What are Sweetbreads

Questions and Answers – What are Sweetbreads?




What are Sweetbreads?  Can you help?  They are not in your dictionary.  Are they glands or brains– of a cow??  Why and to who are they considered a delicacy? I know I have seen then on the menu on the west coast.  If they are the brains– then what is the name of “glands” on the menu?



Sweetbreads have a very misleading name.  They are neither sweet nor bread.  It is thought by historians that they are called “sweet” because they taste richer and sweeter compared to typical meat, and they are “bread” because the old English word for flesh is “bræd”.

Sweetbreads are the thymus and pancreas glands of animals. There are two kinds of sweetbreads:

(1) stomach sweetbreads (also known as heart or belly sweetbreads), which are an animal’s pancreas.

(2) neck (throat or gullet) sweetbreads, an animal’s thymus gland.

These glands are classified as Offal in culinary circles, meaning, literally, the “off-fall” or “off-cuts” from the carcass; many call these items variety meats.

Up until the time that America starting enjoying the luxury of large supermarkets (mid-1940s), people would butcher their own cattle for consumption.  As times were hard and money was scarce, nothing was wasted.  This included all parts of the animal butchered.  Everything was used and eaten by the family.  Now days, these foods are considered a delicacy by the people who enjoy them and are familiar with haute cuisine.



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