Introduction: Candy Hearts (made With Real Heart)

About: Artist in Residence at Pier 9, currently exploring a vast array of new tools with which to injure myself.

Cardiac confections for your carnivorous crush! Sweet steer heart for your dear sweetheart! Butchered bovine bonbons for your beloved!

That's right: it's Valentine's Day candy made from an actual cow heart. This year, while every one else on the internet is wooing their loved ones with bacon chocolates, bacon roses and bacon candles, you can buck the trend and choose a much more meaningful (not to mention kosher- and halal-friendly) meat.

This instructable will show you how to turn a single cow's heart into two types of sweet beef jerky, then glaze and coat pieces of the jerky to make about thirty candy hearts. The two flavors are:

  • candied ginger and dark chocolate (with optional coffee)
  • paprika, chili and white chocolate

Both flavors taste great. The first is much more candyish than jerkyish. At the risk of deviating from silly internet mischief into pretentious food babble, the tangy ginger dominates, but is balanced out by the low notes of dark chocolate and beef, both of which come across as natural pairings for the ginger. It will make you wonder why you never added beef to your chocolates before.

The second flavor is more obviously meaty, with a spicy kick set against the soothing milkiness of the white chocolate. It reminded me of tasting the swirl of cream inside a sweet goulash. It will make you wonder why you never added chocolate to your jerky before.

Anyway, they're both delicious. Make them!

Step 1: Ingredients

For this recipe you'll need a fresh beef heart. You can either use Temple of Doom style black magic to pluck it still beating from the chest of a helpless cow or you can pick one up for some loose change at your local butcher's shop. Hearts are great value for money; for the price of a fancy cup of coffee you'll get about five pounds of lean meat (plus a good slab of tasty epicardial fat).

You'll need a few other things too...

For the ginger jerky marinade:

  • A large knob of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup of honey
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 4 tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

For the chili and paprika jerky marinade:

  • 1 cup Demerara sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup water

You might have noticed that these marinades are a lot sweeter than your typical jerky marinade. The aim is to place less emphasis on the spices and more on the caramel flavors.

For glazing the jerky:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee, finely powdered (optional)

For the candied ginger:

  • Another large knob of ginger
  • 1 cup sugar (Any type works here. I used Demerara again, which is why my candied ginger looks so dark. And why it had an amazing toffee aftertaste.)

For the chocolate coatings:

  • 1 bar of dark (>70% cocoa) cooking chocolate
  • 1 bar of white cooking chocolate

Step 2: Bare Your Heart

Start by stripping away the fat from the surface of the heart. Judging by the thick layer of fat on this heart, my cow clearly had some kind of sedentary office career.

If you're nervous around raw internal organs, get a child to help you. Just don't let them put the raw meat in their mouth; you never know where a child's mouth has been.

Step 3: Tug at Those Heart Strings

If your heart hasn't already been sliced open by the butcher, cut it through the middle and butterfly it out to show all the heart's chambers. You should see a lot of stringy tendons focused around a few spots inside the heart. These chordae tendineae are the cow's heart strings.

Snazzy organ that it is, the heart has built-in valves to stop blood flowing in the wrong direction. In life, the heart strings prevent the valves between the ventricles and the atria (the big chambers and the little chambers of the heart) from turning inside out and sending blood the wrong way. In death, they do nothing except get stuck in your teeth. Cut 'em out.

Try to remove any other bits of tough connective tissue or obviously protruding major blood vessels. You want to turn the heart into a lean slab of meat with as few frilly extra bits as possible. This will make it easier to slice into strips of jerky later.

Step 4: Slice Away

If you have the time and patience, put the heart in the freezer for two or three hours. Take it out before it is fully frozen, but once it has become noticeably stiffer. This will make it easier to slice into thin pieces.

Lay the heart flat on a work surface and, holding it down with the palm of one hand, carefully slice it horizontally to make broad but thin sheets of meat. The wider these are, the more pieces of candy you'll be able to cut out of them later.

Step 5: Marinade Mixology

The two marinades are extremely simple to prepare: just mix the ingredients together in any order.

