Pemmican

The elk were a meager 70 yards away. My father, buddy and I had spotted them from over a mile off and had managed to sneak, undetected, to well within shooting distance. It felt like a hunt that was coming together as I slipped out from behind a tree, aimed my scope to just in front of the elk’s ear, exhaled and pulled the trigger. She fell, never having known another thing.

But I knew something, I knew that I had just made meat that would feed five families. I knew that I had a 350 pound animal that needed cut up and it was getting dark. I knew that, in no way was this animal going to be wasted or treated like anything other than pure culinary gold. Visions of steaks, summer BBQ’s and pemmican floated in my head. This meat was wild, I had struggled for it and I would make the most of it. In the distance I heard the crack of another gun, someone else was making meat too. I was participating in a tradition that stretched back to the beginning of humanity. I was making meat.

Brief History of pemmican –img_2089

The history of humanity is a story of calorie acquisition. The foragers acquired the majority of the calories, the hunters acquired the calorie dense meat. In times of surplus food was often preserved and saved for later. Each culture had its own method or style of pre-refrigeration preservation. The ancient Egyptians poached meat in fat then stored it in a barrel in the cellar. The Germanic tribes would burry a ditch full of cabbage until the winter, making sauerkraut. The English would barrel pickle herring, bringing Lent and fish Fridays to the center of the country. The Basque would dry cod that would stack and store for years. In the Americas the native tribes would make pemmican.

Pemmican is basically three things – fat, dried meat and fruit. The native plains tribes developed a high calorie method of food preservation directly linked to the buffalo harvest. The tribes would dry the buffalo meat over a fire or in the sun until brittle. They would then pound the meat until it was nearly a powder, then they would mix the meat with rendered buffalo fat and dried fruit. This pemmican would last for years if stored properly. It would often be a staple part of the diet in the winter – when hunting was hard and foraging even harder.

Pemmican was traded to the fur trappers and explorers that set out across North America. It eventually became a staple part of the diet of many explorers who did not possess the woodsmanship of the natives. Basically, pemmican warded off starvation and provided calories and nutrition for westward expansion.

As the buffalo grew less and less prevalent and food became easier to ship across North America pemmican fell off in consumption. In modern times pemmican has seen a resurgence thanks in part to the paleo diet. Tanka Bars – a variation of pemmican – are a hugely popular high protein food source produced in South Dakota. Other manufactures exist as well, making everything from pemmican bars to pemmican trail mix.

Check out my pemmican recipe below.

How to make pemmican –

The simplest recipe for pemmican is a ratio – 1:1:.5 – one part dried meat, one part fat, .5 parts jam.

For my recipe I use elk jerky, but really any type of wild game jerky would be great. Buffalo meat was historically the most popular but those opportunities are sparse in the hunting world. Deer, elk, caribou and moose all work well for this recipe. The idea is to have a super lean protein that is free of fat that can go rancid. Honestly, I use the jerky that makes it past the winter in my pemmican bars. I have a buddy that loves to make the stuff so I have an extra pound of jerky every year. If you are making jerky for this application make sure to trim it of all fat. Non rendered animal fat will turn bad if left out.

For the fat I will either use rendered bear fat or coconut oil. I have been on a bit of a dry stretch on my bear hunting of late – so I am clean out of bear fat. So my recipe below calls for coconut oil. I could use lard, from the store, for this recipe (and most other recipes do) but I like the idea of using my own gathered animal fat instead of beef fat. The coconut oil I use is the shelf stable stuff that looks like lard and keeps solid until it’s about 80ᵒF. That way, in most of my hunting seasons I know the pemmican bar I made, is still a bar not a goopy mess in my pack.

