Other Names:Bievre (French, blanket beaver), blanket beaver (old beaver), castor (French and Spanish), castoro (Italian), kit (young beaver).
General Description:Beavers are large, aquatic, partly nocturnal rodents in the Castoridae family that are hunted for their pelts, meat, and fatty tail. Beaver was greatly relished by early trappers and explorers in North America for its fatty, rich, and tasty tail. Beaver was once considered the most valuable of furs and was also trapped for its castor glands, which produce castoreum, used in making perfume.
Beaver is versatile in the kitchen: It can be pot-roasted, barbecued, baked, fried, stewed, fricasseed, or made into meat loaf or pie, and it may be smoked to reduce the gamy flavor. Beaver may be prepared using recipes for wild goose and venison.
Characteristics:Beaver meat is dark red, rich, fine, and soft in texture, though rather gamy in flavor. The liver is large and almost as tender and sweet as that of a goose. Fat deposits are found outside or between the muscles, much like venison. Beaver meat will dry out faster than most lean cuts of beef.
How to Choose:Choose a young, small animal for best eating. Beavers reach maturity in 2 to 3 years; they have stout bodies about 40 inches long including their paddle-shaped tail. A skinned and dressed beaver will be about half its live weight. Frozen farm-raised beaver that weigh 5 to 8 pounds are sold whole or as legs and saddles.
Amount to Buy:A young beaver will serve four to six people, an older beaver will serve eight; allow 3/4 to 1 pound per person.
Before storing, the beaver needs some basic preparation. Remove the “kernels” (scent glands) in the small of the back and under the forelegs immediately after the skin has been removed, taking great care not to cut into them. Beaver fat has a strong flavor and odor and should be cut away completely before cooking. Soak the meat in enough salt water mixed with 1/4 cup of vinegar to cover the meat overnight, refrigerated, to draw out excess blood. Rinse the meat in cold, clear water.
- To roast, lay the legs back against the belly and secure by tying or with skewers. Place the beaver on its side in a roaster.
- Cut several slits into the lean meat and stick strips of salt pork into the slits. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Add a little water to the pan.
- Roast at 325°F for 1 1/2 hours with the lid on, adding more water as needed and skimming off the fat as it accumulates.
- Turn the beaver. Add chopped onion, celery, and carrots to the pan. Finish roasting with the lid off, cooking until the meat falls off the bones, about 2 hours longer. Add flour mixed with cold water to the pan juices to thicken before serving.
- Cutting a dressed beaver into smaller roasts and steaks requires special attention to bone structure and will be easier if it is partially frozen.
Flavor Affinities:Brandy, cloves, Dijon mustard, garlic, onions, parsley, pork skin, red wine, rosemary, sage, salt pork, thyme.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com