Does the thought of eating liver make you shudder? I have vivid memories of my siblings and myself staging a mutiny every time our mom cooked it for supper. She never even had to tell us it was on the menu—we could smell the liver and onions frying away. That was our signal to drag out our chores as long as possible. And when it inevitably came time to sit at the table and partake, there was never enough ketchup to go around. All of this is just to say that I was less than thrilled when liver was recommended to my own family’s diet. Until I found a loophole…liverwurst.
Though it goes by several pseudonyms, including pate and Braunschweiger, I grew up calling this soft version of sausage plain old liverwurst. To put it simply, it’s just ground-up liver with some spices (like onion and garlic) thrown in, which means that all of the nutritional value found in the whole organ remains. In my opinion, this is the best way to include the dense nutritional benefits of liver in your diet. And truth be told, I love it. Especially on a piece of sprouted grain toast with some butter melted underneath and a slab of juicy tomato on top. Yum! Of course, just as I did when I was their age, my kids always squawk when they see me eating it. Little do they know, I sneak it in our meals all of the time. Here are a few of my best tricks:
- Meat sauce. Whether I’m using it for a pasta sauce or in lasagna, it blends in virtually unnoticed.
- Chili. In cool weather, a simmering pot of chili is made even tastier with a stealthy scoop of liverwurst.
- Meatloaf. Try the addition of liverwurst to give this meaty dish an even richer flavor.
You may be asking, what’s so great about liver, anyway? Here I go mentioning the Weston A. Price Foundation again this week—not to mention Sally Fallon’s seminal cookbook Nourishing Traditions. And for good reason. The former is a deeply useful reference tool, while the latter is a comprehensive go-to guide for all manner of traditional cooking. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the book yet, add it to your birthday or holiday wish list. I promise you’ll thank me.
I gathered the following information from Nourishing Traditions and this article, “The Liver Files” from the Weston A. Price website. When you eat liver or, in my case, liverwurst, you’re providing your body with:
- Minerals such as copper, zinc, chromium, and iron.
- A good amount of vitamins A and D, as well as the B vitamins—especially B12.
- An excellent source of folic acid.
- A good source of purines, compounds that act as precursors to DNA and RNA.
The liver’s main function is to remove toxins from the body, which accumulate over time. However, experts like Sally Fallon believe the nutritional gains of eating liver outweigh the risk of digesting whatever toxins you may be exposed to. Just be sure to get your liver products from a reputable source—and, of course, organic liver is best.
You can learn more about the benefits of eating liver from this cool infographic compiled by integrative medicine practitioner Chris Kresser. It shows how the nutritional profile of liver stacks up against some other, more common, foods. It’s pretty interesting, so be sure to check it out.
If you’re ready to give liver a try but aren’t sure where to start, the Denver-based company Continental Sausage keeps it simple with their preservative-free, preprepared, high-quality liverwurst. I was able to find it at our local Whole Foods Market. Once you work up to making your own, Nourishing Traditions offers all kinds of tips and recipes. Don’t want to wait for your copy of the book to arrive? The Historical Archives at Selene River Press has a great article on the preparation of liver and many other organ meats, entitled “Unusual Meats: How to Prepare and Serve Them.” It was written by Flora L. Carl and Letha K. Jopling in 1943, a time when these highly nutritious and very affordable meats were more sought after than they are today. While liver has probably never gone out of style with our grandparents or maybe even our parents, anyone seeking optimal health may want to give it a second look.
Does your family turn up their nose at liver or any other super nutritious foods? What tricks do you have up your sleeve to sneak them into their diet?