Another way my pemmican recipe is a little different than most – I use jam or jelly as an ingredient instead of dried fruit. The reason I do this is twofold. First, the jam allows me to flavor the pemmican how I want to. Secondly, the added sugar of the jam is helps my inner sweet tooth cravings. I use my own homemade huckleberry jam for this, but if that is not an option many online retailers have them for sale. Just remember, a recipe is an idea – feel free to substitute huckleberry for blackberry, blueberry, raspberry or even grape jelly. Like with most recipes personal preference comes into play. If you are not a fan of huckleberries substitute some other fruit. Really the goal with making pemmican is to create a high calorie, high energy and easy to carry food you want to eat.

Also, this is not an everyday snack item. Pemmican is a high calorie food meant for those burning a high amount of calories. Like marching across the plains in search of buffalo or up the side of a hill looking for an elk. Consider that elk jerky is about 75 calories per ounce, coconut oil is about 244 calories per ounce, and huckleberry jam is about 75 calories per ounce. So a 2.5 ounce bar would have about 370 calories. That is some densely compacted energy right there!

Will some criticize my pemmican recipe as non-purest? Sure, but I am not trying to be a cultural appropriator. The goal is good food – this is good food.

Recipe –

1 cup coconut oil

½ cup huckleberry jam

1 cup wild game jerky, crumbled or powdered in a blender

Line a medium sized cookie sheet with foil, spray lightly with pan release. Reserve.

Heat huckleberry jam in small pan on stove. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. This step will remove most of the moisture from the jam, allowing it to be shelf stable if desired. Reserve.

Heat coconut oil I the microwave for 1 minute, until hot and completely clear.

In a medium sized bowl add the coconut oil and concentrated jam. Mix well to incorporate. Next add the crumbled or powdered meat in small batches, making sure to mix it well. When all the meat is added you should have a purple/brown mixture that is slightly stiff to stir. Taste the mixture. If you want more salt, add a little more salt. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey.

Pour mix onto the foil lined cookie sheet and spread mixture until it is about ½ inch thick. Try to keep it in a rectangular form, it will be easier to cut and portion that way. When the mix is evenly spread place the try into the refrigerator. This will cause the coconut oil to set.

After 2 hours remove the cookie sheet from the fridge, invert the pan and “pop” out the pemmican onto a clean cutting board. Remove the foil and cut the pemmican into desired portion sizes. I think that about 2-3 ounces is plenty. I cut mine into “bar” shapes and wrap them in parchment paper. I then freeze mine, but this is optional. Enjoy.

 

Wild Turkey Salad Time

IMG_2411Drew and I plodded on in search of his first turkey, headlamps showed the trail ahead. The land we hiked toward was public, but entirely surrounded by private property. To circumvent any trespassing violations we had to stay below the “high water mark” alongside the river. A boot width wide the trail was our rout. Over scrub, under trees and through soft dirt (that threatened to drop us into the river below) we hiked opening morning of turkey season.

As the skyline started to turn blue we could see shadows in the trees across the river. The black forms of roosted turkeys, not yet stirring, became clear in the early morning. “Watch this” I whispered, taking cover in behind some sage. I got out my trusted box call and gave a few halfhearted clucks. A gobbler sounded off across the river, then another, then another. Through our binoculars we watched four toms get puffed up and sound off, using there thick deciduous tree limbs as de-facto dancing poles.

It is this call-and-respond that hooks so many turkey hunters, me included. One cluck was all I had to let out to get the gobblers talking and strutting at some unknown hen in the distance. But between us was a river, one they have never crossed for me. We watched, hopeful that a gobbler would cross over when they left the roost. To no avail. The trees cleared and the birds were on solidly un-huntable private property.

So on we walked down the river. Eventually landing on the BLM happy hunting ground. The area is low country river bottom – sage in the surrounding hills with a few scattered areas of timber along the edge of the river. The birds roost in the timber patches night after night and feed on the fresh green hills during the day. Keeping hidden in the area was the biggest issue, a lack of thick cover meant stillness and camouflage was an imperative.

In the distance, and most importantly on our side of the river, Drew heard a faint gobble. We advanced a few hundred yards, almost to the first patch of timber. I stuck a hen decoy in the trail and started calling. Soon we heard the sound off of an eager tom. Then another. Two birds if we were lucky – one for each of us. We tucked ourselves next to a cliff, behind a wall of sagebrush and waited.

