When things are starting to pop up in the spring, my first instinct is to go out and start putting things up and preserving. If you're like me, you probably have some other things that need to get cleaned out of the freezer too, first. Enter pates, terrines, and all the glorious charcuterie that you can feed odds and ends to if you hunt, fish, or just keep interesting animal parts around.
Terrines and charcuterie in general are one of my great loves, and this spring terrine is a good example of how I use odds and ends, (especially venison liver) and how you can too. Looking at the ingredient list might be daunting, but you need to look at it more as a blueprint, with different pieces you can plug in and remove as you like.
This terrine is one I did for a private party, and it's a celebration of spring that also functions as a good freezer cleanout. The spring part just means I used some ramp leaves to wrap the terrine and make it pretty, the rest is all meat scrap, organs, and smoked bits and pieces.
The big takeaway here though, is how the organs are utilized. Offal isn't everyones favorite, but I usually have a decent amount laying around, and plenty of tricks for working with it. With terrines and pates especially, it's often the case that they will actually be better with organs, than say, if I just made the following terrine with all venison shoulder, which would come out more firm, like meat loaf. Liver and kidneys add tenderness to a terrine, giving it a nice, easy slice, and soft mouthfeel--exactly what you want. Depending on the terrine I'm making, I might use more or less than the roughly equal proportions here, but one thing is the same with all of them using ruminant (venison, lamb, goat, etc) organs--generally I soak them.
A lot of times people soak livers in milk, and they do it whole. That's ok, but venison liver especially can be so strong tasting that I take a more aggressive approach to it, one that I borrow from acorns. Here's the jist: instead of just soaking the meat in milk or water once, whole, I cut it into pieces to increase the surface area and contact with the water, and I also change the water a few times. Do that, and I promise you it will tame the flavor, while still giving you the tenderness you want in a good terrine. Anyway, here's the basic template--feel free to riff on it.
Notes on special ingredients and substitutions
- Venison liver and the offal here are in the convenient form of 1 lb--just plug and play whatever organs you have--kidneys and hearts are good too.
- The pigeon breast inlay in the middle of the terrine is nice, but optional.
- Venison bacon. I make venison bacon every year per my recipe here, but most people don't. Feel free to skip it, use regular bacon, ham, etc.
- Nut and fruit garnishes. I used dried sour cherries and pistachios--feel free to substitute whatever you want, you can even up the quantity slightly to about ⅓ cup each if you like.
- If you have venison caul, it would be the perfect thing to wrap the terrine in instead of ramp leaves.
- Dried ramp leaves: these are a great seasoning. If you don't have them, omit them garlic powder and onion powder are foul in terrines, IMO.
- The ramp leaves are nice, and wrapping the terrine in them is novel, but you can also use other greens or omit them.
- The use of wild ginger here is a good reference point for how to use the plant as a seasoning. I grated one 6 gram piece on a microplane, and likely only 2 grams made it into the finished product. Don't eat large amounts--Asarum canadense is for light seasoning only.