Santa was good to me this year. I received a couple of really nice gifts, which include houndstooth pajama pants and a chainsaw. I’ve already put both to good use. But the gift that really stands out for me came from my Aunt Denise, a great cook with a real knack for gifting.
Three pounds of fresh pork liver might seem like an unusual present for most people, but if you’re me, it’s exactly on point. Especially if it comes from an organically raised pig. Denise gets her pork liver from a small farm in upstate New York, near where she lives, and just about every time I see her, she’s whipped up another fantastic paté or terrine, but she has yet to make liverwurst, one of my favorite treats.
In truth, I’ve never made any either, and this morning, I decided to give it a try.
Charcuterie is not a difficult project and liverwurst is an especially easy thing to make. However, finding a good recipe to use as a guide was a lot harder than I anticipated. I looked in all my favorite books, including the 1965 and 2012 editions of Larousse Gastronomic; the (yellow) Gourmet Cookbook; Escoffier; Pork & Sons; and Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. None were very helpful. What I was able to deduce was that liverwurst usually contains pork belly in addition to the liver. I didn’t have any pork belly, but I did have homemade bacon from the other week, so I used that instead.
The resulting liverwurst is slightly smoky, which is a good thing, and slightly fatty, which is a bad thing. So next time I’ll cut down on the fat I used to sauté the shallots and garlic from 6 tablespoons to 4. In the meantime, I’ll be fattening up for 2013 with my first attempt at homemade liverwurst.
If you, too, happen to have a wonderful liver-giving aunt, here’s a solid version of a liverwurst recipe to get you started.
(Makes about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or duck fat
2 large shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons whiskey or brandy
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound pork liver, chopped
Heat the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Saute the shallots and garlic until translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the bacon. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered but not browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the whiskey, sage, pepper, and nutmeg, then transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend the bacon mixture with the liver until smooth. (this mixture is thick and requires some blender bowl scraping.)
Preheat the oven to 300°F with a pan of water set on the middle rack.
Transfer the liver mixture to a parchment-lined bread pan (8-inch-by-3-inch), smothing the top. Place the bread pan in the pan of water and cook, 45 minutes, until the liverwurst is cooked through, but still slightly pink in the center. Let the liverwurst cool completely in the pan in the refrigerator. Serve on sandwiches with mustard and onion, or as part of a charcuterie plate.
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