Unfortunately, it was a blind corner and the birds would not commit. They were more than willing to talk but they pulled the classic turkey “hang up” move. Luckily the terrain was in our favor. Drew and I backed out climbed up the dirt embankment onto a plateau of sage behind us. Using the terrain to our advantage and crawling a lot we circled around the backside of the birds, finding a open area in the sage to place the decoy. Again we tucked in behind some sage and called.

The response was instant. Birds – and not far off. Annoyingly, the gobblers were basically in the position we had just left. I have a hard time waiting on hung up birds, so I tend to move more than I should. My lack of patience in the turkey woods has gotten the best of me several times. Ill often find myself calling to birds that are probably standing on my last hiding place. Or the birds will bust me moving from one location to another. Basically, patience is not my virtue.

From our set up I could see the head of a tom rise over the ridgeline at about 50 yards. Bright red and walking quick he let off a gobble. Then he caught sight of my decoy and almost instantly became a puff ball of feathers. Up went his fan and out went his feathers as he did the cha-cha closer and closer to our decoy. I would calmly purr as he closed in, then he would send off a thunderous gobble.

At thirty yards I whispered to Drew “Shoot him.”

After a long pause Drew whispered back “I can’t see him.”

A quick dart of my eyes (I dare not move my head) and I caught sight of Drew in his cover. It was so thick that it formed a wall around us. I had set myself up to have a view of the decoy. In his haste to get in position Drew was behind way to much cover to get a shot off.

The bird was now closing in fast. 20 yards, stop and strut. “Shoot” I would whisper. Waiting for the bird to turn a circle I raised my gun. 10 yards I could see the bird blink now. “Shoot him!” I would mouth. My heart at this point was making so much noise I was fairly certain it was going to give away our location. Much closer and I was going to shoot. Nine yards, I started to control my breathing. Eight yards, I took the safety off my gun.

Finally the bird walked into a window in Drew’s cover, only to be standing directly behind my decoy. “I don’t want to shoot your decoy…” he said. “I don’t care!” I fired back. I watched the resolve come across Drew’s face. That steely gaze hunters get right before they pull the trigger is unmistakable. At seven yards the bird turned, giving us a rear-end view of his fan, and Drew raised his gun. Then he leaned in toward me and placed the butt of the gun in the crook of his elbow. The bird turned to face us, its feathers fell and it cocked its head looking at the both of us in the cover. Drew fired.

Back at the truck it was cold pizza and warm beer for a celebration. Our feet hurt, the inside of Drew’s elbow was turning purple from a bruise…but the turkey in the back of his truck made it all worthwhile.

turkey salads

Spring Turkey Salad Recipes

Spring is often the start of “salad” season for folks. I know my garden is light and green at that time. I’ll often find myself foraging greens or eating fresh spring flavors at the time. Below is a trio of easy spring salads that you can make with your turkey.

The first part of all three recipes is the same – cook a turkey breast and shred it. When that is done the variations are endless – Asian to Scandinavian dishes can be created. Like with most wild meats however, wild turkey is incredibly lean. That is why in all the recipes below I am adding a “fat” of some type. It can be mayonnaise or sesame oil, it does not matter, what matters is a moist and delicious salad.

Cooked Turkey Breast

1 wild turkey breast, skinless

Salt and Pepper

2 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Season wild turkey breast with salt and pepper. Heat medium sized skillet on high for four minutes, add oil. Carefully add the turkey breast and sear until golden brown on one side. Flip and place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked completely through. Remove turkey breast from oven. Let turkey cool completely. When turkey is cool, use a knife and fork to “shred” the breast meat. With wild turkey the thinner the slices/ shreds the better.

