Veal sweetbreads (that is, thymus glands) are popping up at hip restaurants dedicated to the nose-to-tail philosophy across the country. But this particular bit of tasty offal has been enjoyed by connoisseurs throughout history.
Sweetbreads are the ultimate in offal. Chefs prize them for their mild flavor and tender, creamy texture.
They are also incredibly versatile. They can be enjoyed many ways: fried, sautéed, poached, grilled, roasted or braised.
Often supporting stars in pâtés, terrines, sausages, cold appetizers, stews and salads, sweetbreads are stepping out into the spotlight.
Just the facts
- Humanely raised in a stress-free environment
- Never caged or penned
- Male Holstein stock, raised to a maximum of 425 pounds
- Diet of high-quality natural milk protein product, pure spring water
- No antibiotics, no hormones, ever
- Never irradiated or injected with any substance
- Sold in an uncooked state
- 1 lb package
- Product of USA & Canada
- For best taste on fresh products, use or freeze within 3-5 days of receipt; for frozen products, use within 1-2 days after thawing
Like everything else at D’Artagnan, our veal is raised humanely to produce the best flavor. We work with a cooperative of small farms in upstate New York and Canada that raise Holstein calves on milk formula alone. The calves are never individually caged or penned.
Instead, they are raised in group housing, in open spaces with clean straw bedding, free to socialize with other calves in a sunlit, comfortable environment.
These unique veal barns have been lauded by Dr. Temple Grandin, an expert on humane animal husbandry. The barns are temperature controlled, with ample air circulation and plenty of space for free movement; the calves have access to the outdoors when weather permits. The farmers strive to minimize stress on the calves, and limit the number of calves per barn.
The feed consists only of a high-quality milk protein product and pure well water, to which the calves are allowed 24-hour access, via a highly technical nipple feeding system. They are never administered any GMO products, antibiotics or growth hormones. Our veal farmers achieve a careful balance between tradition and technology, weighing the calves to determine their nutritional needs and monitoring them carefully to ensure their health and well-being.
Sweetbreads must be soaked for several hours, and up to 24 hours, to remove any traces of blood. Cold water can be used, or more traditionally, milk or even buttermilk.
After they are soaked, place sweetbreads in a pot of water and bring to barely a boil. Simmer the sweetbreads briefly (about 5-10 minutes) to firm up the flesh, and then shock in ice water.
Remove any remaining tough membrane, gristle, fat, or veins; best done with your fingers and a small sharp knife. If not removed, these bits will interfere with the creamy texture of sweetbreads.
In classical cooking, the sweetbreads would then be pressed under a heavy weight for at least 2 hours. This can be done under a folded towel on a sheet pan, with another weighted sheet tray on top. The process firms the sweetbreads and presses them into a uniform thickness so they are easy to slice into medallions. This step is not necessary if you are not seeking perfection of appearance.
You can now grill, bread and sear or fry sweetbreads. They are often breaded in order to add crispiness to the creamy, soft texture. Sweetbreads cook quickly and take a nice sear while remaining tender inside. If braising sweetbreads, it is not necessary to poach them in preparation.
Serve with lemons and capers or some acidic sauce to balance the rich creaminess of the sweetbreads.