In this modern age, when so many children (and lots of adults as well) are picky eaters, getting organ meats into your family can be a daunting task. Even adventurous eaters quail at preparing those soft, blobby organs.
A recent discussion on the WAPF chapter leaders listserv revealed an ingenious solution—pet food! Many of our grass-based farmers are now packaging a blend of ground organ meats (even including the udders!) and meat scraps as pet food. It looks something like ground beef, only darker red and of smoother texture. Prepared with a view to hiding it behind spicy flavors, your family will never know they are consuming the dreaded organ meats.
Cooking With Cunning
I first tried using pet meat in meat loaf, mixed half and half with regular ground beef. The loaf was very spicy so no taste of organ meat was detectable; however, the texture was smoother than that of meat loaf made only with ground beef, and one of my eagle-eyed sons noticed this right away. “I think I put too much breadcrumb in this time,” I said, and the meat was quickly gobbled up.
The next time I wanted to use pet meat, my farmer had sold out of the beef blend, so I tried his chicken pet food—and almost blew my cover! I used the ground up chicken pet food blend in chili, not realizing that it contained numerous small pieces of bone. The chili was reluctantly eaten but a pile of bone chips ended up on the plate. “I’ll never use ground chicken for chili again,” I said. “His grinder must have been set wrong.”
The beef pet food blend does not contain pieces of bone, but may contain chunks of gristle—a dead giveaway. The solution to this is to squish it through your fingers after it has thawed, removing any lumps. If you are careful to go through this initial screening process, combine your beef pet food blend with regular ground beef, and use it in spicy recipes, you can expect to enjoy many years of surreptitious organ meat feeding without detection.
Many grass-based farmers who advertise in Wise Traditions or participate in food clubs are now doing pet food blends. Lindner Bison sells a pet food blend that is 10 percent kidney and liver plus tallow. At $5 per pound, it is not cheap; but it is reported to be very tasty and not as lean as regular ground bison.
If you have a meat grinder, you can make your own blend, adding liver, kidney, heart, spleen and even pancreas to muscle meats. Spleen and pancreas contribute to the dark red, “bloody” look and were apparently added to ground beef in the past to make it look redder.
The following recipes will nourish your body while fueling your talent for clandestine activity.
Mystery Meat Chili
1 pound red meat pet food organ blend
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine or beer
1-2 cups homemade beef stock
2 cups properly soaked and cooked black beans plus liquid as needed
1 large can chopped tomatoes, including liquid
about 6 tablespoons ground chile molido (ground New Mexico chili)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
sea salt to taste
6 sprouted corn tortillas (Food for Life brand)
about 6 tablespoons lard
grated raw cheese, chopped cilantro and sour cream for garnish
Sauté the pet food blend in a large cast iron or enamel pot. (The blend produces a lot of beautiful yellow fat.) Add the ground beef and onion and saute until browned. Add red wine or beer and stock; stir well. Add beans, tomatoes, garlic and seasonings to taste and stir until well blended. The chili should be fairly soupy, not too thick, so add more stock or bean juice as needed. Simmer over very low heat for about 1/2 hour.
Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into strips and sauté in lard until crisp. Serve the chili in heated bowls with tortilla strips, grated raw cheese, chopped cilantro and sour cream.
Mystery Meat Pan Casserole
Thanks to Mary Jewett of Alexandria, Virginia, for this ingenious, spur-of-the-moment recipe. Ingredient amounts are approximate!
2 potatoes, washed, dried and sliced thin
2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
1/2 pound red meat pet food blend
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
about 1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 pound grated raw cheese
2 egg yolks
dash cayenne pepper
Sauté the potatoes in lard in a large cast iron skillet. When they are browned on one side, flip them over and spread them evenly in the pan. Meanwhile mix the organ meat blend, ground beef, onion and seasonings. Distribute over the potatoes and sprinkle on the cheese. Blend the egg and egg yolks with dash of cayenne pepper and pour over the cheese. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
Pretty Good Shepherd’s Pie
3-4 cups leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1 pound red meat pet food organ blend
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
sea salt and pepper to taste
about 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bunch chard, chopped
Sauté organ blend in a cast iron skillet and remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. In the remaining fat, sauté the ground beef. Remove with a slotted spoon and mix with the organ blend. Sauté the onion in the remaining fat and add to the meat. Season with ginger, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped chard to the pan and mix with the remaining fat. (You many need to add some additional fat.) Cover and cook until chard is wilted.
Grease a 9- by 13-inch pyrex pan. Spread the meat mixture in the pan and top with a layer of the chard. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour or until the potatoes are nicely browned.
How Native Americans Prepared Mystery Meat
Samuel Hearne, an explorer writing in 1768, describes the preparation of caribou: “Of all the dishes cooked by the Indians, a beeatee, as it is called in their language, is certainly the most delicious that can be prepared from caribou only, without any other ingredient. It is a kind of haggis, made with the blood, a good quantity of fat shred small, some of the tenderest of the flesh, together with the heart and lungs cut, or more commonly torn into small shivers; all of which is put into the stomach and toasted by being suspended before the fire on a string
. . . . It is certainly a most delicious morsel, even without pepper, salt or any other seasoning.”
Source: The Journals of Samuel Hearne, 1768
Why Organ Meats?
Compared with muscle meats, organ meats are richer in just about every nutrient, including minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine, and in B vitamins including B1, B2, B6, folic acid and especially vitamin B12. Organ meats provide high levels of the all-important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, especially if the animals live outside in the sunlight and eat green grass. Organ meats are also rich in beneficial fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA. Organ meats even contain vitamin C—liver is richer in vitamin C than apples or carrots! Even if you add only small amounts of organ meats to your ground meat dishes, you are providing your family with super nutrition. . . in ways that everyone likes and are easy to consume.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2007.