While reading through their journals, it struck me that on several occasions Clark and Lewis mention beaver tail as a delicacy. For example, on August 1, 1804, Clark writes, ”This being my birth day I order’d a Saddle of fat Vennison, an Elk fleece & a Bevertail to be cooked”. The next Spring (May 5), describing the bounty of the Great Plains, Lewis writes, “we kill whatever we wish, the buffaloe furnish us with fine veal and fat beef, we also have venison and beaver tales when we wish them”. These passages intrigued me and made me wonder what a beaver tail actually tastes like.
My brother Tony is a trapper in upstate New York. He had never tried eating beaver tails, but has seen many and told me it was pure fat. This explains why the Corps liked it so much – they needed fat in their diet. The next time I went to visit, he had a special gift waiting for me in the freezer!
Last weekend, the development team met at my apartment to have a weekend-long crunch session. The end of the session was a perfect time to wind down, have some beers (it was St. Patty’s day), and cook up the tail! I had asked around for recipes for the tail. Here’s my favorite, from Barb’s friend Gary: “Skin it, fry it in a pan, drain the grease and keep it. Throw the rest away. Trust me.” A few other people recommended deep frying it, which is what we did – in my wok!
We tried cooking it two ways: initially we cut the fat off the outer leather and fried it. This worked, but we lost a lot of it just trying to separate it from the leather. Next we just filleted a section of the tail and threw it in the wok. This was way easier.
None of us were expecting to like it, but actually it was very good! It tasted quite a bit like chicharron, or fried pork rinds. Parts of the outer leather we very crispy and delicious, but other parts of it were impossible to chew. We seasoned the tail with salt and a little mandarin orange. Lemon probably would have been perfect but we didn’t have one handy. I wouldn’t go out of my way to cook it on a regular basis, but I won’t turn it down if someone offered it to me! I’m really glad we tried it.