary, bay leaves, garlic and star anise. You can adjust the quantities of your herbs, spices & aromatics to suit your taste. Bring the brine solution to boil and leave it for 5 minutes, making sure to stir the pot from time to time until the salt completely dissolves. After 5 minutes take the pot off the heat and set it aside.
A close up of the herbs and spices.
While the brine is cooling down take this time to trim and tidy up the heart. As always make sure you have a clean and hygienic work space, as the last thing you want is to get yourself or someone else ill. Your butcher may have already prepped the heart, however it will usually come with muscle fat, arteries and blood vessels.
After you have trimmed and tidied the heart take a sharp knife and cut it as I have in the image below. Alternatively, simply cut the heart into two even halves. Once again you will have to trim away the arteries, blood vessels and any stringy parts that you find on the inside of the heart.
Carefully start trimming away the arteries, blood vessels, stringy parts and wind pipe, that’s in the picture below, and anything else that doesn’t look like it belongs there.
On the outside remove the hard fat that’s on top, it looks a lot like kidney fat – although it cannot be used in the same way. Don’t worry if you cut a little of the meat, it is safer to do this than it is to cut into the tough fat. You should end up with no hard, fatty pieces left on the inside or the outside. It is fine if you leave a little bit of the softer fat as it will provide some additional flavour as well as prevent your product from drying out completely. All of the off-cuts you can chop up into bite-size pieces and give to your dog, cat or in my case chickens and they will thank you for this nutritious and delicious addition to their diet.
The inside, with most of the hard fat, arteries and sinewy bits removed.
Once you are satisfied with how the heart looks (see images above for reference), place it into the cooled brine solution. Make sure that it is completely submerged and then leave it for around 6-8 hours or overnight.
After the brining time is up, remove the heart and lay it down on a clean kitchen towel or some paper towels.
Make sure to pat it completely dry on both sides.
At this point you will need to mix the remaining 50g of sea salt flakes into the sourdough starter culture. Make sure to stir it in properly so the salt is evenly distributed.
Take the heart and place it in a large and clean glass or ceramic dish, ensuring that it is firmly set into the container. Once this is done you can start to spread the sourdough starter culture all over both sides of the heart making sure to get inside all the nooks and crannies.
When the heart is totally covered in the sourdough culture you can leave it to cure overnight at room temperature, but make sure to keep it away from direct sunlight.
On the next day carefully wash off the cure with cold water while avoiding soaking it too much. Lay the washed heart on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and pat until it is completely dry on both sides.
Using a kitchen skewer pierce a hole at the top of the heart to allow a loop of kitchen twin through (as seen in the image below).
The heart is now ready to hang. It needs to air-dry in a cool, dark ventilated area for around 7 days. 15°C is the ideal hanging temperature, however where I live it is currently winter and the temperature barely reaches 15°C on most days, so I have decided to hang it outside on the deck where it is well ventilated and and protected from the sun. If hanging outside it is imperative to protect your product from insects and other unwanted guests and I find that a curing/drying bag (as pictured below) does a great job for my projects.
While the original recipe suggests a 7-day hanging time, I chose to leave the heart drying for over 3 weeks until it hardened and darkened in colour. This is all part of the experimentation process and depends on what sort of flavor and texture that you prefer.
Serving suggestion: thinly slice or finely grate, as you would a bottarga or parmesan over pasta, into sauces or over scrambled eggs to give your dish an extra umami boost.
I will hang the heart that I have been preparing for a few more weeks as the middle hasn’t firmed up as much as I would have liked it to, even though it is perfectly fine to eat as it is. You can cut it into pieces to check the progress and speed up the drying time.
Once fully dried it will last a very long time. That is unless you decide to eat it all!