Buying This Food
Refrigerated meat that feels cold to the touch and looks and smells absolutely fresh. Frozen heart or tripe should be solid, with no give to the package and no drippings staining the outside. Choose some variety of meats by size. The smaller the tongue, for example, the more tender it will be. The most tender kidneys come from young animals. On the other hand, all brains and sweetbreads are by nature tender, while all heart, tongue, and tripe (the most solidly muscular of the variety meats) require long simmering to make them tender
Storing This Food
Refrigerate a variety of meats immediately. All are highly perishable and should be used within 24 hours of purchase. Refrigeration prolongs the freshness of meat by slowing the natural multiplication of bacteria on the surface. Unchecked, these bacteria will digest the proteins on the surface of the meat, leaving a slimy film in their wake, and convert the meat’s sulfur-containing amino acids (tryptophan, methionine, and cystine) into smelly chemicals called mercaptans.
The combination of mercaptans with myoglobin, a pigment in blood that transfers oxygen hemoglobin to muscle tissues, creates the greenish pigment that makes rotten meat look so unpleasant. Wrap fresh meat carefully before storing to keep the drippings from spilling and contaminating other food or the refrigerator/freezer shelves.
Preparing This Food
First, wash the brains under cold running water and pull off the membranes. Then put the brains in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for a half-hour. Change the water; let them soak for another half hour. Repeat the process one more time, for a total soaking time of an hour and a half. Now drain the water, put the brains in a saucepan, cover with water, add a tablespoon or two of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to firm the brains, and cook them for 20 to 25 minutes over low heat without boiling. Drain and use as your recipe directs.
Pull off the white membrane and rinse the kidneys thoroughly under plenty of cold running water. Cut them in half, remove the inner core, and rinse once again. Slice them and use them as your recipe directs. (Beef kidneys have a strong, distinctive flavor that can be toned down by soaking the kidneys for an hour in a solution of 1 teaspoon lemon juice to 1 cup of water before cooking.)
Cut out the blood vessels, rinse the heart thoroughly (inside and out) under cold running water, and prepare as your recipe directs.
Rinse the sweetbreads thoroughly under cold running water and soak in ice water for at least an hour, changing the water until it remains clear and free of blood. Then drain the sweetbreads and blanch them in water plus two teaspoons of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to firm them. Drain the sweetbreads, cover them with ice water, and remove membranes and connective tissue. Then use as your recipe dire
Scrub the tongue with a vegetable brush under cold running water. Cover it with cold water, bring the water to a boil, and cook the tongue at a simmer for 30 minutes or soak and cook as directed on the package. Drain the tongue, peel off the skin, cut away the gristle and small bones, and prepare as your recipe directs. Some smoked tongues require a long soaking, even overnight; check the directions on the package
Virtually all the tripe sold in markets today has been blanched and boiled until tender. All you have to do is wash it thoroughly under cold running water and use it as directed in your recipe. If you have to start from scratch with tripe, wash it in several changes of cold water, boil it for several hours until tender, then use as your recipe directs. When you are done, clean all utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water. Wash your cutting board, wood or plastic, with hot water, soap, and a bleach-and-water solution. For ultimate safety in preventing the transfer of microorganisms from the meats to other foods, keep one cutting board exclusively for raw meat, fish, or poultry, and a second one for everything else. Don’t forget to wash your hands