Updated: May 18
Venison heart is pretty much known as the gateway offal and for good reason. The texture is somewhat familiar to a "normal" cut of meat unless you overcook it and the flavor doesn't have any wild surprises lurking for the offal newb like liver or kidneys.
I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that this heart ham recipe will convert almost anyone who claims that they don't like the odd bits of animals into a offal lover. The color is gorgeous, the flavor is sweet & smokey and the texture rivals your highest quality pork ham.
Heart Prep Notes Before Beginning:
Filet the heart open creating a flat “steak”. With a knife remove all veins and webbing.
Roll the heart tightly into one solid shape. Tie the heart off in 2 inch sections with butchers twine. This will give you one solid mass which will give you even cooking. It will also aid in not overcooking the heart. See below.
Step one: Brine the Heart
2 quarts - water
3/4 cup - kosher salt
1/4 cup - sugar
1/2 cup - maple syrup or sorghum
4 teaspoons - pink salt
1 bunch fresh lemon thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon - juniper berries
2 - bay leaves
Combine all of the the above ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir to make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat, let cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
Submerge the heart into the brine (weighing down if necessary) cover and refrigerate for five days.
Remove the hearts from the brine. Rinse the hearts under cold water and completely dry off with paper-towels. Place on a wire rack with a drip pan underneath in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Step Two: Smoke The Heart
Fire up your smoker and try your best to achieve a "cold smoking temperature" which is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can add a pan of ice that sits between the meat and the smoke to help lower the temperature. You can also try leaving the smoker door cracked a little to help lower the temperature as well. Note: If you can't reach cold smoking temperatures, simply hot smoke your heart between (150-200 degrees F) until the center of the meat reads 160 degrees F and skip ahead to (step 4).
Cold smoke your heart for 4 hours.
Raise the temperature of your smoker to approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke the ham for 1 hour.
Using either your grill, pellet grill, smoker or oven broiler, get the temperature to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Glaze the ham with your favorite ham glaze (mine is listed below) and cook for around 5 minutes. Apply another coating of glaze and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Let the ham rest for at least 15 minutes and then slice thin.
My Basic Ham Glaze
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 red wine vinegar