Sweetbreads are thymus glands from our humanely-raised veal calves. Sweetbreads are a classic delicacy and offer velvety, fine-grained texture.
Veal sweetbreads are popping up at 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
- Exclusively available at D’Artagnan
- Humanely raised in a stress-free environment
- Never caged or penned
- 5 Freedoms compliant, a strict EU standard
- Male Charolais and Limousin breeds
- Raised to 6 months, a maximum of 450 pounds
- Milk-fed; 14 days on mother’s milk, then a high-quality natural milk formula
- No antibiotics, no hormones, ever
- Never irradiated or injected with any substance
- Sold in an uncooked state
- Product of France
- 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. This is the only place in the United States you will find this exquisite veal. We work exclusively with a cooperative of small farms in Southwest France that raise Charolais and Limousin breed cows, prized for meat, not dairy production. The veal calves are not simply a by-product of the dairy industry but are raised for their quality meat. They live in group housing, in open spaces with clean straw bedding, free to socialize with other calves in a sunlit, comfortable environment.
Their diet is different than the average veal calf that is removed from mother’s milk immediately. Our calves get mother’s milk for 14 days before being weaned onto a milk-based formula for the remainder of their life cycle. They are not grain-finished as is so common in veal production.
This is an important distinction because mother’s milk is important in building and stabilizing a young mammal’s digestive processes. In this more costly process calves are properly weaned to ensure they have an easy transition to a milk-based formula feed. They also get a daily ration of natural ruminants to aid in digestion, along with clean, mineral-enriched water, and iron. This important nutrient keeps the calves healthy and is often withheld by other veal farmers to produce pale veal meat.
Our French veal complies with the “5 Freedoms” statutes of the E.U., a guarantee that far exceeds the humane standards for veal in other countries. These are the freedom to express normal behavior; freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom from fear and distress.
We are proud to work with these French farmers who are famous for providing the highest quality veal to the best restaurants, and butcher shops throughout France and Europe. After all, France is the largest consumer of veal in the world, and expectations of quality are high.
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.