Wild protein is a tangible expression of the sweat equity we put into building our spirit, our body, and our character as hunters.Muley Freak
Hunters are proud of their wild protein. We photograph it in a lot of ways; live “on-the-hoof”, field dressing and breaking down muscle groups, and then finally we post pictures eating that beautiful protein on social media. Sometimes these photos can seem cliché but it represents something bigger for all of us who put in the work for what we eat. Wild protein is a tangible expression of the sweat equity we put into building our spirit, our body, and our character as hunters.
We’ve all seen photos of elk quarters thrown over the shoulder, antelope back straps held high with outstretched arms or that bucks heart with fingers wrapped around it in the palm of someones hand. The protein in photos held triumphantly and the smiles behind it are becoming the new “grip and grin”.
Out of Ambiguity
One of those scenes described above is a little more ambiguous than others, both to hunters and especially non-hunters. At first glance the heart of an animal in the grip of a hunter’s hand might look to be barbaric rather than a representation of clean organic food. Not everyone eats heart, actually most Americans have never tried it. Quite frankly, the only reason we can think of why no one eats heart anymore is because its become so taboo over the last century. Native Americans relished in organ meat, especially the heart. They understood the nutrient rich protein for what it was. On the other hand early Europeans saw it as savage and well, barbaric to eat the heart. That stigma filtered across generations and centuries.
Recently thought there’s been a resurgence of understanding about eating organs like the heart. Popular public personalities who cast a wide net like Steven Rinella of MeatEater and Joe Rogan are openly talking about eating the heart and other organs. You’re seeing more foodies in the hunting sphere and outside of hunting circles sharing heart recipes. Heart meat is coming out of ambiguity.
Heart Meat Facts
- The heart is a muscle just like the backstrap or any other piece of meat you process and eat. So get it out of your head that it’s something else. It’s meat, that’s a bottom line fact, case closed.
- Heart is considered a super-food, meaning it’s extremely healthy and offers some of the densest nutrient rich meat on the earth. A small portion of heart meat will pack in an enormous amount of nutrients that would take several much larger servings to get out of some other cut of the meat.
- Heart is extremely nutrient rich in nutrients like B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, copper and magnesium, and is rich with the most important fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.
- Heart is higher in amounts of protein, thiamine, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, CoQ10 and several B vitamins.
- It’s a great way to rack up amino acids that can improve metabolism and compounds that aid the production of collagen and elastin, which fight wrinkles and aging. This mixture of unique nutrients helps build muscle, store energy and boost stamina and endurance. (Source: Mens Journal)
- The heart is one of the hardest working muscles you’ll eat. Heart meat is also one of the most flavorful cuts of meat on an animal.
- Heart meat muscle fibers are short compared to the long muscle fibers of something like leg meat. Heart meat also has very little fat. This combination of short fibers, no fat, and flavor make it extremely versatile in how it can be prepared and gives it the ability to stay very tender.
When you’re at home processing your meat or getting ready to cook simply cut away any fat, connective tissue, valves and tendons. When ready to cook butterfly it open and continue to cut away fat, valves and connective tissue inside. Once you cut away the fat and other parts away from the top you’ll see a bunch of gaps and holes. Open the heart sort of like a book continuing to cut away the valves and fat from the top. Inside the heart will be veins and fibers kinda like a cobweb, cut them away too. Once it’s cleaned up and opened up like a book, square the meat by cutting the top and bottom so it looks like a nice big square slab. Now cut it into strips against the grain.
The protein in photos held triumphantly and the smiles behind it are becoming the new “grip and grin”.Muley Freak
Like stated above, heart is a versatile cut of meat and there are so many ways to cook it. We prefer it marinated and grilled. We’d suggest marinating it in whatever your favorite venison marinade is. Then we’ll use olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, pepper, oregano, and some lemon juice blended together. Let it marinate for an hour or for up to a day or so. Put the grill on high and cook it quickly. We like the charred flavor on the outside with some pink on the inside. Like any lean game meat, keep from overcooking.
Another great way to eat it is in the field. Prepare it the same way minus the marinade and substitute some seasoning you packed and cook it over a hot fire, it is absolutely delicious.
For more recipes and nutritional facts about eating wild protein check out our post about What Hunters Have Always Known.