Serious readers of Wise Traditions may have noticed at some point that one form of organ meat has yet to be addressed–testicles. This is in some ways a groundbreaking article. . . a first mention of the topic within this forum and perhaps the first time anywhere that testicles will be considered as a source of valuable nutrition rather than something eaten as a drunken test of manhood!
I should say right up front that I have never eaten testicles myself, although I would certainly give it a try should the opportunity present itself. Therefore, I have approached this subject as a scholarly pursuit lacking in personal experience, completely ignorant of the nuances that characterize the world of testicle cuisine!
A DISH OF MANY NAMES
The first thing that I learned was that there are numerous different terms for the cuisine in question, many of which might offend those of more Victorian manners! “Rocky Mountain oysters” is perhaps the most common name (generally for bull testicles), but these are also sometimes referred to as “cowboy caviar,” “swinging beef,” “bollocks” and “animelles,” which is French for testicles. The term “fry” is often used as well, with the animal of origin being mentioned first–e.g., “bull fry,” “pig fry,” “lamb fry,” etc.
The second thing I learned in my searching of the internet is that the prime website for information of this nature is http://www.funlinked.com/testicle/, which is maintained by Mary Ann Christie. Time and again I would see Christie’s website referenced elsewhere, and it is indeed a treasure-trove of information, recipes and sometimes off-color humor befitting to the subject. I learned from this site that the word “testicle” comes from the Latin word for “witness,” due to the Roman custom of allowing only men to testify in legal cases. There was a downside to this privilege, because the penalty for perjury was castration.
The third thing, which quickly became apparent, was that virtually no one has ever bothered to research the nutritional value of animal testicles. Christie’s site gave no information on this subject but, after searching high and low, I was finally able to find a macronutrient profile available on the University of Missouri–Columbia Extension website. (Of course, I was not really interested in the macronutrients so much as other factors…but it’s the best I could find!) This website reports that research was published in The Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society, 1965, (Vol. 42, page 540) and in Lipid Metabolism of Animals Journal, 1977 showing that 100 grams of raw hog or cattle testicles contain the following: 3 grams fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 26 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrate and 135 calories. This website also mentioned that the USDA was slated to do further nutritional research on the matter in September of 1993, but I was unable to find any evidence of whether or not this actually happened. Since no real evidence seems to exist on the subject, one might reasonably speculate that testicles contain those same elements which are necessary for reproductive health–vitamins A, D and B6, zinc, amd the fatty acids EPA and DHA. In the absence of much solid information, one may choose to take it on faith that testicles are a nourishing food (just as other organ meats), or seek out other sources of information to clarify the matter. If you choose the latter option, I wish you more luck than I had!
Now, for those with an inclination to try testicles for the first time, there are two options–try fixing them yourself or go to a Testicle Festival! According to Christie’s website, there are a number of these festivals. Probably the largest and most popular one is the yearly Rock Creek Lodge Testicle Festival, held in Clinton, Montana. For a $10 general admission fee, one may indulge in all manner of testicle cuisine. The 2005 Festival was held September 15-19 and was open only to adults, 21 and over. (Be warned–I visited the website for this event and it seems to have the atmosphere of a pornographic drunken fraternity party. You may get to try some testicles, but it is far from being a celebration of nourishing foods! If you aren’t looking for this sort of experience, it’s definitely better to stay home and try out some of the following recipes in your own kitchen!)
Other testicle festivals (of unknown levels of debauchery) listed on Christie’s website include Bottlescrew Bill’s Testicle Festival in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the Annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Byron, Illinois, the Fromberg Festival of Testicles near Billings, Montana, the Mission Mountain Testicle Festival in Charlo, Montana, the Nut and Gut Feed, 90 miles from Havre, Montana, the Ryegate Testicle Festival in Ryegate, Montana, the Go Nuts Testicle Festival about 20 miles from Helena, Montana, the Calf Fry Festival in Vinita, Oklahoma and the testicle festival at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Weeping Water, Nebraska.
FOR HOME COOKS
For those who choose to prepare testicles at home, two things are necessary–a recipe and a source of the raw materials! All of the recipes given here were found on the above-mentioned website maintained by Mary Ann Christie. The tricky part is obtaining the testicles. I found websites that ship frozen testicles, but some of them only offer batter-dipped testicles (in batter of unknown quality) and none of them could provide any information as to the manner in which the animals were raised. Since I myself would not buy meat of unknown origin and quality over the internet, I have omitted any information on these shipping companies.
A better avenue might be to speak to one’s local WAPF chapter, a sensible farmer or a supplier of quality meats and see whether a suitable arrangement can be made for fresh testicles. Once the testicles have been obtained, then you’re off and running with these recipes, adapted from those at http://www.funlinked.com/testicle/.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTERS
2 pounds bull testicles (lamb/sheep, calf or turkey testicles can also be used)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup red wine
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
Louisiana Hot Sauce
Using a sharp knife, split the tough skin-like muscle that surrounds each “oyster.” You can remove the skin more easily if the “oysters” are frozen and then peeled while thawing. Set into a pan with enough salt water to cover them for one hour, to remove some of the blood, and drain.
