Written by Shannon, Contributing Writer
Organ meats are one of those traditional foods that are harder to get behind than butter, for example. In fact, organ meats were one of the last things recommended by the Weston A Price foundation that we decided were important, not because they aren't more nutrient-dense than most foods but because we were squeamish.
The thing is, eating organ meats just makes sense and I believe it to be better stewardship of our foods. Most of us still don't butcher our own animals (me included), but eating the whole animal is a way that we can be better stewards of the animals we are given for nourishment.
Plus, organ meats are perhaps the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Today lets look at a super food we've all heard of - liver.
Just 4 oz of liver contains well over 100% of the RDA of vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, folate, and B2. It also contains a highly absorbable form of iron, very necessary for women of child bearing age. (source) For me, personally, I have noticed a distinct affinity for a meal of liver in the weeks after childbirth when my body is the most depleted.
The high B-vitamin and mineral content of liver makes it a top food choice not only for winter, but all year round. It is a nice real food alternative to supplements.
Is Liver Full of Toxins?
This is a common concern, but when we look at what the organ actually does in the body, we can bust this common myth. The Weston A Price Foundation puts it clearly:
One of the roles of the liver is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons); but the liver does not store toxins. Poisonous compounds that the body cannot neutralize and eliminate are likely to lodge in the fatty tissues and the nervous system. The liver is not a storage organ for toxins but it is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron). These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins. (source)
Five Tips For Cooking Tasty Liver
1. Soak It In Acidic Water
I read this in several places, including Nourishing Traditions. One of the toughest (pun intended) things to get past about liver is the texture, which is much more dense than meat. The acidity seems to break down the liver and make it more palatable.
To Do: Simply place your cut up liver in a bowl, barely cover with water and add the juice of a lemon or a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Soak for a few hours before cooking, drain and pat dry.
2. Do Not Overcook It.
In fact err on the side of just undercooked. Even though the lemon juice makes the liver a bit more tender, overcooking can really ruin it. I cooked mine until it just had a hint of pinkness left, and then removed it from the heat.
To Do: Cut the liver in thin strips and fry only a few minutes on each side. It should be a touch pink inside when you remove it from the heat. The residual heat of the pan will finish the job for you.
3. Use A Lot of Cooking Fat.
Fat carries flavors, which is why it makes things taste so good. It is also good for you, in case you’re worried about that. I recommend an animal fat like bacon drippings, lard, tallow, an unflavored coconut oil.
To Do: Use somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fat per pound of liver + flavorings.
4. Cook It With Lots of Flavorful Ingredients.
Liver has a distinct and strong flavor that is tough for some to get over. Cooking it with pungent foods really tones down the "liverness" of the dish.
To Do: I believe onions and garlic are almost a necessity when cooking liver. Also try bacon, chilies, and aromatic herbs like thyme or sage.
5. When All Else Fails, Pass the Ketchup.
I grew up eating liver with ketchup, so I had some at the ready. The strong sweet-sour flavor really tames the liver flavor.
So if you're ready to jump into the world of offal and you want to start with liver here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy it:
- Chicken Liver Pate with the Flavors of Provence
- Amanda's Chicken Liver Pate
- Beef liver with bacon, onions, and garlic
- Chicken Livers with Gravy over Mashed Potatoes (from my winter cookbook)