Recipe: Canadian Bacon

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canadian bacon

I once rated pork loin as my least favorite cut of pork. Since the vast majority of my pork is wild, I felt obligated to cook it done or else. The result being an overlooked dry, lifeless meat.

Canadian bacon has changed everything. Consider the loin last place no more, my friends. A simple brine and time in a smoker has transformed this difficult cut (for me) into my favorite charcuterie dish to date.  With multiple levels of flavor from the smoke and herbs, this Canadian Bacon is not your typical Egg McMuffin meat.

Ingredients 

  • 1 Gallon of Water
  • 1.5 cups of Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 8 tsp of instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • Handful of fresh lavender
  • 8-10 leaves of fresh sage
  • 2 ounces of crushed juniper berries
  • Crushed Black Pepper
  • 5 pound pork loin, leave the fat if it’s sweet.

Method

  • Kill a fat pig and have your minions (if you own any) skin it.  IMG_1176
  • If the fat is sweet tasty goodness (test some by frying up and smell it), leave a good layer on the loin.
  • Combine the sugar, salt and water and bring to a slight simmer to get it nice and dissolved. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  If in the winter, setting it outside and adding a ziplock bag full of ice into your pot will speed the chilling process.  You don’t want to add the loin to the brine when it’s warm because you will slightly cook it.
  • When finally cooled, add the loin and rest of ingredients.  Brine for about three days, weighing the meat down so its fully submerged.
  • Remove and rinse in cool water.  Pat dry and place on a cookie rack back in the fridge for another day.
  • Hot smoke the bacon with your smoker at about 200 degrees to reach an internal temperature of 157-160, depending on your level of trichinosis paranoia.   I used apple wood, but any approved BBQ wood will do.

Canadian bacon is excellent alone, as the featured entree, or to just keep around in the kitchen for sammiches and pizza. Make it as complex as you like by adding more and different spices, or keep it simple. Either way, it’s a good place to start with your next wild pork loin.

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Feeding the Ducks—Little Boy Style

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Remember how I got into ducks?  Well today I was digging the trench for potatoes I was planting and my 8 year old stops me, scoops something into a bucket full of grub worms, and asks for my phone.  He films his catch, and then films the duck feeding session/frenzy. Enjoy.**

 

 

**A snake was definitely harmed in this video.  Normally, I don’t mind non-venomous snakes, but not when I’m messing around in the garden.  Plus, a duck’s got to eat.

Squirrel Confit

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Apparently the French think true confit, (pronounced “konfee”),  can only be made with goose or duck.  If they had squirrel however, I believe they might just change their tune.   I managed to slip away from my mother in law’s house and had a killer hunt just outside Austin.   As part of a large dinner party menu, I was inspired to give this recipe a try from my friends in the Facebook group Hunt Gather Cook, which I highly suggest you join.  Originally I was going to make tacos from the confit, but at the behest of my friends (who are always behesting me) they decided to eat it with just their grubby little fingers.  It was that good.

Sadly, I killed very few ducks or geese this season, and was left with no waterfowl fat to confit my squirrels.  This recipe uses olive oil, the method used in Provence, but the results were still spectacular.  We’ve used it as leftovers on pasta, salads, and some fried rice.  It’s versatile and yummy.

Ingredients

  • 9 fox squirrels, skinned and quartered.  Rib cage removed.
  • 8 cups of olive oil
  • Bay leaves

Cure

  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of dextrose sugar
  • 1 tsp instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • 2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp course ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS of satsuma zest

 

Method

  • Pat your squirrel dry and put all of the cure in a shallow pie plate.  Press each piece of meat into the cure and set on a cookie rack over a baking sheet to catch the excess juice.  Refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours.  Longer if you like things a bit salty.  029
  • Rinse, pat dry, and place on a cookie rack to dry for half an hour.  Turn your oven to its lowest setting or WARM.
  • In a large dutch oven, stack in your squirrel.  Cover with olive oil or other fat of your choice.  I intended to use lard from wild boar, but opted at the last minute for olive oil.  Toss in a handful of bay leaves if you like.
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  • Place in the oven, and with a digital thermometer ensure the temperature never exceeds 200º.  Cook for 12 hours.
  • Shred and crisp in a cast iron skillet.  You can also leave whole and crisp as well.  Both are delectable.

Confit is a great way to enjoy pecan pirates.  If you like to squirrel hunt, but are looking for something a little different to do with your take, use this old school French approach.

Dallas Safari Club 2015 Convention

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As luck would have it, my sons’s  were swimming in the Winter State Games of Texas, which coincided with the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention. They didn’t swim until Sunday, which left us with a Saturday to play in DFW.   During my stent in law school, I joined the Dallas Safari Club in the hopes of making contacts with attorneys in the Dallas area.  Of course, I came from a more modest background than many of the members, but this didn’t keep them from being a friendly bunch.

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Lots of fun for boys, but my toddlers legs gave out.

 

Where my friends might show each other polaroids (pre smart phone days) of the big buck or limit of dove they shot, the people sharing tables with me in the DSC monthly dinners would pass around shots of elephant, leopards and Cape Buffalo.  Immensely cool.

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But, I decided I didn’t want to be an attorney and started college over to become a CRNA.  I moved back to Austin. My membership remained in good standing and I would often get calls from professional hunters going something like this:

“Mr. Spencer, what are your safari plans for the upcoming year?”

