St. Louis Sophisticate: Coon Cookery

Foraging trip, post-Thanksgiving. Some people go to Best Buy; my family went to the Soulard Farmers’ Market. I’d never seen the spice shop, where I could find nothing to buy because Mom had already sent me a box of fifty-plus spices, from gumbo file to fish-blackening spice. And the meat market. From which, for some reason, she had never sent anything at all. Perhaps she regards the USPS’s delivery times with some skepticism.

In truth, I hadn’t thought to ask, but—”YES,” the sign assured me, “WE HAVE ‘COON.”

Also yes on alligator sticks. Why didn't I get the alligator sticks? I'm still kicking myself.

Though still digesting turkey, in I went. This is a market that features alligator on its regular menu, right next to the boudin, and most of what you see from the window is smoked pork jowls. The butcher informed me that a man had brought 53 coons by just last week. They were frozen, $1.39 a pound, and they came in units of whole coon. I got one whole coon. Also some extra-hot boudin, since it was there. Of course, I had come from Madison to St. Louis with a half-empty carry-on just in case, but I didn’t know I’d get this lucky.

I have never had coon. Ordinarily I refer to the animals skulking near trash cans as “raccoons.” I have thought of them as coon only in reference to the epic struggles of Little Ann and Big Dan, who lived to tree coons, in Where the Red Fern Grows.

Now for the research. Would coon, like the porcupine W. and I ate, require several hours’ cooking? The porcupine posole came out very well, I must say. I mentioned my duffel’s contents to the man at the Lambert St. Louis Airport who was shining my shoes. He said he’d tried coon while doing a favor of a repair job for a woman he knew. She was preparing it when he arrived, and it was ready to eat when he was done an hour later. So maybe not.

Certain foods are especially difficult to find good recipes for. Porcupine was one of them. I warn you, I’m going to sound like a snob—and that’s because I am one. The problem is that the people who eat porcupine have, usually, an entirely different pantry and cooking style than I. And the people with pantries like mine would never touch porcupine. I want one that calls for fennel or harissa, not Stove-Top, ketchup, or cans of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

Meaning I will have to look further than the recipe on Backwoods.com called “Coon Meal in a Bag.” On the other hand, the same site’s roast raccoon with cornbread stuffing would sound pretty good, were it not so soon after Turkey Day.

I pause for a diverting digression: wisdom culled from Trapperman.com’s Lures, Baits and Urine archive. In case I have inspired you to go out and get your own fresh coon, how will you bait your trap? Some suggestions:

All you need to know is fish, fish fish fish fish fish.

I have found on a more warm night that marshmellows work wonders and on a slightly colder night I use my homade fish oil outta carp …

Once i catch a fish i felit and put the rest of it in a jar and let it sit in the sun all day. When trapping season comes aroud that stuff smells bad but works great!

I like to use apples or corn and a sweeter lure if its warmer out. This will take muskrats also, but pretty well eliminates the chance of getting mink unless you’re just lucky. This is also good for avoiding housecats, they lack the ability to taste or smell sweet.

sweet lure: half and half honey and corn syrup, then add a generous swig of imitation vanilla (the vanilla will carry better than the rest). If you like it thick thats about it, to thin it down add simple sugar (water with sugar dissolved in it until no more will dissolve) until is it as thin as you want.

its also very good in tea and on biscuits ha-ha.

The Soulard butcher said my coon hadn’t been trapped, because all its feet were intact. Mysteriously, he didn’t suggest any alternatives.

I also discover some red herrings: Coon Balls, a mixture of cheese, tabasco, sausage and Bisquik, baked in the oven, no coon included. Coon-Dog or Coon-Dawg Punch, main ingredients one liter of grain alcohol and two gallons of Hawaiian Punch.

My own book, “Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game,” by John J. Mettler Jr., DVM, has some recipes following its precise instructions and technical drawings. The sheer breadth of the recipes is unnerving; Mettler has Sweetbreads with Lobster Poulette Sauce and Venison Pate, but also Sweet-and-Sour Animal, Wild Animal Whatever (i.e., whatever the cook’s husband brought home) and — bingo! — Raccoon or Squirrel.

The recipe says to pressure-cook the meat at 10 pounds for 10 minutes, separate it from the bones, batter it and fry in butter.

“It doesn’t taste like chicken, the way people say,” Jim [Colclough] says. “It tastes like raccoon and squirrel.”

If only I had a pressure cooker.

The shoe-shiner said the coon he had was cooked with sweet potatoes. I find one such recipe, at helium.com. Bill Whitney:

I had planted a lot of sweet corn and the coons were just eating more of it than we were so I decided I need to kill some of those big corn fed Coons and fix some Coon and Sweet Potatoes.

The recipe’s pretty standard, other than soaking the meat in vinegar for an hour to “sort of kill the wild taste.”

I’m going to have to think on this some more. Suggestions are welcome.

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5 responses to “St. Louis Sophisticate: Coon Cookery

  1. This one will go down as a Classic Kate Golden.
    Good God, Girl — I will never qualify as a Taster in your Kitchen. Not even moonshine — a lot of it — would get me to eat Coon.
    Nevertheless, I think you should find a pressure cooker. My mother had one and it was the best — of course, we used it to make lentils. I wonder why people don’t use them anymore? “Move over, Pressure Cooker — here comes the George Foreman?”
    So anyway, despite our fundamental differences regarding what is edible, I am linking your blog to mine, because I hold you in the highest esteem, and you are One of A Kind, and I prize originality. Visit me at http://flaura.wordpress.com

    • It’s all overlapping Venns, with edibility. Some people don’t eat mushrooms, or coon. I don’t touch celery or raw bell peppers.

      I think pressure cookers are brilliant if frightening inventions. I have located one to borrow, in fact. Am hoping not to blow up the kitchen.

  2. Funny you didn’t ask your Mom for a recipe. She’s got some. One in the Road Kill Cookbook. Another in Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery vol. 10.

  3. Good luck Kate. The porcupine was damn good, so I have no doubt you’ll create a coon masterpiece. I’m not sure my new roommate believed me when I said that a porcupine was butchered on our porch.

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