For many years I have enjoyed trying unusual meats and dishes. I have learned that what at first is unusual and exotic may later turn into standard fare and that most of what we think about food is cultural. My first experience eating sushi came while I was with one of my partners in Santa Monica and we visited a sushi buffet. I had several firsts that day. I ate a cooked snail in the shell (thinking of the silvery trail of the snails on my sidewalk), a whole small octopus (wondering if I would eat the beak) and several kinds of raw fish. It was difficult for me mentally, to the point that I had an upset stomach by the end of the meal and I was exhausted. The mental part of eating all of those weird and unusual foods was tough. I similarly experienced angst when confronted with soft-shell crab. However, those are all foods that I now love and can eat without a second thought. Those foods have not changed, but my mental thoughts and cultural experiences have.
We have just been watching a scandal unfold in Europe as horrified Europeans have discovered they've been eating horse meat! What a travesty! But what is wrong with horse meat? It is perfectly good meat. In fact, I wish it was available locally (it is illegal to eat horse in California). I would buy it over beef, chicken or pork. One of the best meals I've ever eaten was in Tokyo where a multi-course meal we ate had horse in every course. I have a fond memory of visiting Scotland and Edinburgh Castle. We stopped for lunch at a pub just down the street from the castle and I noticed haggis on the menu. As we travel I make an effort to try local cuisine and Scotland is famous for haggis, which is sheep heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal and suet and encased in a sheep stomach. I was prepared to eat a bite and leave the rest, but I found that I loved it. I ate the whole thing and ended up buying some canned haggis to take home with us. We had a wonderful meal of roasted guinea pig in Peru, but I find that our local Peruvian restaurant cannot legally serve guinea pig in California. It becomes really unfortunate when our local laws enforce our cultural mores on all of citizens through legislation. Some of the real spice of life is lost.
That brings me to today's post, which is eating coyote meat.
|A coyote photographed in Redlands.|
I have a friend that was a trapper and still hunts and likes to eat wild game. I told him that if he shot a coyote I would like him to save the meat for me. He responded by saying he would never eat coyote. In fact, he won't eat the meat of any animal that only eats meat. I've since seen that same objection coming from others as I've researched recipes for bobcat and coyote. One article I found on the reasons that people don't eat the meat of carnivorous animals speculated a number of early original causes: first, that carnivorous mammals were solitary and more difficult to find, and second, that carnivorous animals were more dangerous (both to hunt and raise together) and difficult to feed. Then I was surprised when Judy told me that she put her foot down on coyote. That was one meat she was not going to try.
As with bobcat, my post yesterday, I found some fun recipes for coyote. My favorite was for "sun baked coyote: (I got this one from an old-time mountain man). Shoot a coyote. Let it sit in the sun for ten days. Come back, and you'll find nothing but bones and hide as others have gobbled up the meat. Then thank your lucky stars that YOU didn't have to eat it." I saw some comments that said the taste of coyote was similar to lamb and some that said the taste was similar to venison. I enjoyed this comment: "I got a coyote this past weekend and cooked some up for 3 separate friend[s]. They all hunt and eat venison regularly. I cooked it as they usually have their venison[, with] butter and garlic. Not a single one of them could tell that what they were eating wasn't venison. Even the raw meat! They were all friends that had told me at one point they were willing to try [coyote] but like most had been told [coyote] tastes like tires or garbage[,] or some great book told them not to eat [coyote]. It took one bite to change all their opinions. It is unfortunate what I see spread all around from people who obviously have no experience with it."
I got a coyote leg from Exotic Meat Market (877-398-0141). When I ordered it, I spoke with Anshu Pathak, the proprietor. I wanted coyote stew meat and a bobcat hind leg. However, Anshu told me that the bobcat hind leg was probably not going to be available, just the bobcat stew meat. So I was thrilled that he sent me the coyote leg, something not offered on the website.
I was surprised at how big and meaty it was. For cooking, I decided to do a variation of a recipe that I've used for quail, chuckar and beaver leg. Because the coyote is so lean, I wrapped it completely in bacon,
then coated it in flour and fried it in oil until it was lightly browned.
I put it in a roasting pan with a chopped onion, two large chopped red peppers, a bunch of red potatoes (pre-softened by ten minutes in the microwave), two cans of golden mushroom soup, and one can of water.
I put it in the oven covered at 350 degrees for an hour, then took off the cover and cooked it an additional 10 minutes. It was not cooked sufficiently, so I put it back in the oven, covered, for about 30 more minutes.
The coyote meat was quite stiff - I would probably cook it in a crockpot (to soften it up) given another opportunity.
|cooked coyote leg|
|cooked coyote leg|
But the taste was amazingly good.
Judy relented on her pledge not to eat coyote and she surprisingly announced that it was her favorite meat out of those we tried (the others we had were bobcat - my favorite, otter, and beaver tail). Andrew and Lauren also said it was their favorite of the meats we tried. The consensus was that it tasted much like venison, with the same gamey taste. It was much stronger than the mild bobcat. I called my trapper friend (who had said previously he wouldn't eat it) and asked if he wanted to try it. He said he did, so I dropped some by his home, but have not yet heard his verdict. It was for me another perception changer. I wonder how much perfectly good coyote meat goes uneaten because of the perception that it is inedible? Another good lesson that most of what we perceive about food is based on local custom.