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Wisconsin Winter Wonderland: Raccoon du jour

Wisconsin Winter Wonderland: Raccoon du jour
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  • Wisconsin Winter Wonderland: Raccoon du jour

    Post #1 - January 30th, 2005, 10:59 pm
    Post #1 - January 30th, 2005, 10:59 pm Post #1 - January 30th, 2005, 10:59 pm
    [This is a multimedia post, maybe the first ever for LTHforum, with sound clips mixed in. If you don't have access to any speakers, then what can I say, some information will go missing.]

    Raccoon feed: The 77th Annual Coon Feed, in memory of Tom McNulty, will be held at 5 p.m. (last) Saturday (of January, every year), at the Delafield American Legion Post No. 196, 333 Lapham Peak Road, Delafield. The cost is $10, $5 for children. Meals will be served on a first-come-first-served basis until the meat is gone. Proceeds go to Delafield American Legion youth Programs.



    HI,

    Some days when I think about my wee place in this world called LTHforum, I feel like I have a purpose. It's not that I'm competitive or have to spend a lot of money, as if you'd be impressed. I know I am in it all for the taste, fun and comradery.

    When I pull out the faithful chariot for another exploratory mission, I feel I cannot return until my mission is done. Whenever I need inspiration, I look no further than LTHforum.com, which is full of possibilities. Yesterday was no exception, I knew from reading Amata's post I had found my destination du jour: Raccoon Dinner!

    Well, I am somewhat disappointed some of my comrades bailed on me. I guess they were hoping I'd come to my senses or at least throw in a treat. However, when I am on a mission, I know I only want the faithful and those who have been there since the beginning. So I brought my Mother who thinks I can do anything.

    We arrived to our destination with only one obstacle: an expressway was built interrupting the road we needed. Naturally my Mother jumped to conclusions while I led the way just guessing where to go next. Naturally, just when you need them, the police cannot be found. I finally found the American Legion Hall in the middle of a residential neighborhood where the big clue was a full parking lot. I was glad it was night as I wanted to be regarded as a local and not someone from Illinois, so I wore my dark blue parka instead of my red Eskimo parka.

    I walked in two hours after the party began inquiring if they had any 'Coon left. "Is all you want is 'coon?" "Yes!" The guy sized me up and advised "Great, the ticket is half off at $5 because all we have left is'coon, brown gravy and bread." I learned if we had come earlier, then we would have had mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and stuffing. Oh, there was ham available for the nervous. Though they forgot to inform me there were carrots and celery on the table for that special homey touch.

    My first and last exposure to Raccoon didn't leave a favorable impression. I was very favorably impressed by my raccoon dinner last night just upon first sight:

    Image

    The meat didn't look dried out like my first raccoon experience. It also had a bit of juiciness, yet some crustiness as I prefer varying textures. Once on my plate, I did use a bit of the canned brown gravy, which was the stuff that makes Meatloaf Blue Plate specials legendary:

    Image

    Raccoon is a boney rascal, so I had to gnaw, chew and suck to get every wee bit to leave a plate of bones honoring the cooks:

    Image

    While we were eating, they had several raffles featuring summer sausages. Since the crowd was turning over, so did the lottery tickets, so we bought three tickets for each of the summer sausages available. If you didn't buy a ticket, then you could pull the winning ticket. Sadly, we didn't win a summer sausage.

    After dinner was over, I was directed to the gentlemen who prepared the dinner. I naturally asked Hammond's question, "Where can you find someone to butcher a raccoon?" They gave me the politest quizzical look possible. "Young lady, all of us are hunters. We carefully field dressed the raccoons, then later cut them up."

    I then recounted my first raccoon experience was dreadful, yet their raccoon was a completely different and flavorful experience. They beamed with pride with my sincere compliments. They said in the past they had visitors from as far away as Valparaiso, Indiana come just for their dinner. Unfortunately, they can no longer make the trip. As fine and fit as these gentlemen talking were, obviously veterans of World War 2, they still possess stamina as they cooked 60 raccoons for this event. So when they discussed next years dinner, there were some caveats suggesting to double check it will occur. Though I certainly hope a tradition of 77 years will not expire anytime soon.

