The last time I cooked spleen, I had some issues with the membrane being a bit tough. Some recipes solve this problem by removing the membrane in its entirety. I don't think that will work, however, when trying to cook and slice a whole spleen, as the membrane keeps it from crumbling into offal granuals.
|Berkshire Pig Spleen|
But spleen is surprisingly mild in flavor, with a meaty flavor and little-to-no aggressively strong liverish flavors. If you can find spleen, snap it up! This spleen came from a pasture-raised Berkshire pig from North Woods Ranch
. The pigs can root and snoot to their hearts' content in the woods and fields, and I strongly recommend you try to find humanely raised animals if you're looking to eat offal, but have been put off in the past. The organs of pasture-raised animals are night-and-day from the flavor of organs from conventionally raised animals. I've heard that the rigors of conventional pig farming puts a huge amount of stress on the organs, which makes them rather unpalatable. But with free-range animals given a natural diet, you'll quickly see why organs are so revered in many old cookbooks.
Digression aside, I wanted to try to confit the pig's spleen, after having some membrane issues with my last spleen dish, vastedda
. Surely, if slow braising in fat could make something as tough and leathery as poultry gizzards tender, than it could help soften the thin membrane of a spleen.
The pig spleen was small, and rolled up compactly into a nice little bundle. Being so small, I didn't have a casserole dish that would fit it, without the spleen just swimming in a huge amount of fat. But I found a 16oz mason jar was perfect, tidy container for the spleen. I rubbed the spleen generously with salt, garlic, and thyme, and began to melt duck fat in a pan.
|Cooked Spleen Jarred in Hot Fat|
Once the fat was liquid, I dabbed off the excess liquid the spleen had expelled from the salting. Rolled up and packed in a jar, I poured the hot fat over the spleen. I sealed the jar with a few layers of foil, then put it into a water bath, keeping the fat at the faintest simmer for about 5 hours. Being so small, I didn't think the spleen needed an all-day braise in the fat like duck legs or lamb shank
After cooking, I let the spleen cool in the fat, then sealed up the jar and stored it in the fridge for about three weeks to let the flavors marry. The texture of the spleen was just what I hoped for, super smooth, creamy, like a spleen foie gras. Flavor-wise, it was a little garlicky and could benefit from some more black pepper. Most surprising to me was the slight livery flavor was more pronounced. I know I opened this post talking about the mildness of spleen, so it was something of a shock to find that this preservation method brought that mild liverishness to the forefront. It still wasn't aggressive, like beef liver, but unexpected.
So while the texture was better than I could have hoped for, I may need to tinker with this recipe. For now, I'll just pair it with something with a bit of zest to it, like a spicy chutney to match the flavor of the spleen confit.
Lastly, even if the idea of eating spleen isn't appealing to you, it's still something to behold. Below is a rather unique picture I took of the spleen, editing it in photoshop with some serious filters.
|Pig Spleen as Art: The Organ in Still Life|
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