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:
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.
- 1 cup of Kosher Salt
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground all spice
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 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
- Dried Thyme
- 1 TBS cinnamon
- 1 TBS all spice
- 1 TBS grated nutmeg
- Black Pepper
- 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?