Monday, September 10, 2012

Critter on the Half Shell


   I saw my first Armadillo in Oklahoma when I was 13. I had seen and even caught one in Texas before, but even then they were moving north and by 62 they had finally made it to Deep fork Bottoms.

   The first one I caught in Oklahoma was at the golf course in Okmulgee. My Uncle Floyd new the guy who was the grounds keeper there and we stopped by to talk to him one day. While we were there he was complaining to Uncle Floyd about Armadillos digging up the course. As we were walking across the course he yelled "there's one of the little SOB's" I looked where he was pointing ands sure enough there went one hopping across the lawn. I didn't even think twice, just took off chasing after it. For such a small animal them little dudes can really move. They do a kind of half jump, half run that really covers the ground but I finally got close enough to jump on him. I was really proud of catching that thing and went running back to Uncle Floyd and his friend to show him off. The golf course gave me a quarter for catching him which made my day a lot brighter but then Uncle Floyd took him and lay him on the ground and then took his pocket knife and stabbed him in the back of the head. That kind of took the fun out of catching him cause I kind of thought I'd take him home for a pet.

   I caught about three more before the idea of eating one popped into my pea brain. I knew that people in Texas ate them but when I started asking around I couldn't find anyone around home that had ever eaten one or even had any idea of how to fix one. I have learned several recipes since then but for the first one I thought I'd try it just like you would roast a turtle.

   I dug a small fire pit and lined it with rocks. Then I built a good size fire and kept adding wood till the rocks were good and hot. I removed the head, tail, and cut the entire belly off the armadillo and removed the guts. After rinsing him off good in Salt Creek I put some cat tail roots, wild onions and wild garlic in the chest cavity along with salt and pepper. I soaked some cat tail leaves in the creek and wrapped the body completely. After the fire had burned down I scraped most of the ashes out of the pit and lay him on his back on the rocks. I added more wet leaves to cover him and a layer of dirt on top. I left him there for about four hours while I wondered around and did a little squirrel hunting.

   I will admit that the meat was not what I expected. It wasn't gamey at all and but letting it cook as long as I did it was falling off the bone tender. The wild onions and garlic  added a lot of flavor but I'm not sure the cat tail roots added anything. They weren't bad by themselves but they are never going to take the place of potatoes.

   You can do the same thing if you happen to get a hold of a Dillo. You can cut the body completely away from the shell if you want then just lay it back in the shell, add salt, pepper and whatever veggies you want. Wrap the whole thing loosely in tin foil and put it on the grill. I think it comes out the best if you cook it with the lid closed at about 250' for about four hours. If you have a gas grill add a pan of wet wood chips to add a little smoky flavor (I like hickory chips).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cat Tail Bread

   It's not all that hard to find something to eat out in the wild, it depends mainly on the season and how picky you are. Around Oklahoma there's always squirrels, rabbits, fish, snakes and if you can't managed to catch at least one of those and you're hungry enough there's always bugs and worms (don't knock em till ya try em). The hardest thing to come up with, to me anyway, has always been bread. Course now, I like bread and enjoy having it with pretty well every meal so I set out to try and learn how to make it.

   When I first started trying this I didn't know anyone that knew how to do it so I had to fall back on  on my trusty mountain man books to see if I get any ideas. Now, as usual, the books have a lot of over-view but very few details. About the only thing I was able to find out was that native Americans used to pound cattail roots into a paste and made a kind off an unleavened bread (and No, I didn't have any have any idea what that meant until much later in life).

   The first time I tried this I gathered a bunch of cattail roots from McKenna's pond early in the season. My camping area was up stream from Skyrocket (the local swimming hole) and the pond was close to the creek. There is a lot of black shale around there so I stacked up a couple of pieces on each side of the fire pit and put one long one across the top to use as a griddle. I got a good fire going to heat the rock while I mashed the roots. I peeled the roots and lay them on another piece of shale and tried mashing them with a branch from an Oak tree. It looked like it should have worked, but didn't. Seemed like every time I tried to hit the root I would just catch the side and shoot it of the stone. I finally found a piece of granite that I could use and was finally able to get everything smashed into a paste. The first time you try this you will surprised at how much mositure are in those roots. The resulting paste comes ends up looking just a little on the slimy side but in for a penny.

   Once your griddle is hot (rock in my case) pour the paste on, kind of like a pancake. Flip it once the bottom side has browned.

   Now I'm not going to lie to you. Was it hot, yes. Was it filling, yes. Did it taste good, let's just stick with hot and filling. It's hard to judge some things with our moadern tastes, Maybe if we had grown up never tasting any other bread we would really like the taste but for me, I ate it and if it was all I had I'd eat it for every meal but it would not be my first choice.

   After a few more tries I did find ways to make it a little better. If you happen to catch the cattails when the heads are full of pollen you can knock the pollen out and mix it in with the paste. It will thicken it and adds more flavor. It even adds a yellow color which looks more like pancakes when it's coked.

   The best way I've found to add flavor is to mash some berrys into the paste. The first time i tried this it was using dewberries. I've also tried black berries, possum grapes and sand hill pumbs any of these will turn it into something that you can actually look forward to.