One of my favorite things about being a modern-day homesteader is practicing old-fashioned, long-forgotten skills. Making beef heart jerky falls under two categories here:
1. The practice of preserving meat through drying it.
2. Eating the whole, entire animal and wasting nothing.
By the way, this jerky recipe works well with lamb or pork heart too!
If you’re new to cooking with or eating organ meat, go for it, it isn’t scary! In fact, it’s normal. Present-day Americans are *probably* the first people in the history of the world to not welcome and revere organ meat (this is purely an educated guess, but I’m fairly confident it’s true). My ancestors undoubtedly ate it, and yours probably did too. People in many (most?) other countries also eat organ meats regularly. So, let’ get back to this forgotten delicacy!
What does beef heart taste like?
Of all the organ meats, beef heart is the mildest in my opinion. It tastes almost exactly like muscle meat, so like steak. I wouldn’t describe it as gamey, and it doesn’t taste anything like liver… but it is very “beefy” and it has a more mineral-rich taste to it. It is lean, a bit dense compared to other muscle cuts, and has a deep red color– all things that bode very well for our health! If cooked up like a steak or in something like stew, beef heart is a bit bouncy and slightly rubber-ish, which disappears when turned into jerky.
How to you eat beef heart jerky and what does it taste like?
When eating organ meats, I prefer to eat small amounts regularly, rather than eating a lot all at once. This way I spread out the influx of nutrients, and my body can make better use of them. Jerky is the perfect way to achieve this.
The texture of beef heart jerky is very similar to “regular” homemade beef jerky– no surprises there. Jerky is a great way to disguise the otherwise different texture of heart. Because it is dried, the flavor is concentrated. I think it’s delicious, and I don’t mind a strong beef flavor or a slight mineral taste. Really, it doesn’t feel like eating organ meat.
The marinade for this beef heart jerky is pretty simple and straightforward. The finished jerky has a very light teriyaki taste, but it isn’t overpowering or over-salted… though your results may vary if you use a saltier soy sauce.
This beef heart jerky is fantastic for traveling, perfect for a purse snack, or when you’re on the go. To be honest though, I don’t leave the homestead much, so I like to use jerky as a protein-rich snack in the mid-afternoon, or as an accompaniment to my breakfast.
How do you make beef heart jerky?
Depending on the butcher, your heart may come in several big hunks, or be pre-sliced in smaller packages. If you have a say here, it’s much easier to slice heart to the correct thickness when it comes in a bigger chunk and is not pre-sliced.
For jerky making, the meat should be sliced fairly thin, between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. This is easiest to do when it is partially frozen. Cut the heart into large slabs from top to bottom of the heart. Jerky is much easier to eat when it is smaller, so after I slice it thin, I cut the slices into 2- to 3-inch pieces. It is marinaded overnight in a slurry of flavorful liquids and spices, then dehydrated until dry.
I prefer to use a dehydrator for jerky making. I have a 9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator, going on 10 years old and 10 years strong! My dehydrator has a temperature setting specifically for making jerky– around 150ºF, which is what I use. Some people do make jerky in an oven, so I know it can be done, though I haven’t personally made it that way.
In my dehydrator, this jerky took between 5 and 8 hours to finish. The thinner pieces were done first, and I pulled them out when they were to my liking, then let the thicker pieces finish for another couple hours. I like to err on the side of being less done and more supple and pliable than being totally hard and dry.
What ingredients are used to make beef heart jerky and can I use substitutions?
Beef Heart: Lamb or pig heart can also be used for this recipe. This marinade and technique can also be used with other cuts of beef.
Pineapple Juice: The finished jerky doesn’t taste strongly of pineapple, and in fact, I’m not sure you could even pick out that pineapple was used; its subtle but adds a well rounded flavor. Here’s what I used –> Pineapple Juice.
Maple Syrup: Definitely use the real stuff. Birch syrup or honey could also be used. Here’s a great brand –> Maple Syrup.
Tamari: I use Tamari because I’m gluten-free and it doesn’t contain wheat. It does have a slightly bolder flavor than regular soy sauce, so it works well for jerky. You can substitute any brand of good quality soy sauce. Here’s my favorite brand –> Tamari.
Coconut aminos will likely work well if you get one of the thicker, flavorful brands that are more comparable to actual soy sauce. Here’s the brand I recommend –> Coconut Aminos.
Sea Salt: Good quality salt is incredibly important to me, so I use Redmond brand. Find it here –> Sea Salt.
Beef Heart Jerky
- 2 pounds raw beef heart, sliced 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 3 tablespoons tamari (or other good quality soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/2 teaspoond ground ginger
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Cut away any fat and fibrous tissue from the outside of the heart slices. I find it easiest to cut the heart into slices first and then trim away the outer bits.
- In a gallon size freezer bag, mix together the pineapple juice, tamari, maple syrup, salt, garlic, onion, ginger, and red pepper.
- Add the heart and squish it around until all the pieces are coated in the marinade. Seal the bag and place it in a container or on a pan (to catch any leaks) where it can lay flat. Refrigerate and allow the heart to marinade for 12-20 hours.
- Pour the heart into a colander and allow the excess marinade to drain away.
- Place the pieces of heart in a single layer, not touching, on the trays of your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 150ºF until dry, about 5 to 8 hours. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 year.