The heart is part of the edible offal of an animal. The hearts of calves, oxen, sheep and pigs can be made into dishes of all kinds and are both economical and tasty. The meat is firm, lean and close in texture. Ox hearts weigh between 3 and 4 pounds, serving four to six people, a calf’s heart is usually enough for two and a sheep’s heart will serve one.
As heart is a lean and dry meat it should either be well basted during cooking, or larded with fatty bacon or salt pork.
Heart may be baked, braised in a casserole, made into a stew or fried. When cooked whole it is usually stuffed. The stuffings should be well-flavoured with herbs and may include fruit, ham, forcemeat and nuts. The quantity of stuffing required varies from two to three ounces for sheep’s hearts to many times that quantity for a large ox heart. When ox hearts are roasted they are usually served with a thickened gravy and redcurrant jelly.
To prepare a heart for cooking, cut away the veins, membranes and gristle. Wash it thoroughly in cold running water to remove all the blood. Soak the heart in cold salted water, or water and vinegar (1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 pint of water). Soak a sheep’s heart for 2 hours, calf’s heart for 4 hours and ox heart for 8 hours or overnight.
The time required to bake or roast a heart is approximately 2 hours for an ox heart, 1 to 1 ½ hours for a calf’s heart and 45 minutes to 1 hour for a sheep’s heart.