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(Paleo, AIP, GAPS)
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
All of the healing diets featured on this website emphasize the importance of organ meats, because they are the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. This is the second installment in my “organ love” series, where I intend to show that these meats can be as delicious as they are nutritious. My first recipe was Beef Heart with Chimichurri Sauce. Today, we're making sweetbreads. So, what are they? Although images of banana bread and brioche come to mind, we're actually talking about the pancreas and thymus. Why are they called sweetbreads? No one really knows. One guess is that their taste is milder than other organ meats. Compared to liver, they're a sweet meat, and the Old English word for meat was brǣd, hence “sweetbreads”. You can buy lamb, veal, beef or pork sweetbreads, with the caveat that the pork usually has a stronger flavor. I made beef sweetbreads. They're all cooked the same way.
You heard me say that organ meats are the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat? Sweetbreads are an excellent example. I checked the nutritional profiles of the pancreas and thymus of all the various sweetbreads (beef, veal, lamb and pork). They share the same vitamins and minerals, with slightly different ratios of concentration. Like all dietary nutrition, the more variety you eat, the better.
- They're all high sources of protein, averaging 17 grams per 4-ounce serving.
- They're all high in B vitamins, especially B12. For example, 4 ounces of pork pancreas provides a whopping 309% of your daily need. You've heard of B12 shots being given for deficiency in this vital nutrient? Eating organ meats is the natural way to boost your levels.
- They're also high in Vitamin C, with veal thymus coming in the highest with 93% of your daily need met in a 4 ounce serving. And let's not forget the minerals. Sweetbreads are rich in iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium.
- Each of these nutrients help the body in many ways, but today I'd like to focus on their role in detoxification. Here's a quote from Dr. Sarah Myhill: “If the body becomes deficient in a mineral such as zinc, it will grab hold of another mineral that “looks” a little bit like zinc. Typically, nickel or cadmium fits the bill. If one is deficient in selenium, then mercury or aluminium is “used” by the body instead. So, being deficient in an essential micronutrient will encourage the body to accumulate toxic ones.” We certainly want to avoid that! Also, these vitamins and minerals help our body's natural detox pathways by supporting liver function. To say they're essential is an understatement. So, let's get cooking!
Where to Buy Organ Meat
- Local Harvest is a website that connects consumers with local farmers. They are great sources for organ meat, often at the lowest prices.
- US Wellness is an online meat provider that's a favorite in the paleo community. They sell a wide variety of grass-fed organ meats, including lamb sweetbreads, lamb heart, lamb kidney, lamb liver, beef sweetbreads, beef liver, beef heart, beef kidney, beef organ sausages, chicken livers, chicken hearts, and bison liver.
adapted from Gourmet Magazine
- Blend balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until glaze is reduced by half, stirring occasionally. It should coat the back of a spoon when it's ready. (This can take a while.)
- Rinse sweetbreads well, then transfer to a large soup pot. Add water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently 10 minutes. (This seems like a lot of water for a small amount of meat, but the ratio is effective for removing the impurities from the sweetbreads, thereby enhancing both their nutrition and flavor.)
- Drain sweetbreads in a colander, then put them in a bowl of ice water to cool.
- While they’re cooling, preheat your gas grill on high.
- Drain sweetbreads and pat them dry. Remove any large pieces of membrane or gristle you see. Then pull the sweetbreads apart with your hands, into pieces 1½ inches big. Usually, sweetbreads are formed in such away that this is easy to do. However, if you have difficulty, feel free to cut them into sections with a knife.
- Toss the sweetbreads in a bowl with the olive oil until well coated. Season with salt and toss again.
- Place one nectarine slice on the bottom of each skewer. Alternate with sweetbreads until skewers are full.
- Turn your grill down to medium high. Cook the skewers, covered, for 3 minutes. Then turn the skewers over and cook another 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and baste with balsamic glaze. Serve!
*Note: Check your ingredient list on balsamic vinegar carefully. Some brands have added sugar, coloring and preservatives, all of which you want to avoid.
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