If you live on the land (or reside in town but still butcher your own meat), you probably know a great deal about cutting up and using the main carcass of a cow, hog, etc. Chances are good that you've even learned to save and enjoy some of the many "extras" — brains, tongue, liver, heart, head cheese, souse, oxtail, pigs' trotters, and so on — that come so neatly packaged with that main carcass.
(Using or not using these cuts can mean the difference between butchering economically or wastefully. It can also mean the difference between enjoying some mighty good eating and losing out completely on a few of the most tender, tasty, and nutritious cuts of meat that you're likely to find anywhere.)
Still, there's another (less well-known) "extra" cut of meat that almost all of us waste, whether from ignorance or prejudice. I'm talking about "mountain oysters," the testicles removed from male animals so that they'll develop more quickly and — when later butchered — dress out into meat that is more tender and flavorful.
(Sheep and goats, of course, are usually castrated with special elastic rings nowadays, which means that their testicles are seldom available for use. Such testes are so small that they're hardly worth saving anyway. Pigs and calves, on the other hand, are an entirely different story: It's still general practice to remove their testes surgically...and the glands are definitely large enough to make a meal from.)
Each testicle hangs by a group of tubes (the spermatic duct and blood supply and return) which lead into a twisted mass of tubules. All of this ducting is discarded until only the gland itself — smooth, egg-shaped, creamy white in color, and containing meat of a very fine texture — is left. The testis is then skinned, cut in half lengthwise, and cooked. (And it does look a lot like an oyster when it's prepared.)
Mountain oysters are often just battered — or not battered — and lightly fried...but they're probably the tastiest when broiled, either in the stove or (if possible) over charcoal. About 2 minutes per side-or a total of 4-to-5 minutes in the broiler — is all the cooking the delicious treats need.
As is the case with most glandular meats, testicles are very rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are — in short — very healthful and nourishing food. And they have absolutely no effect on the hormone balance of the person who eats them.
Testes — which, after all, were designed by nature to be the source of the next generation — seem to concentrate the very essence of life into their meat...and it's all reflected in their delectable taste and texture! Mountain oysters are spoon-cutting tender and have a very light flavor that is truly fit for royalty. Unlike so many of the other "finer things in life", however, there's no reason to ration them out in unsatisfyingly small servings: A pair of the glands from one calf wilt supply enough meat for a big meal for one person...or a breakfast (with eggs) or a snack or light lunch for two.
Of course, if you're willing to consider a plateful of rocky mountain oysters, you're probably the kind of person who bakes your own bread and brews your own beer too. In that case, you should consider one of our favorite midnight meals (which we like to savor after a long rap with friends).
Fry your "oysters" lightly and put them on a hot plate to keep warm. Then cook some whole wheat flour to a golden brown in the pan drippings, add some milk, and simmer the whole mixture another five minutes or until the "floury" taste has been cooked from the gravy. Toast some bread at the same time...then put two halves of a gland on each slice, cover with gravy, and serve with a crisp salad and mugs of your own homemade brew.
"Bails, bread, and beer," we call it. "Mighty good fare," is what anybody would call it.
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