Offal-y Clever!

Christine Kennedy (ButterBelle)

Christine Kennedy (ButterBelle) › Christine has been interested in health and nutrition (with a special emphasis on cooking!) since grade ...


Mmmmm, liver! Not quite what most people call delicious. Just the look of it makes people quiver in disgust. Organ meats, or offal, is what peasants would eat because they couldn’t afford the more expensive cuts of muscle meats.  Little did they know how lucky they were. I bet their children had beautifully straight teeth! Liver, and other organ meats are tremendously high in nutrients, especially if it comes from grass-fed or pastured animals. It is a super food. Did you know that a lion, when it kills its prey, will eat the liver first? Organ meats were highly prized by traditional peoples all over the world.  Dr. Price noted that among African tribes, “The liver is so sacred that it may not be touched by human hands.” Many native cultures feed liver to their babies as a first food.  Wise, very wise indeed.

I used to believe that liver was not a good food to eat because of all the cholesterol it contained, and because the liver was a detoxifying organ. It was dirty. It contained toxins and poisons. But, I was misinformed. I now know that cholesterol is actually good for us, essential for the production of hormones, and for every cell in our body.  According to Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, in their book Eat Fat Lose Fat, "toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides are generally stored in the fatty tissue, not the liver itself.  The livers of animals raised in clean conditions, out of doors and eating green grass, are both safe and healthy to eat.” If you are unable to find grass-fed liver, you should be able to find young calves liver at the grocery store. The benefits of eating it far outweigh any negative effects. You can even find it in capsule form if you would prefer to take it that way.

Why is liver considered to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet? Because liver contains vitamin A, and lots of it. You may have heard the warnings not to ingest too much vitamin A, because it is toxic. But, this actually refers to synthetic vitamin A, in which the body recognizes as a poison. But natural vitamin A, in its whole food form, is harmless. Remember, when you eat a food in its whole form, the way nature intended, the body knows exactly what to do with it!  Natural vitamin A is essential for optimal health and protects against bone loss and birth defects. Think you are getting enough vitamin A from vegetables like carrots? Think again! Carotene is not vitamin A — it needs to be converted to vitamin A in the upper intestine. Many people have such compromised health that this conversion often does not occur, especially in vegetarians or children. It is interesting to note as well that our bodies cannot convert carotenes into vitamin A without the presence of fat in the diet. So, if you are relying on vegetables for your vitamins, make sure to cook them up and slather them in butter!  Liver also supplies minerals and all the B vitamins in abundance, along with special, long-chain fatty acids. Another important nutrient that grass-fed liver contains is Activator X. This is the nutrient that Dr. Price discovered, or catalyst rather, that helps the body absorb and utilize minerals. Liver and other grass-fed organs also contain vitamin D, also needed for strong bones, healthy teeth and normal growth.

Liver and I have bad childhood memories. I remember my mother fixing it for dinner once in a blue moon. She cooked it with onions until it resembled shoe leather and we smothered it in ketchup. Umm, not so good. Today, I like to fry it up with pastured bacon, garlic and onions, medium rare. Or make a delicious pate to serve with butter and sourdough bread. When I began eating traditional foods, I craved liver. Just like I craved raw, whole milk. I couldn’t get enough.  My body had been deprived of these precious nutrients for so long.

But here was my problem. Just because I enjoyed liver prepared this way, didn’t mean my kids did. So, I had to think outside the box. This food was just much too important not to include it in their diets.  Include liver and other organ meats in your children’s diets, and they will be rewarded with good health. So, what did I do? Well, like most families with children, we are guaranteed to go through at least one meal a week containing ground beef, be it tacos, burritos, chili, spaghetti with meatballs, meatloaf, etc. Well, did you know that if you throw it into a blender or food processor with a little water and whirl it up, it liquifies!  Add it along with the ground beef, just a small amount, and no one will even know. So I experimented by mixing other organ meats, and eventually increasing the quantity. It works. The whole family gets a dose of grass-fed organ meats once a week. That doesn’t mean that I have given up trying to get them to like pate, or simple fried liver with bacon, but this way is a sure thing!

I buy 1/4 grass-fed cow about once per year and I ask for all of the organs. Quite often I am gifted with the organs of other cows that were butchered at the same time as mine. For some odd reason, most people don’t want the organs with their order?! I gladly take them, and here’s what I do:

1 liver
1 kidney – optional
1 heart – optional
1 sweetbread (thymus gland) – optional

Soak the organs in filtered water overnight with a splash of whey or lemon juice. The next day, rinse and cut into chunks. Remove any fibers, tendons, or excess fat. Place the organs into a food processor. Add a small amount of water and puree. If you are using liver only, it should practically liquify. If you have added the other ‘meatier’ organs, it will be chunkier. Just process it as smooth as it will get. Alternately, you can run the organs through your meat grinder if you have one. Scoop the mixture into ice cube trays or muffin tins. Freeze until solid and then pop out into a large freezer bag. Now you can conveniently add several frozen cubes or muffins into your ground meat dishes without anyone knowing. I have worked my way up to where I can now use 3 muffin size portions of organ meat to 1 lb. of gr. beef or pork.

Try to sneak liver and other organ meats into your families diet once per week. You don’t even have to tell them. When your kids grow up cavity-free, without needing glasses or braces, they’ll thank you one day! And, your wallet will thank your good senses (and the wisdom of traditional peoples)!

Click here to learn more about liver and read a great article with recipe ideas by Lynn Razaitis.

This post originally appeared as part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s REAL FOOD WEDNESDAYS and butterbelle.caIt is re-posted here with permission from the author.

THE WRITER: Christine writes, her food education blog where butter trumps all and local, seasonal, organic ingredients are prepared the traditional way. Christine became a Local Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2006.

Do you eat offal? How do you like to prepare it?