Sweetbreads are very popular in gourmet kitchens and restaurants. While the name gives a certain idea of what sweetbreads are, don't be fooled. The name does not accurately describe what the food is.
Sweetbreads are the thymus glands from a calf, pig or lamb. The glands are found in the neck of the animal and also near the heart. The heart gland is round while the gland of the throat is a long lobe.
The heart sweetbreads are round, firm and smooth. It has a creamy texture and a delicate flavour. The throat sweetbreads are longer and are considered the lesser of the two types.
Sweetbreads are extremely perishable and should be cooked and served within 24 hours of purchase. They should be soaked in acidulated water before cooking. The outer membrane of the gland must be removed as well.
Sweetbreads can be boiled, sauted, baked, fried or poached. They are also used in pates and souffles as well.
Which to Buy
When choosing which sweetbreads to buy, look for ones that are white and plump. Beef and veal sweetbreads should be available in speciality meat markets throughout the year. Lamb and pork sweetbreads usually must be special ordered.