Stick him, and hang him up to bleed until morm ing. A tub is half filled with hot water (not quite scalding) into which drop the possum and hold him by the tail until the hair will strip. Take him out, lay him on a plank, and pull the hair out with your fingers. Draw, clean, and hang him up to freeze for two or three nights. Then place him in a 5-gallon kettle of cold water, into which throw two pods of red pepper. Parboil for one hour in this pepper-water, which is then thrown out and the kettle refilled with fresh water wherein he is boiled one hour.
While this is going on, slice and steam some sweet potatoes. Take the possum out, place him in a large Dutch oven, sprinkle him with black pepper, salt, and a pinch or two of sage. A dash of lemon will do no harm. Pack sweet potatoes around him. Pour a pint of water into the oven, put the lid on, and see that it fits tightly. Bake slowly until brown and crisp. Serve hot, without gravy. Bourbon whiskey is the orthodox accompaniment. If you are a teetotaler, any plantation darky can show you how to make " ginger tea" out of ginger, molasses, and water. Corn bread, of course.
It is said that possum is not hard to digest even when eaten cold, but the general verdict seems to be that none is ever left over to get cold.
When you have no oven, roast the possum before a high bed of coals, having suspended him by a wet string, which is twisted and untwisted to give a rotary motion, and constantly baste it with a sauce made from red pepper, salt, and vinegar.
It is likewise pedantic to call this animal a raccoon. Coon he always has been, is now, and shall ever be, to those who know him best.
Skin and dress him. Remove the " kernels" (scent glands) under each front leg and on either side of spine in small of back. Wash in cold water. Parboil in one or two waters, depending upon the animal's age. Stuff with dressing like a turkey. If you have a tart apple, quarter it and add to the dressing. Bake to a delicate brown. Serve with fried sweet potatoes.
I quote from "Nessmuk:" "And do not despise the fretful porcupine; he is better than he looks. If you happen on a healthy young specimen when you are needing meat, give him a show before condemning him. Shoot him humanely in the head, and dress him. It is easily done; there are no quills on the belly, and the skin peels as freely as a rabbit's. Take him to camp, parboil him for thirty minutes, and roast or broil him to a rich brown over a bed of glowing coals. He will need no pork to make him juicy, and you will find him very like spring lamb, only better".
The porcupine may also be baked in clay, without skinning him; the quills and skin peel off with the hard clay covering. Or, fry quickly.
As I have never eaten porcupine, I will do some more quoting — this time from Dr. Breck: "It may be either roasted or made into a stew, in the manner of hares, but must be parboiled at least a half-hour to be tender. One part of the porcupine is always a delicacy — the liver, which is easily removed by making a cut just under the neck into which the hand is thrust, and the liver pulled out. It may be fried with bacon, or baked slowly and carefully in the baker-pan with slices of bacon".
You may be driven to this, some dayf and will then learn that muskrat, properly prepared is not half bad. The French-Canadians found that out long ago. Remove the musk glands and the white stringy substance found on the inside of the forearms and thighs. I do not remember where I picked up the following recipe:
" Skin and clean carefully four muskrats, being particular not to rupture musk or gall sac. Take the hind legs and saddles, place in pot with a little water, a little julienne (or fresh vegetables, if you have them), some pepper and salt, and a few slices of pork or bacon. Simmer slowly over fire until half done. Remove to baker, place water from pot in the baking pan, and cook until done, basting frequently. This will be found a most toothsome dish".
Muskrat may also be broiled over the hot coals, basting with a bit of pork held on a switch above the beastie.
I asked old Uncle Bob Flowers, one of my neighbors in the Smokies: "Did you ever eat a woodchuck?"
" Reckon I don't know what them is".
" O la! dozens of 'em. The red ones hain't good, but the gray ones! man, they'd jest make yer mouth water!"
" How do you cook them!"
" Cut the leetle red kernels out from under their forelegs; then bile 'em, fust — all the strong is left in the water — then pepper 'em and sage 'em, and put 'em in a pan, and bake 'em to a nice rich brown, and — then I don't want nobody there but me! "
According to J. Alden Loring, "The only way to cook a woodchuck properly is to roast him whole on a stick over a camp-fire, turning him from time to time until he is well done. The skin keeps the fat from broiling out, and enough sinks into the flesh to make it tender and juicy".
This tid-bit of the old-time trappers will be tasted by few of our generation, more's the pity. Impale the tail on a sharp stick and broil over the coals for a few minutes. The rough, scah hide will blister and come off in sheets, leaving the tail clean, white, and solid. Then roast, or boil until tender. It is of a gelatinous nature, tastes somewhat like pork, and is considered very strengthening food. A young beaver, stuffed and baked in its hide, is good; old ones have a peculiar flavor that is unpleasant to those not accustomed to such diet.
Beaver tail may also be soused in vinegar, after boiling, or baked with beans. It makes a good soup if part of the backbone is added.