Local Ingredient: Local farm liverwurst

Catherine Walthers prepared this local cheese platter for New Year's with the spreadable liverwurst, Eidolon cheese from Grey Barn Farm, a yogurt tahini hummus made with Mermaid Farm yogurt, and spicy caramel walnuts. — Catherine Walthers

What do you make if you have an extra 375 pounds of local livers? Liverwurst, of course.

That was the thinking of caterer Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch, a longtime supporter of Vineyard farms and local eating.

“We’re always thinking of what produce we have on Martha’s Vineyard we can use up,” she said.

Buhrman said she had been talking to Eric Glasgow of Grey Barn Farm, and looking at the success of their collaboration making bone broth sold at the Chilmark farm. Up popped the subject of liver.

“Everybody seems to have an abundance of livers,” explained Buhrman. So she went about collecting livers that farmers had frozen, not only from Grey Barn Farm but also Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, and Mermaid Farm and Dairy in Chilmark, and ended up with nearly 400 pounds of calf, lamb, and pork livers. After experimenting a bit, she nixed liver mousse and pâte as too tough to freeze after making, or liver sausage, which didn’t sell in the past, and hit upon this idea.

Buhrman contracted with an off-Island, USDA-approved plant, and delivered the livers herself, along with the other ingredients of onions, Kitchen Porch’s own spice mix, and local fatback. The livers and onions are cooked, then mixed with spices and fresh herbs, and finally whipped together with the fatback.

The liverwurst, sold in half-pound tubes, is buttery and spreadable, ideal for a winter cheese board. The word “liverwurst” comes from the German word “leberwurst,” traditionally made and served on open sandwiches with mustard or pickles.

“It’s a spreadable item — you can put it on vegetables like cucumbers, fennel, or endive leaves,” Buhrman notes. “It could be on your crudités platter. As kids, we used to have it smeared on white bread with mustard.”

The beauty of this, notes Buhrman, is that “all of the animals we are getting this from are either grass-fed or pasture-raised.” Additionally, the liverwurst available at the Grey Barn will be certified organic, made from their own organically raised pork liver.

“It’s nice to find a product that’s easy for most home cooks to use and serve out of something that would not otherwise be used or purchased,” she added.

Liver, said Buhrman, is very good nutritionally — high in protein, iron, and vitamins A and B12. A three-ounce serving of liver has 17 grams of protein.

At this time of year, you can find the liverwurst at both Grey Barn and Mermaid Farms, open seven days a week. Both self-serve farm stands also carry their own popular local cheeses. The Kitchen Porch’s Back Porch Larder will also sell the liverwurst on Fridays during the winter, along with daily specials. Morning Glory Farm is now closed for the season.

Look for more ideas from this local kitchen in the future. “The next thing we’re going to try is tongue,” Buhrman said. “We’re going to take tongue and hearts, and see if we can use that as well.”