Transfer to large pot. Add enough water to float the “oysters” and a generous tablespoon of vinegar. Parboil, drain and rinse. Let cool and slice each “oyster” into 1/4 inch thick ovals. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of sliced “oyster” to taste.
Mix flour, cornmeal and some garlic powder to taste in a bowl. Roll each slice into this dry mixture. Dip into milk. Dip into dry mixture. Dip into wine quickly (repeat the procedure for a thicker crust). Place into hot cooking oil. Add Louisiana Hot Sauce to cooking oil (it’ll sizzle some, so be careful!). Cook until golden brown or tender, and remove with a strainer (the longer they cook, the tougher they get).
Serves a crowd
2 dozen lambs fry (testicles)
1 cup chopped ham and bacon
1 clove garlic
bay leaf, herbs and spices
3 ounces butter
unbleached white flour
homemade stock (chicken or beef)
Prepare fry for recipe by blanching and stripping outer membrane off. Pat dry and cut into thin slices. Lard each piece with bacon and ham, and roll it in chopped herbs and a pinch of pounded spice. Dip it in flour and braise in good stock, to which add three ounces of butter, some bits of bacon, ham, a bay leaf, herbs, and a clove of garlic with two cuts. Cook until the fry is well glazed over, and serve.
DONBALAAN (Persian Lamb Testicles)
4 sheep testicles
2 medium eggs
1 cup sourdough bread crumbs
1 bunch parsley
salt and black pepper
Wash testicles and cut length-wise along the middle. Remove the skin and cut each part length-wise into two slices. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper on both sides of each slice.
Add salt and black pepper to eggs and beat well. Dip each slice on both sides in bread crumbs, then in eggs, and again in bread crumbs. Fry each slice in pre-heated lard on one side for a few minutes until color changes, Turn over and fry on the other side, again until color changes. Serve with washed and cut parsley.
GOAT TESTICLE STEW
8 – 10 pairs of goat testicles
1 large chopped onion
2 cups celery, chopped
several chili peppers, seeded and chopped
Boil the testicles in natural saltwater. Throw onions, chili peppers and celery in the in the pot. Let it boil for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes.
KOKORETSI (Greek recipe)
1 sheep liver
intestines salt, pepper, oregano
Turn the intestines inside out and wash them carefully in hot water. Turn them back again (outside in). Cut the internal organs into small pieces and wash them carefully as well. Put salt, pepper, oregano on them and put them on a large steel skewer in the following order: liver, spleen, heart, lung, testicles. Repeat until all the pieces are skewered. Pin one end of the intestine to the skewer and wind the intestine around the skewer. If the intestine is too short, take another one and tie it to the first one, and continue to wind. Put salt, pepper, oregano and oil on the kokoretsi and bake it in low heat for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Serve hot together with other meat dishes and a salad.
This recipe is taken from The Two Fat Ladies, Full Throttle by Clarissa Dickson and Jennifer Paterson (New York, Clarkson Potter, c1998, page 101). The ladies say this was originally a Jewish recipe from Marcelle Thomal. Innards, including penis, once played a major role in Jewish cooking.
1 pound of penis of ram or bull
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon saltfreshly ground black pepper
Scald the penis, then drain and clean–it doesn’t say exactly how to clean a penis. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Remove any scum, then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and slice.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic and coriander and fry until the onion is golden. Add the penis slices and fry on both sides for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients with a good grinding of pepper, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until tender. Add a little water from time to time if necessary to prevent burning.
In my thirties I lived in Argentina and was married to a student veterinarian. We didn’t have much money, and he happened to have discovered an easy way to make extra cash. He did castrations. He castrated anything for 15 dollars–dog, horse, cow, pig, rat, etc., etc. Inevitably, the testicles arrived in the kitchen in a limp plastic bag and usually partially covered in grass and dirt. These he used to fry up in the frying pan and season with onions and garlic for dinner. I can’t say it was my favourite dish; or even that I ever tried any species other than horse, calf, old horse, and old cow (bull). They ranged in flavor depending upon the age of the animal, which one could clearly see by the size. The easier castrations, younger and more docile animals, were tastier; but I always felt convinced that my husband preferred the more enormous testicles from older stallions and bulls as there was definitely more work involved in the castration and a greater sense of accomplishment once achieved. He’d insist on eating them always; they were never thrown away even though occasionally tough and intense in flavor. I can’t say that he ate them for reasons of machismo; it seemed to me more like a sense of thrift and even as homage to the animal; more in commiseration for its loss, than in the sense of enhancing one’s own virility.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2005.