An excellent email dropped into my box over the weekend from a small but renowned, Vermont farmer and friend:

My vet friend Al has castrated 12 young bulls today and wants to cook them (the balls, aka rocky mountain oysters…)–I want to avoid rolling in ritz crackers and frying–any alternative suggestions?

I went immediately to books—him, what books, though?  Joy of Cooking?  They used to have squirrel recipes in with the casseroles.  But no.  Ah ha!  Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail.  Nope.  With all the cookbooks I owned not one with some decent balls recipes.  But wait, I’d looked in the ALL NEW Joy, the controversial rewrite of  the classic. (So controversial in fact that a re-revision has recently been completed, about which more later.) Yes, in the classic, there is a brief recipe on lamb fries, very basic, but helpful; I hope Scribner will return the fries to the newest volume.  I was sure to find something tasty sounding like bulls balls with green lentils in Bourdain’s Les Halles, but alas nothing testicle related in this otherwise sterling volume. Happily, I still had in my possession, borrowed from a friend, the best book on offal cookery I’ve found, Variety Meats, from James Olney’s unsurpassed Time Life’s The Good Cook series.

I wrote back to Diane:

I’ve never cooked balls before but they’re in the category of brains and sweetbreads ("in the category of brains," consider the implications of that!), almost always fried but there’s no end to what you might do.  Brown butter and sauteed napa cabbage I bet would be great.  Or a tomato sauce (like eggplant) or mushrooms and sauce, anything so long as they have a crisp exterior.  Get them crispy on the outside, then they carry the garnish.  Richard Olney has recipes and basic prep (he calls them "fries," skins and par boils them to firm them up before frying) and offers good all-purpose suggestions.

So my question to foodies out there is—does anyone have other books with recipes and what are people’s experience with cooking them or eating them beyond the fried novelties called prairie oysters at Montana sports bars?

I’ll try to post pix of Diane’s balls soon…

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19 Wonderful responses to “Balls”

  • Ed

    Look for a mexican or argentinean creadillas recipe, which generally end up grilling them.

  • braingirl

    I knew my family was worried about me up here with all these Yankees, and now I know why! Hoo-wee, you northern boys don’t know how to make real-deal calf fries?!

    It’s as easy as breading them in a southern style beer batter and cooking them in hot oil, but if you must use a recipe, I recommend Calf Fries w/ Cracked Pepper Gravy (made with Shiner Bock, natch) from Grady Spears’ A Cowbow in the Kitchen (his Riata cookbook.)

    Good luck!

  • braingirl

    And to answer the original question, I’ve never heard of anything else done with them besides the big outdoor calf frys we have out in cattle country.

  • ruhlman

    my friend marlies, a fraulein transplanted to oklahoma and a genuine lover of the nasty bits, wrote to me:

    Have I cooked balls???????? Is the pope a catholic? or a kraut? My son Scott was a fanatical lamb fries eater, and not just breaded and deep-fried the way folks hereabouts attack them, but braised in butter with lots of garlic, onions and mushrooms and a shot of sherry. Almost like I usually cook sweetbreads.

  • TommyTwoShoes

    Michael–
    All joking aside, I found a recipe for balls “tartar” among my grandpa’s extensive recipe clippings file (he was born, raised and died in Appalachia, where I guess they know balls…)Here’s the recipe, enjoy:

    1 cup ball meat
    1 cup dried apricots
    1 cup flaked coconut
    3/4 cup chopped nuts
    1 teaspoon grate lemon rind
    1 tbls lemon juice
    1 tbls orange juice
    Confectioners sugar

    Heat apricots in the top of a double boiler over boiling water for 10 minutes. Put ball meat, apricots, coconut and nuts through food grinder, using fine blade.
    Knead ground mixture with lemon rind, lemon and orange juice. Add confectioners sugar to firm.

    Form into small balls and roll into confectioners sugar.

    Allow to dry at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

  • Smari

    I just watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall fry up fresh testicles on his TV show. He denotes half a page on the subject with a recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book (Pg. 191). He mentions that they are still considered a delicacy in Spain.

    Merle Ellis has a recipe for Rocky Mountain Oysters in The Great American Meat Book (Pg. 272).

    Charcuterie & French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson has 2 recipes for Animelles (testicles) and a short write up (Pg 307).

    And of course Larousse Gastronomique has a recipe for animelles a la crème & fried animelles (Pg. 24).

    I could fax you any of these pages if you’re interested. Let us know how you end up cooking these and what the results are like.

    BTW, I’m happy to see that you’ve joined the blogging world.

  • H.Alexander Talbot

    Soak in milk for two days. Pat dry. Dredge in cornstarch, and deep fry. Serve with sauce ravigote. Forget to tell your friends they are not fried oysters. Works well with duck testicles as well, though actually duck testi (I think that is the plural) truly resemble miniature boudin blanc.

  • Podchef

    Simplest is always best.

    Lightly brown a knob of butter in a pan. Fry some fresh sage leaves in the butter. Toast some sourdough bread. Split the calves nads in half and saute briefly–the fresher the better, preferably cooked in a pan on the other side of the fence from the steers or in the barn for lunch–by now the butter is nut (no pun intended) brown. Pour the sage, nads, and butter over the toast. Enjoy with a glass of cider or ale.

    Many farmer and vet used to splash out every spring on this sort of fare. The trouble is these days with elastic banding, calves and lambs are rarely surgically neutered and so the loss of a culinary resource.

  • veron

    There is a delicacy back in the Philippines called Soup #5 which makes use of the balls. It’s suppose to be an aphrodisiac.

  • df

    i love duck fries on a frisee salad with a soft-poached egg. although, on special occasions us cooks get the “everythang” burger (hot link, cheese and bacon) and put a fried duck ball in it. yum.