A few weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about hunting, and hunting for meat, and how much of a spiritual experience hunting has become for me. There were quite a few comments on that article about our readers’ desire for recipes for wild game, something I’m very excited about putting together. The really interesting thing I saw was a few comments in reference to a casual comment I made about eating what I kill save for the occasional raccoon. There were a couple jokes about, “Why not raccoons too?” Which got me thinking . . .
Raccoons are about the size of a large rabbit and live a somewhat similar existence hopping around the forest, though the raccoon diet is definitely omnivorous. Hunting raccoons is easily accomplished by going to the nearest watering hole at night and waiting for them to come by to snag frogs, minnows, and small fish. They can also be found in trees picking off grubs and various insects.
As such, their meat and composition (likely) has a different taste than your typical herbivore like deer, rabbits, and squirrels. Most folks are fine trying venison, rabbit, and squirrels, but mention a raccoon or opossum and you’ll likely get a firm, “NO!” Maybe it has to do with the fact that they eat other animals, though I’d guess your average naysayer doesn’t stop to consider it. If I had to guess, most city dwellers have had a raccoon knock over and root through their trashcans, and as such, they don’t want to eat “trash” animals.
But run a cursory google search for “cooking raccoon” and there’s plenty of content out there. And while everyone admits that it seems to be an acquired taste, the recipes that I found seem to be delicious. The first I found from the Kansas City Star in January 2009, entitled, “The Other Dark Meat: Raccoon is Making it to the Table.” The KC Star indicates that it’s a unique flavor for sure, but ultimately was pretty good. Like all meat, there will be constant debate about dry rub vs. sauced, steaming vs. smoking vs. oven. I found the following recipes for inspiration.
- This one gives an overview of the unregulated sale of raccoon meat, mostly by fur trappers who end up with a lot of leftover carcasses. It indicates that the best results are seen by parboiling for 2 hours followed by a braise.
- Serious Eats covers the “how to” of cooking a raccoon down south. It seems to indicate that a you should start with a vinegar soak, generous seasoning followed by a 30 minute pressure cooker soak, and then a few hours in the oven with more seasoning and sweet potatoes.
- Cooks.com has a pretty comprehensive list of raccoon recipes which seem to all agree that low and slow is the best way to go. One of them, Raccoon in Sour Cream sounds like a real winner.
- Lastly, Backwoods Bound has some seriously good looking recipes for the outdoor enthusiast.
Full disclosure, I’ve never cooked or eaten a ‘coon, but from my reading it appears that a pre-cook soak of some type will be necessary. One of the recipes suggested a vinegar soak though I think you’d be equally served by brining the ‘coon. Alton Brown has a good brine formula that I’ve modified a bit over the years. I normally just use brown sugar, kosher salt, and cracked pepper in mine. I’d recommend that as a good start for any wild game critters. After brining, it seems most recipes advocate a parboil of up to 2 hours followed by further cooking in the oven or on the grill.
I’m headed out to the ranch for opening weekend the first of November, and I’ll try my best to bag a raccoon to try out some of these recipes. And by that, I mean that Nick might be moving away from his nearly 100% Whataburger diet. I’m hoping he likes roasted raccoon with sweet potatoes.