Asian Style Shredded Wild Turkey Salad

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

4ea breakfast radishes, sliced into rounds

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into half moons

1 red pepper, sliced into matchsticks

1/2 red onion, sliced into matchsticks

1 stalk green onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp honey

¼ sesame oil

¼ cup peanut butter

2 Tbsp Sriracha

In a large bowl combine the turkey, radishes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, green onion and garlic. In a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, peanut butter and sriracha. Next add the “dressing” to the turkey and vegetables. Toss lightly to combine. This recipe is best if it sits for a few hours.

Turkey Curry Salad

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and zest

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons curry powder (Even better would be a red curry paste, but not necessary)

Salt and pepper

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

2 stalks celery, diced

½ small red onion, diced

¼ cup cashew pieces

In large mixing bowl add the mayonnaise, lime juice, lime zest, curry powder, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Next add the turkey breast meat, grapes, celery, red onion and cashew pieces. Stir to combine. Serve with Pitas

Wild Turkey Waldorf Salad (Recipe inspiration from food.com)

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 green apple cored and chopped

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

½ cup pecans, toasted, and coarsely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper

In a large bowl add the turkey, celery, apple, grapes, and pecans. In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, blue cheese and honey. Pour the mayonnaise mix on top of the turkey and vegetables. Gently mix to incorporate. Taste and then season with salt and pepper as desired.

Gear Giveaway and Review

Full disclosure – I was given a FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer for review, free stuff affects opinions.

I process and vacuum pack all my game meat and fish – and it saves me time and money. Vital to saving money and not losing game is good quality vacuum pack machine. For those not familiar a vacuum pack machine – they remove air and seal sections of meat (or whatever really) in a plastic bag. This hermitization of the meat from the elements ensures quality and prevents loss from “Freezer Burn.”

When air cannot touch the meat, like when its vacuum packed, freezer burn is basically impossible. I have held meat (accidentally) for about 3 years and it was like I had shot it the month before.

For non-meat related applications vacuum machines work great as well. I have vacuum packed hunting and fishing gear for long pack trips. The stuff that I am not sure I will need but would love to have got sealed up. It took up much less space in the backpack and allowed more room for game to be carried out. A quality vacuum pack machines saves you money, hands down.

For the past 5 years I have been using an off the shelf at Target FoodSaver® V2244. This little guy has put up some serious meat. At least one caribou, six+ deer, an elk, three bears, multitudes of steelhead, countless ducks, upland game birds and rabbits. My machine has never let me down, and that quality of the V2244 is the ONLY reason I agreed to test out the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer.

At first blush I looked at the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer and noted that it was kind of huge. Compared to my other vacuum machine it is about triple the size. Now size does not always buy quality but like my father used to say “If its heavy put it down, it is probably expensive.”  It is heavy.

To test the GameSaver®, I decided to just vacuum pack some store bought pork chops. With vacuum machines I always look for air retention. Basically, if all the air does not come out than the machine lacks the proper amount of sucking power. (In this case sucking power is a good thing) It did not lack for power. The chops all had clean edges and not an air bubble in sight.

Next I looked to the seal on the machine –an improper seal will let air inside the bag. Not good. The model has two sealing methods. Basically one line or two of sealing. This feature intrigued me. I could not figure out the reasoning for two seals.

Did FoodSaver® not trust just one seal? It seemed strange, but the single seal seemed powerful enough. The only reason I could think they would add the additional layer is for moist foods. I know vacuuming fish, with my V2244, often needs an additional seal due to the excess water. The water inhibits the sealing bar from making a line across the entire bag, letting air in and damaging quality. Whatever the reasoning double sealing seems like a strange, albeit sometimes useful, function.

fish-GSBlogAnother feature that I was a tad skeptical of was the roll cutting attachment. Inside the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer is a slot that holds a roll of vacuum bag and across the top is little slicer that you drag across to cut each bag. All you need to do is seal one end and then cut the bag to the desired length. Typically the pre-cut bags are substantially more expensive than the roll cut bags. It is a tradeoff – spend a little time and save a lot of money.

With the quick roll and the cutting blade on the game saver, I might actually become a roll bag convert.

