Fried Beaver Tail
2 beaver tails
1/4 cup (60 mL) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter or other fat
1/4 cup (60 mL) cooking sherry or other cooking wine
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dry mustard
1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
Skin, clean, wash in salt water, and soak beaver tails overnight in vinegar/salt/water solution; drain and parboil in soda/water solution. Drain, pat dry. Dredge beaver tails in seasoned flour. Melt butter or other fat, such as rendered beaver fat, in heavy fry pan and saute tails at low heat until tender. Mix wine with remaining ingredients, add to beaver tails and simmer gently for 10 minutes, basting often.
Lay the beaver on its back in a clean place and cut off the legs at the first joint. Then, with a sharp knife, slit the pelt, starting at the lower lip. Insert the knife in this slit and, with the sharp edge up, cut the pelt in a straight line down the chest and belly to the vent. work from this center line cut and, with short strokes, separate the skin from the flesh. Carefully pull the legs through the skin, leaving four round holes in the pelt. Cut off the tail where it meets the fur. Skin carefully around the eyes and cut the ears close to the skull. Finish removing the pelt, taking as little flesh and fat with it as possible, then lay it on a flat surface, fur side down, and sponge off all blood marks with lukewarm water.
Cut the head from the carcass as follows: make a cut through the thin layer of meat from the breast bone to the vent, encircling the vent, and being careful not to puncture the intestines. Lay the body cavity open, and remove the viscera by grasping them above the stomach and pulling down and out from the body cavity. Carefully cut out the tiny musk glands from under the skin on the inside of the legs and be sure to remove the castor gland under the belly near the tail. Then wash the carcass thoroughly with warm salted water.
The flavor of very young beaver, says one expert, “reminds us of a fat goose,” while others liken it to pork. In either case, the meat is clearly delicious. And yet the contrasting recipes will demonstrate that beaver is another of the critters about which there is quite a bit of controversy over the taste of the fat. Some recipes suggest cutting off “all visible fat” or even parboiling the dressed carcass to render more fat and to tenderize the meat before frying or roasting normally.
Whether or not you are pretreating quite simply depends on the condition of the meat you have. If there is too much fat for your taste, trim off some of it, just as you would trim a very fat pork roast. Save it for other uses. If the animal is old and tough or badly shot up, it may require special tenderizing–a marinade or parboiling. Fat also turns rancid. If the meat has been kept too long in the freezer or refrigerator and it smells strong, trimming off the fat and parboiling the meat will help the flavor.
An exceptional amount of fat is to be found in the beaver tail. For that reason, the tail is considered a delicacy by many. If you don’t care for that much concentrated fat, however, the tail is the first item that should go to someone who does. Or, render the fat and save it for other cooking uses.
Several Ways To Prepare Beaver
Whether our supply of shortening would run out, we used beaver grease for a substitute. This is rendered by heating, in the same manner as ordinary lard, but stays liquid even after cooking.
Beaver tail make a rich, flavorful soup broth.
The beaver meat is roasted in the same way as any meat roast.
The beaver tail and feet, prepared by pickling, became another wilderness gourmet treat. First, thread the tails and feet on sticks and place them over the fire, taking care not to get them too hot. The beaver is rather oily and can burn if placed too close to the fire. The heat would cause the skin to pop open and fall off.
To preserve the skinned tail and feet, pickle them in the same fashion as making pickled pigs feet.
To preserve the beaver tail and feet by the salt-brine method, combine 4 quarts (4L) cold water with 2 1/2 pounds (1.15 kg) of pickling salt, 1 ounce (28.5 g) of saltpeter and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar. Heat to the boiling point, stirring often, but do not boil. Remove the pot from the heat. After cooling, pour the brine through a very fine sieve or cloth over the meat, which has been placed in a crockpot or enamel vessel. Refrigerate or put in a cool, dry place about 38 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 3.5 degrees Celsius. Pickling takes about 10 days.
To pickle them in a vinegar solution, skin and boil the beaver tail and feet until done. Then prepare a solution of vinegar, salt, onions and spices, pour it over the cooked meat and let it set for a few days. Pickling spices are made up of whole bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves. Occasionally, if found, juniper berries, dry thyme and basil were included in the mixed pickling spices.
Another Juniper Marinade
3 tablespoons juniper berries
3/4 cups oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup cooking wine
Crush juniper berries, then combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Soak meat chunks in the mixture for 24 hours, turning every so often to coat evenly. Roast the meat on a campfire, or in an oven, basting frequently with the marinade.
Iva Senft, as told to Mary J. Barry “Camp Cookery, Trail Tonics, and Indian Infants.” Alaska Sportsman, July 1964.
Cooking Alaskan By Alaskans. Published by Alaska Northwest Books, 1983.