Divide the meat slices into two roughly equal portions, then slather them in the marinades. Seal each portion inside a freezer bag (or similar watertight container) with the rest of its marinade and leave in a refrigerator overnight.

Step 6: How to Make Candied Ginger

Now would be a good time to prepare the candied ginger, which will also need to be left overnight before you can use it.

Slice the ginger into thin discs, then put them in a pot and add just enough water to cover the ginger completely. Bring the pot to the boil and let it simmer for ten minutes. Drain the hot water away (mmm... ginger tea...), add more cold water, bring back to the boil and simmer for another ten minutes or until the ginger has all turned flexible and slightly translucent.

In a fresh pot, add 1 cup of the gingery water to 1 cup of sugar. (Don't worry if you didn't use enough water; just top it up with tap water.) Using a candy thermometer to check the temperature, heat the sugar solution to 225°F (107°C), then remove it from the heat.

Let it cool for ten minutes, then use tongs to pick out the pieces of ginger and place them on a wire rack. Watch out: whatever is underneath the wire rack will get very sticky!

Leave them to cool overnight, then chop them as finely as you can. You'll hopefully find that the sticky ginger pieces turn into much drier crumbs as you cut them up and the syrup spreads itself over a larger surface area. And, most likely, into your clothes as well.

Step 7: Putting the Heat Into Heart

Now it's time to turn that juicy red meat into chewy, dried-out strips of jerky. Yum.

Spread the strips of meat on a wire rack over a foil lined tray, keeping the two flavors separate. Leave them in an oven at 190°F (88°C) for about 6 hours, or until you're happy with how tough they've become. Assuming that you don't intend to store these for a long time (like you might with regular jerky), you can allow them to remain a little bit squishier than you would for traditional shoe-leather-esque jerky.

Step 8: Cut, Glaze and Sprinkle

Using a cookie cutter or a paper template to help you, cut the flat strips of jerky into as many heart shapes as possible. Now it's time to glaze those hearts with sugar.

Spread the sugar out in a heavy pot and add just enough water to make the sugar clump together into a paste. You don't want to form a proper syrup like you did for the ginger, as that would remain sticky even after cooling. Instead, you want the sugar to be almost as dry as possible while you heat it, so that it still sets into a hard crust. If you're confident in your sugarmastery, you don't need to use any water at all. Just be aware that there's a very fine line between caramel and charcoal.

Gently heat the sugar until it turns liquid and just barely begins to brown. If you want to add the optional coffee flavor to the ginger hearts, dust them with instant coffee now. Using tongs (if you use your fingers you will burn yourself), quickly dip the ginger-flavored hearts half way into the sugar, then sprinkle candied ginger over them while they're still hot. Set them carefully aside on a cooling rack. If you're glazing a lot of hearts, keep an eye on the sugar to make sure it doesn't start to set or, worse, burn.

For the chili and paprika jerky, just dip the hearts half way and put them straight onto the cooling rack. Resist the urge to completely coat them in sugar, as doing so will make it harder to coat the remaining half in chocolate in the next step. Sometimes doing things halfheartedly pays off in the long run.

Step 9: Don't Lose Your Temper With the Chocolate

Set up a double boiler or a bain-marie to melt your chocolate. If you want your chocolates to stay glossy after they've cooled, you'll need to temper the cooking chocolate when you melt it. This always sounds daunting, but it's just a matter of carefully raising and lowering the chocolate's temperature in a certain way so that it sets properly. Scoochmaroo has an excellent and simple instructable on how to temper chocolate right here.

Dip the undipped ends of your hearts into the chocolate and leave them to cool (on baking parchment or greaseproof paper) for one final time.

Step 10: Let Romance Ensue

Hooray! They're all done! And they look (and taste) magnificent!

Now wrap your candy hearts in a pretty box, memorize a cheesy pop song with the word heart in it (i.e. almost any pop song) and serenade your loved one as they chew away in romantic meaty bliss.

As always, let me know how it goes! If it goes extremely well, post pictures of the wedding!

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