While testing out the vacuum machine I noted the quick marinate attachment. It is basically a hunk of Tupperware functioning as a vacuum tube. You place meat inside the tub and put the lid on. Then with a little hose attachment you place in the top of the tub you turn on the vacuum and poof, meat under vacuum. They look like this. The meat accepts more marinate under vacuum, you can get a days’ worth of marination in just a few short hours.

I decided to test the Quick Marinador attachment on a rabbit that I cut up like this.

The chosen marinade was Coors Light. Judge me if you want, but Boise State University was playing BYU on ESPN, I needed a stress reliever. Go Broncos! (Marinade Recipe – ½ Cup Cheap ‘Merica Made Beer, 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, Black Pepper).

Next I sealed up the marinating tub and tossed it in the fridge. In the morning I breaded and fried the rabbit with this recipe.Freid Rabbit - GSblog

Results? The most tender and moist cottontail I have ever eaten. No really, it was. I could visibly see the absorption of moisture in the rabbit. The legs were larger and so to the loins. Basically, the pours of the meat had filled with beer and garlic – and it was divine. I took off the lid the next morning and measured only ¼ cup of beer left in the container. A solid ¼ cup of moisture was absorbed by a dinky little cottontail. The additional moisture directly results in moister food. I was impressed.

With large animals the bottleneck point in butchering and freezing is the vacuum machine. The meat is ground, the steaks are cut and the roasts are tied. Everything is waiting to go into a bag and be sealed for the freezer. I do not think that this will be changed with the unit. While it has the power, the roll cutting and the double sealing – it does not have the speed I wish for.

In all the GameSaver is a step up in quality, usability and power from the V2244 that I have grown accustomed to. I can’t wait to see how the new unit holds up over the years, if its lower priced brother is any example than it will have no trouble at all. I will use the FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer often, I can tell you that much.

Like this Gear Review? Post a comment AND link to this page on Twitter or Facebook and be entered into a drawing on November 15th for a FREE GameSaver® with Bonus Offer.

Grilled Venison Salad

The dirt two track waDad Looking For Deers dusty and headed southeast toward a rock out-cropping known as the Rooster Comb. Under the shade of a few junipers and desert sage was the flicker of ears. Dad and I froze, we had been gabbing it up for most of the walk and now were busted. This was an unexpected place to find a group of four feeding does in the middle of the day, but hunting is all about broken expectations.

The does pulled the classic mule deer move – if I don’t move they won’t see me. Well, it wasn’t working out for them. We both nocked arrows and began to position ourselves for shots. Keeping one eye on the deer and the other on the dusty road, I placed each step carefully as to limit sound and to keep the deer as calm as possible. Dad found a shot before I did, I watched him pull back on a large doe. With a quick aim he let fly.

An audible crack came after the shot. I wasn’t sure if it was deer bone or stick. I was focused on my animals. A yearling and a doe had started to circle back on our position. I shadowed them through the head tall sage. The deer finally took note of me and stopped – they were at 12 yards.

I pulled up my longbow looking for a shot. But all they deer gave me were buts and heads. They were pulling the “looking over the back” move that so many archers hate. I momentarily considered a Texas Heart Shot on the big doe, wondering just how far my arrow would travel. Hunting ethics took over, a blessing from my father and other hunting role models in my life. I didn’t shoot, but my hands were shaking like a 13 year old boy at a Jr. High dance, just hoping and waiting for things to work out in my favor.

I let my bow down and watched as the deer wandered out to 35 yards before turning broadside. At that range, I just stood and admired the pair. My effective range is 25 yards. Then the deer simply vanished into the cover.

My dad had cleanly killed a small juniper with his arrow. I found him, Leatherman in hand, digging out his broad head from the tree, his wooden arrow shaft in several sections on the ground. The cracking noise was a broken arrow shaft, apparently. We laughed, sat down in the shade and began to glass the hill over for more deer.

