Waking up and knowing that you’ll be cooking a whole possum later that day is a weird thought, let me tell you.
But this was a reality for me this week. Has anyone else had this reality?
Where did I get a possum?
Well it turns out that possums are a protected species in most states in Australia, but not Tasmania, where they are a pest, much like my native New Zealand. In fact I know someone who culls them for a living on rural farmland in The Great Nation (to the unwise that is of course New Zealand) so they can prevent the damage to native flora and fauna, as well as farmland.
The Brushtail Possum are native to Australia but were introduced to poor old New Zealand with devastating results. Basically, they made like rabbits and spread like crazy, and can now be spotted, literally bright eyed and bushy tailed, in many a country tree in rural New Zealand just waiting to get caught in your headlights. Or what was more appropriate at my house- into a fight with the dog, one in which the possums claws would no doubt win and the dogs face lose.
So the little guy I got this week was sent in from Tasmania, where they are controlled as a pest.
I’m happy enough to eat a pest…
Not that guy at Uni who didn’t seem to have his own flat and was always on your couch, but animal pests, like a sneaky little possum, for sure! To be honest the idea of eating one excited me greatly. Is that a bit weird to anyone? It’s not to me, as I am obviously not troubled when it comes to eating taboo, or perhaps just more risqué, meats. This was no different. The site of it at the butchers was a strange one. Its little tail all erect and frozen, all I could picture was the sight I’m familiar with from my childhood. Something like this:
I could just see dad getting excited at the prospect of a large and free feed for the dog, if the ever hungry Black Labrador won the fight that is. Out with the torch and let the dog loose! Nature’s food chain at its, ah… best?
This time it isn’t the dog facing a meal of pesky possum, but NN and myself. Because it has a similar size and shape to a rabbit, especially when it’s a carcass and that nights dinner, Tom and I consulted and soon decided that following the very successful blueprint from the White Rabbit I did a couple of months ago (‘Sayonara Easter bunny’). This meant Tom using his expert butchering skills to completely de-bone the possum. He then laid flat and some honeyed bacon, crushed juniper berries, exploded garlic and fresh rosemary were added before all being rolled and tied together.
This is the finished product ready to be cooked and of course eaten:
I was pretty excited again when I got back to the butchers to pick the possum up. I have had a few unsatisfactory weeks with this different meat challenge lately and was in desperate need of redemption, as well as just a satisfying and tasty meal. The fact that it was a very obscure meat for most people was a definite bonus.
Is eating possum in the same league at horse?
That’s the question that came to mind at this point. Here I was, the geek that I am, chomping at the bit to cook and eat this pest, but also well aware that most people would run for the hills if told or asked to eat a possum (and no doubt be confronted with many of the critters, possibly facing them as a meal if lost and in need of survival. Slightly ironic…). This being a similar reaction at the reality of horse meat for dinner. This seemed to more hit people at the ‘it’s a pet’ level. The only difference with possum, I can only really assume, is one lonely s. ‘it’s a pest’.
This is of course my exact answer to the above question. Yes possums are protected in most of Australia, but if they are a pest in other places and being killed because of that, then what is happening to these dead animals? Are they being eaten? I severely hope so! If not, what a massive waste and blatant display of disrespect to those animals. Feed a hungry person!!
And to further push this as a realistic meat source– possum meat is very high in protein, iron, B vitamins 3, 6 and 12 as well as selenium and phosphorus while being a very lean of fat.
I obviously advocate eating animal fat, so this is neither here nor there for me, so the addition of the bacon to this meal added that crucial nutritional ingredient.
Fair enough, but was it worth eating?
This is the key question really isn’t it? I ate a possum and I have to assume that if you’re reading this you want to know what I did to it and how it tasted. Well let me first say that I had researched and exchanged with Tom and the decision had been unanimous- put this rolled animal into the oven on a low heat and like an old lady driver– let it take its time, otherwise face possible disaster!
So I did just that. I used a bottle of Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc, I couldn’t find anything with ‘possum’ in the title, and roughly a litre of my own homemade lamb stock. I poured these over the rolled possum, covered tightly with foil and into the oven it went at 140°C for 2 hours.
This now seemed hard to stuff up, as long as I kept an eye on it and made sure the liquid didn’t dry out. I also made a simple little salad that included some local walnuts that I shelled whilst sending shards around the kitchen, and some golden kumara to cube, flavour with coconut oil, salt, pepper and paprika and then roast.
My apartment had a very rich smell to it, and was immediately reminiscent of the white rabbit dish. At the two hour mark I removed the beast. Na, you can’t call a possum a beast. I removed the little Dame Edna show audience member (anyone get that reference? Click here and shoot forward to 20s mark) and decided to attempt to reduce the liquid down to a jus to dress the meat. I poured out most, got it boiling and added some red wine.
The kumara had a moistness to it from being in the same oven as the possum but I now cranked the heat and this caramelised them somewhat, resulting in some of the best roasted kumara I’ve ever tasted, hands down. Then came eating some possum meat…
How did it taste?
NN was in attendance and we were both pretty famished, so the jus was cut short but the thin liquid still dressed the meat. The all important tasting was soon over powered by the fresh rosemary contained within each slice. Like I said, I was good to eat a horse, so this possum stood no chance. I devoured it while making my assessment. I found the meat to be slightly tough but not really and slightly dry but also not really. It was hard to figure out, but gamey probably fits easily enough. However, I liked it. The other flavours were nice, but some mouthfuls were dominated by the rosemary, which I can imagine bunches easily in some parts as it is all rolled up. NN isn’t a huge fan of rosemary and so was mostly overwhelmed by the flavour. I think she got more than me, as I knew what she meant, but mine was limited.
Would I eat it again?
Damn right I would. Even though it wasn’t overly mouth-watering, I would try this again for sure. The meal as a whole was superb, as I already mentioned in regards to the kumara. In fact the slight sweetness of this with the crunchy and lightly toasted walnuts had NN comparing the combination to a desert like flavour. Possum cheesecake maybe!
I found a recipe that had used possum to make a curry, and I think that sounds like a brilliant idea. Slow cooked to soak up the spices and completely tenderise the meat.
Of course it helps to have a brilliant butcher who can get detailed and remove the bones in the manner that Tom did for me, but still, I can see this working on a rotisserie, a whole possum slowly cooking over a fire out in the bush. My way is much more convenient though…
Interested in eating possum? Well look into sourcing some where you are. In New Zealand they are a pest, so talk to your butcher and see what’s out there. Elsewhere I’m not too sure. There are Opossums in other parts of the world, which is essentially the same animal; however, as to their availability for human consumption- you may have to find that one out yourself.
Does anyone living in the US, Canada or the UK/Europe know whether possum is protected or fair game?
OK, that signals the end of another week. I have no idea what next week will bring, but I’ll try and make sure I don’t end up a possum in the head lights (ahh….) and get stuck with the weekend coming and me having nothing new to cook and eat.
Will it be obscure like our little goth like pest from this week? Here’s hoping! I can tell you one possibility and that is the inclusion of my now homemade possum stock. That’s right, I made a wholesome and nutritious stock from the carcass! Who’s ever heard of adding a simple possum stock to their recipe?! You have now… Meat Mike Campbell does!
Tune in then to see, and later this week more training tips on how to get strong, fit, healthy and sexy!
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