    We left the warm glow of the American Legion Hall vowing to return next year. Safely behind the wheel of the chariot, I kept thinking how close and yet so far away this wonderful raccoon dinner was from home.

    Of course, once I told people how wonderful this dinner was, then the excuses, excuses, excuses started piling up. I already have a raincheck from Gary for next year. Rest assured I am here for the long haul.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #2 - January 30th, 2005, 11:16 pm
    Post #2 - January 30th, 2005, 11:16 pm Post #2 - January 30th, 2005, 11:16 pm
    C2,

    Never thought I'd see you do "blue" :lol:

    I am extremely regretful that the call of work kept me from the call of the wild. Maybe next year. Very happy to hear you were pleased with the raccoon (a much maligned member of the animal kingdom, on this board, and in the media, e.g. "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," wherein this benign and tasteful woodland creature is presented as a randomly violent hitchhiker).

    Congratulations on embedding the audio clips. If we can do audio, why not video?

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #3 - January 30th, 2005, 11:49 pm
    Post #3 - January 30th, 2005, 11:49 pm Post #3 - January 30th, 2005, 11:49 pm
    I did video once. But they're not embedded, they're linked to.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #4 - January 31st, 2005, 7:10 am
    Post #4 - January 31st, 2005, 7:10 am Post #4 - January 31st, 2005, 7:10 am
    Gee, when I saw the subject of the post, I naturally assumed it was a meeting of the Lodge. doh.
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #5 - January 31st, 2005, 8:51 am
    Post #5 - January 31st, 2005, 8:51 am Post #5 - January 31st, 2005, 8:51 am
    Cathy,

    You are a mad woman, and I mean that in the absolutely nicest possible way. :)

    Very cool on the audio clips, who knew you were such a Blues Brothers fan.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - January 31st, 2005, 9:55 am
    Post #6 - January 31st, 2005, 9:55 am Post #6 - January 31st, 2005, 9:55 am
    HI,

    I realize I forgot to comment on the actual taste of the raccoon. It wasn't greasy or overly gamely tasting, which I attributed to the careful preparation of the coon in the field as well as in the kitchen. The texture of the meat was like pot roast especially after a long, slow cook. There was a faint flavor I associate with goat, but I no longer feel the need to mention pork as a comparative.

    One of the cook's commented he could eat raccoon every day, which he couldn't say about other wild game.

    I enjoyed and will repeat the experience gladly next year.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - January 29th, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Post #7 - January 29th, 2006, 10:34 pm Post #7 - January 29th, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Image

    Saturday night was the 79th Annual Coon Feed in memory of Tom McNulty. My first visit was last year for the 78th, when I arrived late for the half priced dinner of only Raccoon, brown gravy and bread. Fortunately, I arrived early enough to get the full treatment this year of: mashed potatoes with brown gravy, cornbread stuffing, creamy coleslaw, braised raccoon and sweet & sour sauerkraut.

    Image

    For non-coon eaters, there was the option of sliced turkey and gravy, which never occurred to me to have because I was there for the ‘coon. On the table were bowls of carrot and celery sticks.

    The lady across from me has a husband who brings her ‘coon. She was doing her best to reverse engineer the ingredients the raccoon was braised in: onions, carrots, celery, black peppercorns were obvious and I remembered seeing thyme leaves in there last year. In my portion of raccoon were some sliced apples, which she missed. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were some apple juice in the braising liquid.

    After we finished eating, I waited for the gentlemen who were so kind last year to give me a quart of ‘coon to take home to congregate in the kitchen. It took a while because not only do they kill, clean and cook these raccoons, they also serve the food to a very appreciative crowd.

