The first testicle I ever ate would be the last one I ate for nearly a decade. I was still at St. Pauls Heartland Restaurant, which was a nose-to-tail palace of Midwestern Cuisine the likes of which will probably never be seen again. We cooked with only whole animals, and everything was used. Everything. Well, everything we could get our hands on not butchering the animals ourselves, which basically meant no blood or livers. Other than that though, if it came out of an animal, it was fair game. Testicles were a rarity, but we got them, and we did all kinds of things with them. Typically, since we knew they’d be a hard sell, they’d be breaded and fried–the classic rocky mountain oyster preparation, because anything tastes good breaded and fried, at least I thought.
The sous chef brought over a little plate of a test run testicle fry, and I took a bit of a crispy nubbin. The texture was fine, but the after taste–lord have mercy. It was like eating a skunky, musky organy thing I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it was strong, and it was rough. Repulsed, I refused more than my single bite, and, the sous chef, laughing, told me I’d just eaten my first wild boar testicle.
Boar Testicles: No Bueno
If you know anything about boars, especially truly wild ones, they can be musky, skunky critters, and that’s just the meat. I grew to love the gamey, truly wild cast that boar meat has, so much so that I made a point of featuring it in choucroute garni in my own restaurant years later, but I served succulent confit shoulder, not testicles. Needless to say, I haven’t eaten boar testicles since, and I don’t plan on it. I kind of forgot all about eating male reproductive parts in general. That all changed when I started working as a consultant with my farmers friends Larry and Judy from Shepherd Song in Downing WI.
Larry and Judy do Gods work with lamb, sheep and goats, and I got the opportunity to upgrade a lot of their product photography, as well as take a look at the inner workings of lamb and goat world, and help them consider different things they can sell, and alternate ways to squeeze money out of a carcass. Farmers don’t farm for profit, especially organic, restorative agriculture types. Another project we did was a video series funded by the USDA featuring nothing but lamb and goat offal. While we were throwing ideas out for what to use in the offal videos, lamb balls came up, so, in an attempt to put the past behind me, and appreciate the whole creature, I took another stab at tesicle-phagy, and I learned a lot. Here’s how I cook them, and, *gasp* a recipe for testicles that you could serve to a picky teenager without missing a beat–guaranteed.
Poach For Easy Cleaning
The trick I came up with (I haven’t seen anyone else mention it) is poaching them before cooking to make them easier to work with. Testicles are wiggly, slippery creatures, and they’re not easy to cut with a knife, at all. They’re covered in not one, but two membranes, and you’re going to want a good sharp paring knife to remove both of them. And trust me, no matter what else you see online, you want to remove both of the membranes–they’re chewy, and not in a fun way. The problem is that if you try to par-cook testicles, they explode and burst open. After a couple frustrating experiments, I tried par-cooking the testicles by letting them sit in water at a simmering temperature to tighten up the outside, making them easy to trim, but leaving the inside raw, so that they still cook up juicy. It works like a charm. Here’s a rundown of the process.
How to Prep and Clean Testicles, Fries, or Rocky Mountain Oysters
- Lamb testicles
- Milk or water optional
- Just like other organy meats: hearts, tongue, kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, brains, tripe, etc, a soak in milk for a day or two, or better yet, a flavorful ham brine for 3-4 days, can really help with the flavor. This is especially with lamb fries though, beef and pork are more mild, and you might not find it necessary for them. To soak the testicles, just submerge them in milk or water, changing it occasionally, for a day or two before cooking.
- Here's how to do it: get a pot of simmering water, enough to cover the testicles by an inch of two. Turn off the heat, and add the testicles. Set a timer for 10 minutes if they have the complete outer membrane, 5 minutes if they've been trimmed and only have the inner membrane.
- Beef testicles may take a little longer poaching. Afterwords, remove the testicles, cool and dry. An even more gentle way to do this is to sous-vide the testicles. To sous vide your balls, I'd start by cooking them at 135 for 1 hour, then chilling and moving onto the next step.
- After the testicles are poached, dry them well. With a sharp paring knife, cut the ends off each testicle (yours may come trimmed already with only one membrane).
- Slice the outer membrane gently and peel it away.
- With only the inner membrane remaining, gently cut a slice in the membrane.
- Carefully peel the membrane back to reveal the inner meat.
- From here, the testicles can be cut into slices, breaded and fried, or cooked however you like. (See note on smoking below).