So, you have been out on your trapping run and netted a good sled full of beaver pelts for the trading post. After heading back to the cabin, you skin and bone the noble animal and throw the carcasses to the dogs, but all this butchering leaves you a mite peckish. Waste not want not. Time to whip up some soup!

In the fine tradition of living off the land, Native Canadians bring us the most bizarre concoction I have ever had the privilege of eating. Think about it: A beaver is a rodent, basically a large rat. This large rat lives primarily in swamps filled with rotting wood. You could logically assume that beaver meat tastes bad. That assumption is entirely correct. The flesh of a beaver is so infused with the oil that makes its fur so luxurious it often rivals a skunk for noxiousness. Some scavengers won't even eat it. The only part of a beaver that doesn't have any fur is its trademark tail. Flat and covered in thick leather-like skin, the tail is quite flavorful. I would go as far as to call it a delicacy, but no one traps beavers to eat the tails. It’s a nice added bonus.

Way back in grade school, a friend of mine named Jack Twoson used to bring a thermos full of beaver tail soup to school on a regular basis. He lived on a rather well off touristy reservation just outside of town, and rode in with his father each day for school. Poor Jack was always very sensitive about being Native, but no made much of an issue about it. He was ashamed to admit what it was at first, but the ghoulish sensibilities of your average grade 4 child soon made him a celebrity. His fame was cemented when he did a presentation about Native cooking as part of a project. We stood in awe of the kid that ate the animal on the nickel.

Here is the recipe that Rose Twoson, Jack's mom, uses. This particular interpretation is from the Wanipatei First Nations, an Ojibwa band from just outside of Sudbury, Ontario. She says it's pretty close to traditional, with the exception of the carrots, salt, pepper and bay leaves. The potatoes are a substitute for cat-tail roots, which Rose doesn't like.

Ingredients:

Two large beaver tails. A large beaver tail is about a foot long and six inches wide.
Bones from one beaver, cleaned well.
4 onions with greens
4 quarts water
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried mustard - Rose uses Labrador Tea, a plant that grows wild in Ontario
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
2 large potatoes
3 carrots


First, you have to skin the beaver tail. The tough outer skin is inedible and quite tough. To take it off, broil the tail on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, watching for bubbling on the skin. Take the tail and carefully fillet it as you would a fish, removing the loosened outer skin. You should have close to 3/4 of a pound of meat in two large pieces. In a large soup pot, bring the bones, meat, water and one tablespoon of salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer after 10 minutes of boiling. Skin the potatoes, cut in quarters and add. Chop the onions and carrots and add to the mix. Add the pepper, bay leaves and mustard after the onions have been in for 5 minutes. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring often.

After 30 minutes, remove the bones and meat. Add the last tablespoon of salt. Cube the meat from each of the tails. Reduce the remaining soup stock by half and reintroduce the meat. Serve piping hot with some good bread.

Yummy and educational!

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