    Image

    Eventually several of them were in the kitchen for a bit of a break. I walked over to chat them up. I learned due to the early onset of winter, they only had just over 50+ raccoons for the dinner. Last year they had 60 raccoons on the dinner menu. I reminded them they had so very nicely gifted me with a quart of raccoon, which they immediately affirmed. I told them how their gift had traveled as the gift that kept on giving. I told them of a dinner a few days later, where I intended to give a sample to a curious friend. However when everyone present also wanted a raccoon sample. I asked the restaurant to gently heat it, perhaps try a sample themselves, or if they objected to refrigerate it until we left. These gentlemen enjoyed the same astonished look as we all did that evening when our humble jar of raccoon became a ‘roadkill’ coarse, which I illustrated with Steve Z’s picture:

    Image

    with a close up of the ‘coon image:

    Image

    Months later there was an article in Time magazine of April 4, 2005 about Moto which began:

    When a recent guest at the chic Chicago restaurant Moto brought in a Tupperware bowl of warm raccoon meat and asked chef Homaru Cantu to “do something special with it,” the master chef did not flinch. Employing one of his Canon inkjet printer and, using meat-flavored inks, printed out an illustration of a raccoon on edible starch paper. He stewed the meat with juniper, placed the paper on top and dubbed the tasty entrée “road kill,” much to the delight of guest, an avid hunter.


    Gentlemen, the raccoon referred to in this article was YOUR raccoon as you well know I am hardly an avid hunter. I thought you would love to know how your kind gift travelled further than you would have ever believed possible.

    One of the guys winked to the other, “I cannot wait to tell this at our next meeting!”

    As I was leaving, they gave me a half gallon container of raccoon, which I was thrilled to have. I reminded them I was coming back next year, though I couldn’t guarantee this half gallon of ‘coon would have as much action as the quart from last year.

    For a long time I’ve been kicking myself for not writing them a thank you note along with the story of how things evolved. However I am really glad I told them in person because they were clearly delighted by the news.

    On the way home, despite a filling meal, we stopped at Kopp’s where the flavor the day was Chocolate, Raspberry Cheesecake, which tasted even better than it looked.

    Image

    Best regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #8 - January 29th, 2006, 10:42 pm
    Post #8 - January 29th, 2006, 10:42 pm Post #8 - January 29th, 2006, 10:42 pm
    C2,

    Thanks for continuing this strange saga.

    The coon pickins in Oak Park have been slim so far this year -- I'm glad somebody's catching them.

    Any thoughts on which local chef might like to accept the Iron Chef challenge this year?

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #9 - January 29th, 2006, 10:53 pm
    Post #9 - January 29th, 2006, 10:53 pm Post #9 - January 29th, 2006, 10:53 pm
    Hammond wrote:Any thoughts on which local chef might like to accept the Iron Chef challenge this year?


    That's a big question. I'm thinking of freezing the 'coon for the time being until divine inspiration, or hunger, intercedes.

    Any suggestions are welcome ...

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:18 am
    Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:18 am Post #10 - January 30th, 2006, 12:18 am
    Cathy2-- I'll say it again. You are my hero!
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #11 - January 31st, 2006, 9:00 pm
    Post #11 - January 31st, 2006, 9:00 pm Post #11 - January 31st, 2006, 9:00 pm
    Dang C2, what a GREAT story!

    They do some 'coon down at the VFW in Weatherby Lake MO, the annual Game Dinner.

    But we've also done it in my backyard vineyard. Oh those masqued voleurs DO love ripe wine grapes! So every year I trapped a couple or several. Once in a while one or two of them somehow make their way to the Black Diamond. They do smoke up just fine.

    But I just couldn't trap them fast enough. Even tho' I live in midtown KC, the 'coon population is awesomely huge, so huge that they *still* got my grapes even tho' I trapped them. Two yrs ago I put up an electric fence. That works. But it also means no one in the traps. Win some, lose some.

    I catch a few possums too, but I don't think they taste anywhere near as good, smoked, as the coons do.

    You are to be congratulated for your catholic (so to say) taste, led, as it is, by your undaunted courage in trying new stuff. Tnx for sharing it with us.