To which I would respond:”Well, so far I’ve got a 2 day woodlands hunt planned in Camp County for fox squirrels, other than that, I’m wide open!”

Then of course they would let me know they had a late cancellation for a Marco Polo hunt in Kyrgyzstan, a bongo hunt in Cameroon, etc.  At the time I was living on student loans–a safari was out of the question.  But a man can dream can’t he?

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So when I saw the DSC convention was going on this weekend, I was stoked.  Though my wife doesn’t hunt, she likes the idea of going to Africa and many safaris cost about the same or less than hunts in Canada and Alaska.  It’s a plan in the works.

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Turning the corner, my dear wife is trampled by an escaped buffalo

 

 

This convention is perfect if you need information for planning a destination hunt, want to see some incredible taxidermy and gun collections, or just need inspiration for a dream.  Along with Africa’s professional hunters, outfitters from Alaska to South America are ready to regale you with stories from the bush. And really, who doesn’t need more bush stories?

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Well known clothing, boot, and optics dealers as well.    There was also some cool jewelry and lots of other conservation groups like Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance ready to share their causes.  Simultaneously, seminars are going on with guest authors and speakers lined up covering an array of topics ranging from planting a food plot to planning a safari.

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I think anybody who likes  to hunt, regardless of safari aspirations, would enjoy the convention.  So if in the Dallas area in January, make plans to attend.

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Notice the lions eyes are open.  2015/01/img_3053.jpg

Now blinking.  Freaky. 2015/01/img_3054.jpg

 

I’d like to return, with a specific trip in mind, about 5 years from now when the boys are older–spend about three days, learn all I can and visit the different hunting outfitters offering my hunt.  Most outfitters were offering nice discounts for signing up at the convention.  Until then, I’ll just dream.

 

 

Recipe: Southern Style Roasted Possum

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Pregnancy causes some strange food cravings. Last night I had a dinner party for some friends during the college football national championship.  Many were new to game, so I wanted to trot out some good food without asking them to get out of their comfort zones.   I made a ham and Canadian bacon from a wild boar, a Thai dish with fried dove, some squirrel confit and wild boar gnocchi with marinara sauce. Yummy, but safe.

Meanwhile, my son likes to trap and wants to learn to tan furs.  The other night, I saw a pair of eyes a little too close for comfort to my duck coop, so I had him set out a cage trap.  The next morning–bingo:

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Didelphis virginiana, the ubiquitous Virginia Opossum, growled and hissed at us as we approached the trap.  Named by John Smith in 1604 after the Algonquin word for “white animal,” scientists believe they’ve been around since the dinosaurs.  Of course they are North America’s only marsupial and have more teeth than any animal on our continent.  They are practically immune to snake bites and rabies, are famous for playing dead when threatened, and will burp at you when agitated. Males are Jacks and females are called Jills, and if you run into several, well, you’ve discovered a passel of possums.

With no intention of actually following through with the proposal, I asked my guests in a text if they’d like an additional item on the menu. I followed the text immediately with the picture above. I expected revulsion.  Nope.  In fact, the two pregnant and only non-Southern women delighted at the prospect of possum.   The rest of the party then joined in with demands for possum.

Well, not wanting to peeve the parturients, I skinned and butchered the critter.  For some reason, the prospect of eating Mr. Slicktail kinda got to me.  I don’t know why, but I had trouble envisioning it being food.  Yet, I persevered.

I’ve always said the best bait for catching a possum would be a saucer full with drippings from the back of a dumpster truck.  These animals eat anything.  Dead horse?  Not only a months worth of meals, but a house to live in as well!  It was common knowledge in Camp County in the 1930’s you needed to keep a possum under a potato crate, fattened on a diet of sweet potatoes for a month, before you had prime eating.

The meat was pink, not unlike pork, but more tender.  They only live to be about 4 years old, so maybe they don’t have time to get tough.  I decided to brine it, and keep the spices on the sweet side.  I expected it to yield the aroma of soggy wet trash, with hints of vomit.  I guess you could say the bar was set pretty low.

Turns out I was wrong. During the roasting time, it smelled like a pork roast.  Everyone dug in.  The two preggos went back for seconds.  I’d say if a pig and squirrel could have a baby, it would taste like possum.  In fact, during my research I discovered the appropriate way to butcher a possum is to scald it like a pig, leaving the skin on.  Maybe next time.

 

Ingredients 

Brine

  • 1 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground all spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

Possum

  • 1 grinning possum, quartered
  • 4 sweet potatoes sliced in 2 inch chunks
  • 4 apples cored
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 2 cups of water
  • Flour
  • Dried Thyme
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 1 TBS all spice
  • 1 TBS grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

Method

  • Simmer brine to dissolve salt and sugar, allow to cool to room temperature.  Add the possum and brine for 24 hours. If necessary, add a plate to keep the meat fully submerged.
  • Remove from brine, rinse and pat dry.
  • Combine the flour, salt, pepper and thyme.  Coat the possum with flour mix. Place in a roasting pan at 350 degrees, uncovered for an hour and add the wine and water.
  • At the end of the hour, add the sweet potatoes.  If necessary, add more wine and water.  Cover and cook another 45 minutes.
  • Add the cored apples, and the rest of the spices and return and cook covered for another hour.

 

This was a pleasant surprise.  If you are adventurous, give this one a go.  So, any of you ever dined on possum?