Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Roasted Porcupine Recipe

When camping, many Alaskans prefer to gather and catch their dinner.  The gathering part is clearly the vegetarian portion of the feast. Fiddlehead ferns, fireweed shoots, berries, spruce tips, rose hips and mushrooms (chosen with great care).

The Eskimo half, however; is usually composed of some kind of small game. Fish is the obvious choice, but, in case you are tired of fish, there are other options available to you. 

Birds, there are several species you can enjoy, the problem is you have to catch them. This process is complicated by their flying and such. Less air-borne options include rabbit or squirrel. Let’s face it though, the first is too cute and the second is EWWW!

Turns out there is an additional option which is just ugly enough to bear killing for dinner; the lowly porcupine. These beasts are slow, easy to hunt, and have enough meat on them to feed a small crew of campers.

Clearly, I’m not speaking from experience. This recipe was gleaned from our good friends, Dustin and Alasha Brito. Truth is neither of them is Eskimo or vegetarian, but they are Alaskan through and through! Additional truth, my Eskimo husband has never eaten a porcupine. But it’s worth noting he would never tire of fish so it wouldn’t be necessary.

Hence, if you plan to camp in rural Alaska but don’t feel like fish for dinner, go with Dustin and Alasha! Or try your hand at the recipe they’ve provided.

Dutch Oven Roasted Porcupine

1 porcupine (no-known vegetarian substitution)
2 - 3 potatoes
3 - 4 carrots
1 - 2 onions
olive oil
salt and pepper

Locate a porcupine. Once located, no need to waste a bullet, porcupines are slow. Just find a large stick and treat it like a fish; whack it on the head till it stops twitching.

Use said stick weapon to transport your kill back to camp so as not to quill yourself. Build a fire. Drop your catch in and roll it around with earlier-employed stick to singe the quills. They’ll shrivel up like hair. There are other methods of ridding the beast of its quills, but they are not nearly as interesting so I’ve left them out.

Clean it, quarter it; don’t ask me how. Just find someone who can do it, or take a field dressing guide with you and go for it!

Back to your fire, build it up big and let it burn down to coals while you prepare your meat.

Cut root vegetables into large chunks and place in the dutch oven.

Rub the quarters of porcupine with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic. Place meat into the middle of the dutch oven with vegetables surrounding it. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic on vegetables to taste.

Place the dutch oven deep into the coals of the fire. Shovel coals onto the top of it. Keep the fire going and move additional hot coals as needed to keep dutch oven hot.

Check for doneness after 45 minutes. Cut into a thick piece of meat to see if it’s browned through. It will likely take 60 - 90 minutes to cook.

Pull dutch oven out of the fire. Serve and (ah-men) enjoy.

Next camping trip: Porcu-bacon!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eskimo-Spoused, Vegetarian Moms of Canadian Origin Support Group

There should really be a support group for Eskimo-spoused, vegetarian moms of Canadian origin whose 12-year-old sons are taking their hunters education test! I realize this is a narrow demographic, but today I’d make good use of it!

At 8:20 this morning I sheepishly signed a document which basically stated - I’m paraphrasing here - the two florescent-orange clad men you see before you, whom you have never met, are here-by allowed to spend the day teaching your son how to handle and fire a gun.

Really?! Kripes!!!

I signed it.

The email I received two weeks ago was supposed to be reassuring. Don’t worry, it stated,  there’s no need to bring your own gun, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has 22 rifles your child can use. And fear not, there will be a very thorough permission slip for you to sign releasing us of all liability from injury to said child. 

Oh yeah, feeling much better now!

This might just be me, but I’d really like the instructors to bear some responsibility for the welfare of my child! And, by the way, when they say they have 22 rifles for them to use, are they referring to quantity or type? Because I only saw two instructors, so I’m thinking there should really only be two rifles!

This is a culture-melding experience that is particularly difficult for me. Growing up, while I came from an incredibly outdoorsy family, I don’t recall ever seeing a gun. I knew some were around, but I never had to look at one, much less fire one. Now that I find myself living in a place where bears show up across the street. Suddenly a gun seems like a decent addition to the household.

Then there’s the cultural factor. My husband’s family has been hunting for survival as long as time itself. Getting a moose each fall may not be necessary for survival anymore, but it’s definitely a very important way to support the community. Hunting and fishing in the Yupik culture isn’t done for just your own family. The able bodied hunt for those who can’t. That is still the practice today.  

How could I not further a cultural value of supporting others? Hence, when my 12-year-old son (who, by the way, is also a vegetarian) tells me he wants to learn how to hunt so he can go with Dad and Uppa, I say yes. I’m not going to lie; while my eyes filled with tears of joyful pride, my heart rate increased and I began employing the same breathing technique I learned in childbirth class. But I still said yes.

So here I sit. Drinking my coffee, writing to you, watching the time creep by as I wait for 2 PM - the hour my son will be returned to my care. There will be much rejoicing! 

In the mean time, hee-hee-who-who, hee-hee-who-who, hee-hee-who-who...