A few draws over my older brother had arrowed a little forked horn buck and was making his way back to camp. His 6 year old daughter had spotted the deer off the trail and selected the one for my brother to shoot. “That one Daddy!” she whispered. We had the deer tracked, gutted and hung in an hour.

That archery season I never flung an arrow. But I still feel successful.

Archery hunting feeds the soul, not necessarily the stomach. Each year archery season tunes me back into the inner workings of terrestrial nature. I get the hunters eye that I lost, often because of a fishing line, in full force. While archery season is almost never successful (I can only count 3 wild pigs and a few rabbits over the course of 20 years) often my best campfire stories come from ones that got away while I had my bow in hand.

I have shot only three arrows at deer in my adult life. All have been clean misses, and in my world that is as good as a clean hit. My shots provided a little education for a small buck and a few does.

When riffle season finally arrives I feel like a superhero. I have an unfathomable amount of power and effective range at my control. Finally, deer are within my reach. Sure, my selections and opportunities are much more limited (bucks only, normally). But I can shoot! Out to several hundred yards! The feeling of supremacy is overwhelming. But the thrill of stalking game is lessend – the difference between getting within 20 yards and 200 yards is huge.

In some ways archery season more natural and spiritual hunting, while riffle season is more about meat collection.

Field Care for Archery Season

More important than shooting during archery season is what you do after the shot. September is still a warm month for the Northwest, averaging about 76 degrees for a daytime high. The low is an average of 49 degrees. Above about 55 degrees meat is no longer being aged, it is rotting. (I have hunted opening day for mule deer with a daytime high of 101 degrees)

Several precautions should be taken to help stop rot. The first one is ethics – don’t shoot unless you are certain of a clean kill. Now I know that shit happens and bad shots happen. Choose carefully and find the deer quickly after the shot, if possible. The longer an animal has its guts on the inside of it the more likely it is to turn bad. Remember that temperature is the issue – waiting the animal out is perfectly fine if it is cold out! But in the summer archery season it is just a bad idea to try and find the animal “in the morning”.

Even after a quick recovery getting the meat cool is vital. Skin and gut the animal immediately. Get the meat onto ice if possible. If not on ice then get it to the coldest place you can manage. Down by a creek, in the shade or even in a cave if possible. Don’t stay an extra day in camp and skip out on the ice, get the meat cold then kick back and drink a brew around the fire.

Citric acid, the stuff you use for canning tomatoes, will help prevent rot. Basically the citric acid is changing the pH of the outside of the meat, making it less hospitable for bacterial growth. I have only used this one time on a backcountry hunt, it seemed to help but I made sure to cut away all acid treated meat before butchering. I much prefer to get meat cold.

The Food –

Pan Roasted Venison Steak with Watermelon, Corn and Zucchini Salad and Brown Butter Sage Vinaigrette

So the crazy part about September archery season is that is it still summer! Hunting is done while the garden is still growing like crazy. Tomatoes, watermelon and corn are all in large supply. Like they say “if it grows together is goes together.” That same principle applies for hunting and harvesting of produce.

This recipe uses fall flavors on summer ingredients, to a surprising affect in my opinion. Butter and sage, staples for butternut squash and halibut are added to watermelon and zucchini. It is a combination of sweet and savory that works great. Feel free to kick it up a notch with a little red chili flake if desired. Then you have the trifecta of flavor – sweet, heat and savory.

Brown Butter and Sage Vinaigrettevenison salad

¼ Cup Unsalted Butter

20 sage leaves

1 ea Garlic Clove, crushed

¼ cup balsamic Vinegar

½ cup Canola Oil

¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded

Salt and Pepper

Add the cold butter to a medium sized saute pan. Heat pan on medium until all the butter is melted. Add the sage and turn heat to medium high, the pan will spit a little oil out on you. Be careful.

