The tail of a beaver is so rich and buttery when it is cooked, it’s almost easy to forget that it’s meat. But the delicacy has been an important source of protein, as well as fat, for indigenous people in the North for centuries.
Henry Beaver of Fort Smith spent last week teaching youth about the parts of the beaver and their various uses during a culture camp for elementary school students.
Apart from the luxurious, warm pelt that beavers provide for hats and mitts in the North, he said beavers are a popular traditional food source, and the tail is the most coveted piece of the animal.
The Journal asked him what’s the best way to go about cooking a beaver tail. He gave us a basic run-down of preparing the dish.
- After cutting the tail off, take a stick – preferably a green willow – and insert it where the tail was once attached to the body.
- Hold the tail flat over an open fire, rotating it until the outer black skin bubbles and dries, and can be peeled off easily. The tail will curve from the heat as it cooks.
- Peel the charred skin off like you would a baked potato, revealing the white, greasy flesh underneath.
- Boil the tail over the fire in a pot of water for an hour or more, or until the flesh is tender and easy to cut.
- Enjoy with salt and pepper, or a little ketchup or mustard. The tail should cut easily and be easy to chew.
Beaver said the tail can also be roasted on a stick over a fire. In that case, instead of removing the outer skin, keep the dark skin on while the flesh underneath cooks. Check by removing a bit of the skin to tell when the meat is cooked through.
All other parts of the beaver can also be eaten. Some like to throw the liver right on a fire and cook it that way. The animal is typically cut into pieces and boiled over the fire or stove. If it is small enough, it can be roasted right in the oven, even stuffed like a turkey.
Cooked slowly and with enough moisture, beaver meat should be tender and easy to pull apart with a fork. Beaver meat is dark meat, resembling rabbit, and has a mild taste that can be easily enhanced with a bit of salt.
Beaver meat is an excellent source of iron, protein and vitamin B, and the livers are high sources of vitamin A, as well.
Not only is beaver delicious and affordable, but it keeps people connected to the land while trapping, which is also a good way to keep fit.
So next time you have the chance to have a taste of Canada’s national animal, make sure to give it a try!