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Sillybill’s Sunday Food – roadkill stew!

Hello all,

About a month ago I got way off topic on Monday Science, people were talking about the large number of roadkill deer they were seeing, I jumped in and mentioned my experience cooking and eating roadkill, Ruth suggested I do a post and here we are.

This will be divided into 2 parts – the first is a general discussion of roadkill,  what is safe to eat, etc., and the second is the stew recipe. If you find the first a little disgusting then just scroll on down to the recipe.

Roadkill – is it dinner or just dead?

I should start off with a little background – while working  with Earth First! and Food not Bombs I was introduced to the joys of dumpster diving. I learned about the incredible waste of food in America, and learned how to eat for free or extremely cheaply, and importantly – how to tell when the meat was bad or good.

One of my anarcho-punk compatriots and her partner are primitivists who  wrote a set of  ‘zines about foraging food. This in turn led to the idea of scavenging. The ideas spread rapidly in that milieu’s DIY culture and lot’s of folks started eating roadkill.  This group of people is very social and is constantly organising various get-togethers with skillshares, workshops, and potlucks. We started doing roadkill workshops which always involved meals. No one has ever gotten sick from any of our roadkill meals.

Ok, so now for the details. The most common critters found on the side of the road that are worth eating are deer, rabbits, racoons, and possums.  Deer are by far the best find, first because they are so large, and because it’s great meat.

Your first task is to figure out how long the deer has been there. Deer are mostly nocturnal,  so if you drove down that road yesterday and didn’t see it then but there it is now, it was probably hit last night or early this morning. What time is it now? How long could it have been there? Then consider the weather,  3PM on a July day in Texas is way different than early AM, November in Ohio.

Look at your deer, first thing – is it bloated? A little bloat is ok, on a warm day the guts give off gas and the abdomen expands a little, when you cut into it gas escapes but thats not a problem you are eating the  meat not the gut. However if it’s lying on it’s side and the leg on the upside is sticking up in the air that is to much bloat.

Is it swarming with flies? Usually a bad sign. Have the birds gotten to it yet? Crows and buzzards like their meat well done, so if they are eating it let them have it. Look at the eyeballs and the tongue, if they are going bad just leave it there. What does the fur look like – should still be loose and fluffy, if it’s matted and greasy looking it’s been sitting for to long.( note: deer hair will pull right out of the hide even freshly killed, unlike most other animals). Rigor mortis is normal a couple hours after death and is not a bad sign. Just work the joints a little and you’ll be able to fit it in your trunk!

Smell is a little misleading without experience – most people don’t know what dead animals and fresh meat smells like. Obviously if it’s so bad you can’t get near it without hurling it’s no good, but a dead animal does smell a little. They don’t take baths and they’ve just literally had the shit knocked out of them.

Ok – lets say it’s cool or cold weather, you know your deer hasn’t been there long, and it’s not completely wrecked by the accident? Now what? Toss it in the back of your truck or wrap it in a tarp and stick it in the trunk of your car and go home. If it’s warm and home is a ways away stop for some ice, just lay the bags on the belly.

I’m not going to give a primer on gutting, skinning, and butchering – other people have done a much better job than I can already – just go to youtube. However, I do recommend digging a hole for the guts first. A deer is much easier to deal with if you have it hanging from a tree. Let the gutsack drop into a wheelbarrow below the deer. BE VERY CAREFUL not to pierce the gall bladder!!! Bile will ruin any meat it touches! You will need lot’s of running water and a large cooler with ice.

You must have a very sharp knife and a sharpening steel to keep it that way. Be very careful – never cut towards yourself. A hatchet is very useful for disjointing and cutting ribs away from backbone. Large animals like a deer should be gutted first, then skinned – small animals like rabbit or coon should be skinned first then gutted.  If you have a rabbit and it’s summertime you need to check the liver for signs of tularemia (google or youtube).  Greasy animals like possum, coon, and woodchuck should be parboiled in strong saltwater and the scum skimmed off for 15 minutes before cooking. Cut off any big bruises – it got hit by a car, of course it’s bruised up!.

Deer stew recipe:
works for deer, beef, lamb, goat, or racoon.

Ingredients: 1-2 lbs. meat cut into small chunks, 1 can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, 1 big onion – diced, 4 – 6 potatoes, couple large carrots, 1 parsnip, handfull of pearl barley, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, red wine.

Brown the meat in a skillet on high heat. put into stewpot, add quarter cup red wine, half the onion, and enough water to cover it all. Cover pot and cook for an hour on low heat. Dice up the veggies (warning – parsnips taste great in moderation, but have an agressive flavor that will overwhelm the stew if you use to much. I just use 1 small one.)

After an hour or so, add the veggies and spices. Add enough water to barely cover. Cook until the veggies start to get soft, then add the handful of barley – keep an eye on moisture/thickness –  adjust as needed. Note: adding chlorinated tap water to any recipe at the last minute will ruin the flavor,  you can boil some in advance which will eliminate the chlorine.

Serve with  good crusty bread or crackers and your favorite beer. Enjoy!


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