Wait and watch the butter, it should be turning brown in about a minute. Add the crushed garlic when the butter is brown in color and has a nutty smell. Next add the balsamic and the canola oil to the hot pan. This will cause some aggressive boiling, do NOT inhale the fumes. It will be a vinegar bomb like none other. Next add the parmesan cheese to the pan, then add all to a blender and puree until smooth. About 1 minute. Season and reserve but do not chill

The Meat and Veg

2 each large Venison Steaks, about 8oz each

Salt and Pepper

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 small zucchini, cut into large chunks

1.5 cups cubed watermelon

1 ear of corn, removed from cob

2 cups Lambs Quarter, or Spinach

Rinse and wipe out the same medium pan you made the brown butter dressing in. Season the venison steaks with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and return to medium heat. When butter is melted but not yet brown add the steaks to the pan. Cook until dark brown on one side, then flip over and cook until blood begins to rise to the surface of the steak. This should be about medium rare.

Remove the meat from the pan and add the zucchini chunks. Cook until golden on one side, flip and add the watermelon and corn.

While those are cooking add the lambs quarter or spinach to a medium salad bowl. Add 3 tablespoons brown butter sage dressing. Cook the watermelon and corn for one more minute and then add to the mixing bowl. Toss all the vegetables.

Next slice the steak. Pile the salad and gently dump onto a plate. Place the sliced steak on the top. Eat and enjoy!

Rattlesnake Round-Up

On the long list of dumb things I have done in my life I often count my adventures rattlesnake hunting.

Most days don’t start off snake hunting, they just develop into it. This past year I only nabbed one snake and it was at the prompting of my sons. When I was younger however my snake hunting escapades were much more involved.

While out whistle pig hunting one day in the 90’s I encountered a rock bluff south of Boise that looked like it would give me ample elevation for shooting. My buddy Ryan and I gathered our 10/.22’s and headed out across the sage and hills. When we arrived took a seat, cracked a beer and began to look around. I then heard the rattle sound off next to me. On my right was a snake, not big but big enough.

I jumped up – not so much scared but not wanting to get bit either. Looking around I found a rock and a stick; both critical in a snake hunters arsenal. Sure I had a gun but I had no intention of firing a .22 bullet square into lava rock. Quickly I smashed the snake with the rock as close to his head as I could manage. This does double duty on snakes when hunting them. First it breaks there back, normally and this limits how far they can strike. Second hitting them with a rock most often causes them to run and not hold their ground. A snake on the run is much less dangerous than a snake on the defensive in a tight coil. I have never had a snake strike at me after I it with a rock – sounds odd but it seems to work for me.

With the snake on the run I used the stick to pin it to the ground right behind the head. With one quick motion I pulled out my pocket knife and severed the snakes head. I hooted a little and my buddy Ryan gave a quick mocking round of applause. I buried the snake head under a large rock to prevent it from causing harm to others in the future, legend says rattlesnake heads can hold there poison for months on end.

I won. BBQ at my house...

I won. BBQ at my house…

Often in the spring when you encounter one snake others are nearby as well. I have run across several dens of snakes in my adventures – and this was a particularly nasty type. (I found a 30 pound ball of garter snakes under a stump one spring, one of my boys still talks about it) Knowing snakes den up I began looking for more snakes, a.k.a trouble.Stratleing a small gully at one point Ryan pointed out that I had two snakes directly below me. Curled on themselves unaware that I was about to be hunting them. One of the snakes began to rattle, I smacked it with a rock. The other snake began to crawl off, I grabbed it by the tail and tossed it out of the rocks and into a sage brush.

With some of the best Wild West shooting I have ever seen Ryan proceeded to head shoot a moving rattler, still in the sagebrush, with one shot. Best part – we were hunting that day in Teva sandals, cut off blue jeans and no shirts. The other snake, now trying to escape, received a stick to his head and a quick cut on the neck. Three snakes down, a good day snake hunting.

Some years I get lucky and my truck tires do most of the work for me on rattler-snakes, I aim for the head. I have cast a bass gig into a crack in the rocks and hooked a rattlesnake before, he was a fine campfire meal. One especially stupid day gathering morel mushrooms in Riggins Idaho I watched a local redneck PULL, I shit you not, the rattle off a snake with one hand while distracting it with his other hand. Unreal. Stupid. Perfect stories for the grand-kids.

