While the heart is an organ, beef heart doesn’t actually qualify as organ meat. It’s a muscle, so it has a texture more similar to steak than liver. Not only is beef heart packed with lean protein and essential amino acids, it’s also rich in vitamins, enzymes, and minerals. Think of heart as a type of steak
“Nose-to-tail eating” was a frugality often necessary to survive and make ends meet and many cultures became creative with it!
The use of beef heart has a long history among the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish, many of who raised and butchered their own meats. It is also enjoyed by many in the Coal Region, as it was easily obtained from farmers and at butcher shops plentiful throughout the area.
When he was a young boy, my Dad left school at 8th grade in order to help support his four brothers, a sister, and Mom and Dad (who was a miner). He did odd jobs and cleaned up at the local butcher shop and was often given things like liver, stomach, and heart to bring home which helped feed a miner’s family and their hungry, growing kids.
They never complained, grew to like it and, in his later years, Pop would ask my Mom to make pickled heart for him. Mom used to clean the heart first, cook it, then slice it or cut it into bite-sized pieces. Some cooks clean it after cooking.
This recipe has optional pickling spice and is from a very old PA Dutch recipe, but many people, like my Mom, don’t use the pickling spice. The option is yours.
Preparing Beef Heart
To prep the heart pre-cooking, cut away the fat, membranes, valves, tendons, and other connective tissue that doesn’t look very appetizing, so that you’re only left with nice and clean pieces of muscle. Then soak the heart in a salty cold water bath to help draw out the blood from the heart. Discard this soaking liquid. Beef heart is cooked when a knife or fork enter without difficulty.
Pickled Beef HeartCourse: Entrees, AppetizersCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal Region, Eastern EuropeanDifficulty: Intermediate
1 beef heart (cleaned and cut into 3 or 4 pieces)
Beef stock or broth to cover meat (OR salted water)
One peeled and halved medium onion PLUS One thinly sliced onion for layering in the jar with the heart and brine
Ground Black pepper
2 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
Salt to taste
OPTIONAL 1 Tablespoon pickling spice (cloves removed)
- Clean then cook heart meat in the broth (using enough to cover and salt to taste) in covered pot approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Heart beef is cooked when a knife or fork enter without difficulty.
- Drain, cool to handle, and slice the meat as desired.
- Layer the pieces of beef heart and onions in a large glass jar, alternating layers. Season the meat generously with ground black pepper while layering. Set aside.
- Combine brine ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil, Remove from heat, and pour over beef and onions in jar.
- Cool, then refrigerate and allow to sit a couple days before eating.