Beaver Sweet Meat by Chris Cheney
Beaver meat is rich and tender. In texture and taste, for me it lies somewhere between pork and veal. A staple of Native diet, it was also relished by the voyageurs as well mountain men.
The story goes that bishop of Quebec, Bishop François de Laval in the 17th century posed the question of beaver being aquatic animals, like fish; therefore acceptable under Church Doctrine to be eaten on Fridays. He submitted this proposal to the theologians of the Sorbonne who ruled in favor of this decision.
The front, hindquarters, and back-straps from two beavers
1 large onion chopped fine
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 pint maple syrup (or a handful of maple sugar dissolved in a like quantity of water)
1 pint Saskatoon berries
Separate the hind quarters from the beaver carcass but take particular care not to disturb the oil sacks and castors. Disjoint the quarters at the hip and slice them clear. The back-straps lie on either side of the spine, from the base of the neck to the top of the hip; fillet them out from the ribs and spine. The fore quarters are removed much like the hind. Soak the beaver meat overnight in lightly salted water (1 tsp. salt/gallon).
Boil the beaver meat in a large trade kettle filled with fresh water until it starts to separate from the bone, about an hour or so. Then drain and set aside to cool a bit.
While the meat is boiling, in a sheet iron pan sauté the onion and garlic in butter or marrow fat, then add the maple syrup, salt, pepper, and Saskatoons. Let this simmer at low heat at the edge of the fire, taking care not to scorch it.
When the beaver meat is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and cube it into one inch or so pieces. Using a large iron pot, brown these well in butter or marrow fat. When the meat is well browned and the seasoned sweet sauced has simmered a bit, pour the sauce over the meat, mix it all well and keep it over a low heat for a quarter hour or so.
Serve with wild rice or boiled potatoes. This beaver sweet meat is one of my favorite dishes, somewhat resembling barbecued pork, or sweet and sour veal, and visually pleasing as well, with all of the dark red and purple berries. Yum!