Monday, December 6, 2010

Buffalo Liver Dumplings

Liver's robust flavour is perfect in dumplings, that humble but satisfying dish that was once made with left-over bread, milk, and eggs.

First I cut the liver into pieces and seared them on high heat. I set the liver aside, sweated onions in the same pan, then deglazed with vinegar and water.

For moisture and body, I added leftover bread heels soaked in milk. I used eggs to bind the mixture, dried bread to tune the consistency, and finsihed with salt, pepper, and thyme.

The ingredients were then forced through the hand-cranked meat grinder above, at left, which used to belong to my grandmother. This was the first time I've used it. It has a plate on it that redefines what I consider a "coarse grind." You can see in the photo that it doesn't even have holes like a typical die, but rather annular slits. It was perfect for the dumplings.

Once ground, I shaped the paste into balls. They can be poached, but I prefer frying them in a pan. I ate them with broth. Buffalo broth, of course.

A Weird Digression on Bison Milk

Working with buffalo liver and milk got me asking questions. What does buffalo milk taste like? My understanding is that bison are related more closely to dairy cows than to the dairy buffalo of Europe, so I would wager that their milk is similar to our household milk in fat, protein, lactose, et c. How difficult would it be to milk a buffalo?


  1. I think I missed the part that explained where you're getting all these bison parts.

    That die is odd indeed. I've seen similar ones that are intended for spacers when attaching stuffer tubes for sausage making - but not quite like that one.

  2. The eye of round (for the jerky and pemmican), the bones, and the liver were from the First Nature Farms stall at the Strathcona market. Surprisingly, I didn't even have to order them, I just happened upon them in their display case (though not all on the same day...)

    The tongue was from Thundering Ground Bison Ranch, also at the Strathcona market. I did have to order the tongue, but they were able to bring it in a week later.

  3. I love your ingenuity and the dumpling looks really good... but I do not like liver. How did it taste?

  4. i imagine the meatball's texture was 'rough' ?

    i'm curious if bison could be meatballed with a chinese meat dumpling technique?

    essentially (the way it's been explained to me, but something could be lost in translation) you don't use any binding ingredients, because you beat the proteins in the meat until it binds together into a meat ball and holds itself together.

  5. Val - It tasted like... liver. I don't think I could distinguish beef liver from buffalo liver. Thyme and salt were the only other players flavourwise.

    Michelle - Despite the coarse grind, the dumplings weren't rough in the same way some meatballs might be. The liver is very tender, and the milk-soaked bread and eggs add levity.

    Buffalo meat will definitely form a nice, tacky forcemeat on its own, if mixed properly.