Luckily I have managed to get this far in my life without being bitten by a snake, but it is still questionable that I should have passed on my genetics. The jury is out, hopefully my boys take after their mother. To this day when I go out in the desert I wear long pants and boots. I have done burned up my snake killing karma in stupid gear.

How to Cook a Snake

Ok, so now the snake it dead. Just what the hell do you do with it? Start off my skinning a gutting the thing immediately! Why? Snakes piss when they die, that pee will get on everything that you own in a short manner of moments and the smell will never come out. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating but snake pee stinks. Do yourself a favor and get it off the meat promptly.

Next, if you can, cool it down. Like any other meat heat is your enemy. On particularly hot days fishing I will soak the meat in a section of moving river water to cool it down. After the meat is cool store it somewhere out of the sunlight and cool. The shade of a tree or in a water proof bag in a river or stream.

To cook the snake I often employ the sausage rope method. With a few sticks I will roll the snake up into a tight concentric coil, see picture, and then skewer the meat into one big wheel. Why? It find this keeps the meat moister than not. Snakes do not have a huge amount of meat on them in the first place so I want to enjoy what I do get.

I have cut the snakes into one inch sections as well. These I often serve in a Thai style curry soup with sticky rice. Recipes for grilled snake coil and soup are below.

The Idiots Guide to Killing a Snake

No. 1: When I hear the rattling, I back away from the snake and find a big rock and a long, sturdy stick.

No. 2: I use the rock to crush the snake as close to its head as possible. This will break its back and shorten the distance that it will be able to strike at me.

No. 3: I use the stick to pin the snake down and then step on the snake right at the base of its head. I never leave any room behind the head or the snake will try to strike me.

No. 4: I cut off the snake’s head.

No. 5: I bury the head.

No. 6: I put the snake in a bag, put the bag in my pack and think about how glad I am to be taking something home for dinner.

Idaho does not have a season for snakes. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game lets a person take up to four rattlesnakes per day with no more than five in his or her possession.

Snake Fried Rice

Yeah, that’s right, snakes and rice. This recipe came out of a trip to Taiwan a few years back. I ate snake in a market after a few to many beers with the Consulate. It was served in a ricey-broth that was packed with ginger, mint and cilantro. It was amazing.

I can’t seem to ever get the broth right but I have managed to make a mean fried rice interpretation.

The Rice

½ cup dried white rice

1 cup water

Add rice and water to a small sauce pan. Heat until boiling then turn to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the rice is cooked. Remove from heat, let stand. DO NOT STIR.

The Flavors

 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I love using bear fat, but canola or sesame oil will work)

1 ea rattle snake cut into 1 inch sections (or 10oz chicken for the weak hearted)

3 tablespoons fine diced ham

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1 clove garlic

1 egg

½ cup sliced cabbage

¼ cup shredded carrot

1 cup cooked rice

1 tablespoon siracha

1.5 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ cup packed cilantro and mint leaves (50/50 of each)

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

A non-stick pan works best for this dish. Heat a medium sized sauté pan or wok if you have it, on medium. Add the oil and brown the snake sections. Remove snake from pan. Add the diced ham and brown. Next add the ginger and garlic, brown lightly. Slide all the goodies in the pan to one side and crack the egg into the pan and pop the yolk. Let the egg cook until almost set then scramble it with the other ingredients. Next add the cabbage, carrots and cooked rice. Toss all the ingredients together. Let the rice start to brown a little while cooking, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t stir very often.

Add the siracha and then gently pour in the soy sauce covering as much rice as possible. Add the snake back to the pan, and then add the cilantro, mint and green onions.

Toss all together and serve hot. (Note: the lack of salt and pepper, while I normally recommend their addition to most meals the soy sauce and siracha more than compensate)