Pork - Variety Meats

Variety Meats

The variety meats include the organs, glands and the extremities of the pig. The meats taken from younger pigs will be more tender and milder in flavor. Some variety meats are readily available in food stores and most are available from a butcher or specialty meat market but may require special ordering. They are very perishable, so if they are not going to be used within 24 hours of purchasing, they should be frozen immediately.

Pork liver is generally available fresh or frozen. It is stronger flavored and not as tender as the liver from other animals. The liver should smell fresh, be bright colored and appears moist but not slimy.
The heart is generally available fresh or frozen. It has a mild taste with a tendency to be tough because it is mostly muscle. If taken from a younger animal, it will be more tender. The heart is red in color and should smell fresh. Do not select if it has a brownish or grayish tint to it.
The pork kidney is a single-lobed glandular organ, which is best taken from a younger animal to provide a milder taste and more tender meat. The kidneys from an older animal will have a dark reddish brown color and the younger animal's kidneys will be pale in comparison. Choose kidneys with a moist, even colored surface and firm texture.
Tongue is fairly tough and must be cooked using low heat for a long period of time to produce a tender piece of meat. This variety meat can be served hot or cold. To prepare fresh tongue for cooking it must be scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly. Tongue can be found fresh, pickled and smoked.


Sweetbreads consists of two thymus glands, one located in the throat and one near the heart. The pork sweetbreads generally need to be special ordered. They should be taken from a piglet, otherwise they will have a fairly strong flavor. The sweetbreads should be firm, plump and white in color. The best sweetbreads are taken from veal or young calves. They have a very smooth texture, a mild flavor and are more readily available in specialty markets throughout the year.
Brains can be found in most specialty meat markets and some well stocked food stores. Select those that are firm, plump and pinkish white in color. Brains are very high in cholesterol.


Whole Stomach

Cross Cut Section of Stomach

The stomach of a pig is also referred to as tripe, the same term used for a beef stomach. Pork stomach must be washed very carefully before using to insure that any traces of stomach remains are thoroughly removed. It is used to make sausage, cooked in soups and sometimes stuffed with other ingredients and then cooked. Pork stomach is not readily available. Check with local meat markets to see if they can special order it.


Other variety meats that are available include pig's feet, jowl, snout, head, and more.

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