How to Pickle Deer Hearts

  • Start to Finish: 2 hours, including cooking the heart

  • Servings: 8

  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Venison, like any other wild game, has a distinctly strong flavor, and the heart is no exception. The assertive taste can hold its own with hearty spices and takes well to pickling. Tasty and spicy, the pickled venison heart is an unusual appetizer or appealing sandwich ingredient.


  • 1 deer heart, trimmed of fat and connective tissue

  • 2 quarts ice water

  • 2 quarts water

  • 2 cans chicken broth

  • 3 cups red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse or kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted pickling spice

  • 1 heaping tablespoon juniper berries

  • 1 tablespoon multicolored peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 small white onion , sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

Prepare the Heart

Trim any fat from the top end of the heart. Plunge the heart into the ice water and massage the meat to squeeze out any remaining blood, probing the valves with your fingers to loosen and remove blood clots.

Remove the heart from the water, drain thoroughly and pat it dry.

In a large pot, combine the 2 quarts of water and chicken broth. Add the heart and boil it for 45 minutes or until the meat has reached an interior temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • It is important, especially if the heart is from a private hunt rather than from a butcher, that you cook the meat completely to avoid the remote possibility of Lyme disease infection.

Remove the heart from the broth, drain the broth and allow the heart to cool. With a very sharp boning knife, quarter the heart, starting from the wide-top end. Remove the valves and connective tissue -- anything that's inedible. Slice the meat into thin 1/4-inch pieces. Feel free to make the pieces a little thicker, but no more than 1/3 inch. Cover the pieces with a clean dish cloth and move on to making the brine.

Make the Brine

In a large pitcher, combine the vinegar, salt, pickling spice, juniper berries, peppercorns and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the flavors to marry while you build the pickling jar.

Build the Pickling Jar

In a sterilized 1-quart jar, make layers of the slices of meat, onion and garlic. Stop when your jar is three-fourths full.

Pour the pickling liquid into the jar, ensuring that the solid ingredients are all in. Leave a little room at the top of the jar so that you can mix the concoction by turning the closed jar up and down and from side to side a few times. Save any leftover seasoned vinegar for another use such as salad dressing or another pickling mix.

Store the jar in the refrigerator for at least three days. A week is better.

Serving Suggestions and Additions

  • Arrange the slices on a platter with water crackers, jack cheese and cornichon pickles.

  • Make miniature open-faced sandwiches with crunchy French or Italian bread slices and spicy mustard.

  • Add jalapenos, bay leaf, tiny pearl onions or capers to your pickling mixture. 

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