Saturday, December 15, 2018

Marinated Bottled Seal Meat

A friend gave me a bottle of marinated bottled seal meat from Newfoundland and Labrador (a province of), Canada. The listed ingredients are seal meat, salt meat, onion and spices. It was made by Kavanagh's Seafoods of Ferryland, NL which is on the east coast of Newfoundland, south of St. John's. My friend has connections to an Inuit family that lives in New Foundland and seal and moose are a regular source of meat for them. However, apparently seal was very difficult to obtain this year because the ice pack melted much earlier than usual and the seals were more difficult to catch. 
Trip Advisor has a listing for Bernard Kavanagh's Million Dollar View Restaurant in Ferryland which gets mediocre to poor reviews. In a 12 year old Narkive Newsgroup Archive someone asks the question whether anyone knows where "canned or bottled seal meat" can be purchased in the vicinity of St. John's. A person responds, "Gerard Kavanagh in Ferryland...makes up bottled Seal, Moose, Caribou, pork hocks, etc." 

In an internet search for seal meat and Newfoundland, I found a January 17, 2017 article in the National Post, "Would you eat Newfoundland seal - 'one of the most sustainable seafoods in the country'?" A Vancouver chef was causing a controversy by putting seal meat on his menu. Animal activists such as Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson have spoken out against the "East Coast seal hunt" and label it as an example of "extreme animal cruelty." By contrast, a Nunavut nutritionist states, "Honestly, we eat what we know. We like to eat the things we grew up with...I don't know how we pick and choose which animals we find socially acceptable to use as food. The idea of just not eating seals or any food on the basis that it's cute doesn't make any sense." 

A CBC story dated December 8, 2014, "St. John's chefs push benefits of seal meat" notes that seal meat is not often eaten in St. John's except for in "flipper pie." The featured cooks created a dish of seal loins pasta seasoned with seal jerky and state that seal has "a unique flavor...similar to [the taste of] pork chop" but that the taste "isn't for all." 

A June 12, 2017 article, "7 foods you must try in Newfoundland" lists flipper pie as one of the seven foods. It consists of seal flippers in a pie traditionally made following the seal hunt in mid-March and April. The revealed secret of a good flipper pie is to remove every ounce of fat from the seal flippers.

An April 1, 2014 article in the The Globe and Mail, titled "Why this New Foundland chef is hungry for controversy with 'delicious' seal meat" features chef Todd Perrin with a restaurant in St. John's. He says seal meat has a "bad rep" from "a culinary perspective." The reputation is a result of "poor handling and uninspired cooking" and he's determined to change perceptions. Seal meat has a high oil content which makes it volatile and "prone to turning rancid."  It is "extremely lean,...extremely red and...a bit bloody. The taste is reminiscent of duck with a slight aquatic gaminess and an subtle iron aftertaste." It should be eaten almost immediately, at least within two or three days, although within ten minutes is ideal. After that it degrades in a "funky and unpleasant way."

A recipe for bottled seal meat, which looks similar to the ingredients on the bottle I have, calls for 5 lbs. of seal meat cut into one inch chunks (the chunks in my bottle are substantially larger), 10 slices of salt pork 1 1/2 inch long by 1/4 inch thick, salt and pepper and garlic powder. Use a teaspoon of salt on the meat for each quart. Put a slice of salt pork at the bottom of each jar and tightly pack meat into the jar up to the shoulder, then put another slice of salt pork on top. Put on lids and put the jars in a stock pot for four hours, then remove and allow them to cool. It can be stored up to 12 months in a refrigerator or cool place. This article on canning meat talks about the differences between packing with raw meat and cooked meat, dry canning vs. packing with liquid, etc.

This is the view inside the jar. The chunks of seal are very large.
The meat is very dark, very dense, very dry and his little flavor. The next project it to use the bottled meat in some kind of recipe, similar to the canned and bottled moose Judy made into a meat and potato pie.

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