    Geo
    PS. I tried to 'tan' a skin one year. "Expert at work, kids don't try this at home." Pheweeey. :(

    PPS. BTW, your standard garden-variety Canadian honker is one of the best Black Diamond candidates you can shake a golf club (or any other stick) at. Luckily, there seems to be no dearth of them. Anywhere.
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #12 - January 31st, 2006, 9:39 pm
    Post #12 - January 31st, 2006, 9:39 pm Post #12 - January 31st, 2006, 9:39 pm
    Geo,

    Thanks for enjoying the ride! Prior to this braised raccoon, my only other experience with 'coon was roasted whole stuffed like a turkey. It was so overdone and crunchy it was a taste rather than a meal.

    If you trapped a coon and ate it, then I presume you did the final deed and butchered it also. I know Hammond was interested in finding a butcher for a 'coon. I do like the idea of smoking. What cuts did you smoke and for roughly how long?

    I did a bit of amateur taxidermy some years ago. I came across a road kill pheasant, which I carefully extracted from its' feathers. I then called a taxidermist who kindly explained how to prepare the carcass. For my feathered beast it meant washing it with Dawn dishwashing detergent, then blow drying it with a drier. Remove as much protein as possible, then packing it with Borox including a dusting of the feathers to diminish interest by insects. After 6 weeks on the front enclosed porch it was ready to hang. I've had it 13-14 years without it dropping one feather.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #13 - January 31st, 2006, 10:10 pm
    Post #13 - January 31st, 2006, 10:10 pm Post #13 - January 31st, 2006, 10:10 pm
    C2--

    On the question of butchering the 'coon, well... your coon, like your squirrel and your hare is mostly a matter of haunches. There's a bit of meat in the shoulders, and a bit on the back, but mostly it's in the haunch. So when I stew any of those critters, I stick to those.. what, 5 parts? (2 shoulders, one back, two haunches).

    But when I smoke 'em I tend to do it as beast integrale. Headless, of course [When I lived in KY, there were rumors of folks over in Land Between the Lakes or so who ate squirrel brains. Later, I seem to remember reading in _New Yorker_ about some folks who got mad squirrel disease from that...]. Squirrels actually are very nice tidbits, smoked. Coons are a bit larger, but not *that* much larger, unless you get an ol' mean cur, in which case, well, he's not going to be that toothsome anyway.

    So I'd tell Hammond to just think about a 'coon as a big ol' rabbit and go at it with a good sharp short knife.

    Love your story about the pheasant. I didn't do anything sensible with my coonskin, just followed some old Boy Scout manual or something: scrape the skin, getting rid of as much fat as possible, then applying lots of salt and waiting. It got dry and stiff and kind of smelly and not so attractive. So I pitched it. Kept the tail tho'--I'd sniggered it off the bone like one does a really tight finger of one's glove, and that was enough. It stayed supple enough to make for a good display to get stories started.

    Congrats on your success with the bird!

    If I can ever figure out how to put pix up, I'll show pix of some of this stuff, at least I will once I return to KC and have access to my files. (Has anyone ever thought about putting up a FAQ for the board??)

    Keep those stories coming C2, you always get a chuckle out of me.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #14 - January 31st, 2006, 10:19 pm
    Post #14 - January 31st, 2006, 10:19 pm Post #14 - January 31st, 2006, 10:19 pm
    Geo wrote:So I'd tell Hammond to just think about a 'coon as a big ol' rabbit and go at it with a good sharp short knife.


    During my brief flirtation with the world of coon butchery (which never got out of the fantasy stage), I came to understand that there's a weird gland in their armpits which, if not handled correctly, can result in unhappiness for the eater.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #15 - February 1st, 2006, 11:23 am
    Post #15 - February 1st, 2006, 11:23 am Post #15 - February 1st, 2006, 11:23 am
    Hammond says " there's a weird gland in their armpits which, if not handled correctly, can result in unhappiness for the eater. "

    Yeah, they're what my coon-hunting colleagues call "kernels", and they're in the pits of all four limbs. But they're pretty obviously what they are--so just dig/carve them out. They're scent glands--for territory-marking--so they can be pretty pungent. Just adds to the ol' je ne sais quoi, eh?! :)

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)

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