In America organ meat, aka offal, is mostly thought of as the “awful” leftover bits and pieces of an animal. But throughout history and even today, cultures in places like China, Scotland and South America, just to name a few, have thought organs to be some of the choicest cuts. The chicken bits most commonly eaten are livers, hearts and gizzards. Livers are great on the grill but not so much in soup, so I will mainly be focusing on the latter two today.
In many ancient cultures the offal went to the top hunters, elder tribesmen, or the sick and needy.* Even in the animal kingdom, top predators will devour the organs first, leaving the rest to lower members of their packs or scavengers.* A likely reason for this phenomenon is the high nutrient density of organ meat, which possesses a much higher level of vitamins and minerals than that of the muscle meat we have become so accustomed to.* Offal can have an intense flavor and be hard to find, but it also tends to be cheaper than other cuts and when cooked correctly, it will prove a tasty and healthful way to eat on a budget.
Another fun part of consuming organ meats is learning the anatomy of the animals you’re eating. Take gizzards for example. This amazing organ functions as a chicken’s internal mouth. Since some birds have no teeth they swallow rocks which are collected in the gizzard; where with the help of this strong muscular organ’s movement, they grind up the chicken’s food just as we do with our teeth. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when I open up a gizzard and find a load of small shiny pebbles. With free range chickens I’ve found all kinds of fun things inside, such as colorful tiles, glass and even needles…. yikes!
Gizzards and hearts are a bit easier to find than some of the other ingredients I've mentioned in this series. Standard factory farmed versions can be purchased at most supermarkets, and kosher organs can be found online and at some kosher stores. While the natural kosher purveyors, KOL Foods and Grow & Behold, don’t offer any chicken hearts or gizzards, they do both offer liver. KOL also has a number of cow organ meats available as well as duck liver. There is also some evidence that toxins in an animal’s system collect at higher rates in certain organs*, so I highly recommend choosing a clean and humane source. You’ll be glad of the superior flavor and nutrition it will bring you when it comes time to cook!
So now we know about chicken fat, age, feet, and organs. There is just one ingredient left for understanding how to make the world’s best chicken soup. This last bit is probably the most important and affects everything we have learned up till now in the greatest way… so stay tuned for next week’s post.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.