Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Poke Salat not Poke Salad and Wild Game

I was asked for a poke salat recipe and any recipes for cooking squirrel. We called it salat and that seems to be the further south you go. Doesn't matter what you call it, poke salad or salat, as long as when you serve it, we get called to dinner!!   I like to have pictures of cooking the dish for the blog. It is just the wrong time of year for it. But I will post a brief write up and later put a more in-depth article.

It is not poke salat season and we haven't hunted any squirrels this year yet. We are just not hungry enough.

Poke Salat as we called it in my family, grows wild all over Appalachia. It has white tiny flowers in the early summer and then the stem begins to turn purple with purple poisonous berries by the fall. When it begins turning purple, we never mess with it much. This is usually in our area about middle to late June.

My Ed in the spring time "grazes" on wild plants. I can tell he's found some tidbit because usually for some reason he has some in his beard. Whether it be the tender shoots of a cattail plant, dandelion, sour grass or wild violets, spring time is grazing time. If he is walking in the woods in the spring, he's eating.  In the old days the folks knew that there were many things in the wild to eat. You didn't always have to go to the store to have food.

Now I've read we are not suppose to eat Poke salat. It's supposed to be poisonous all year. Well someone forgot to tell my folks that because they would eat it just about every spring. I'm going to share how they prepared it and then you are on your own. 

We only gathered Poke salat in the Spring to early summer before blooming. Young plants about 6 to 8 inches tall.  In the fall it's just too strong. We would boil it and rinse it in cold water, twice. This is what gets rid of any toxins I guess. We treated skunk cabbage the same way. Skunk cabbage grows in wetlands in the spring. When really young it tastes like cabbage. When it gets older we prepare it the same way we do Poke Salat.  We just thought boiling and rinsing would rid the dish of the bitter taste and for skunk cabbage the smell!

Momma, after boiling and rinsing the Poke, would then put it in a skillet, add some bacon grease with chopped onions and cook until tender. Then serve with some vinegar.  Sometimes it would be mixed with other greens such as water cress or young lettuce in what we called scalded lettuce. Some folks treat it just like cooked spinach and add it to other ingredients such as eggs. But you have to pick it when it's not too old, and boil it and rinse it...TWICE! That's the trick.

NOTE: After first posting this next part I didn't realize so many were so sensitive to the hunting of wild game. I'm sorry if it offends you but if you eat any type of animal or fish meat, you kill that animal or fish. Doesn't matter that it was wild or raised, or if it's wrapped in a package from the grocery store or served as a dish in a restaurant.  Even vegans should realize that all plants are LIVING THINGS and can respond to music. My grandfather would talk to a tree when he had to cut it for wood and thank it for giving of it's life so that he could use it to live and be warm.

It's part of the Appalachian culture to live off the land and that includes hunting wild game.  It's really the way of the world to kill things to use, animal or plants.....and I just think if you are reading this blog about Appalachians, it is in our heritage and culture and you just have to get over it.

Squirrel....the real trick to any wild game is what you do right after you hunt and kill it. Doesn't really matter the recipe.  Nothing amazes us more to see a hunter with any game he's killed, riding around with it for hours in the back of a truck. Many never taking the time to field dress it (or even know how to field dress properly, yes there are glands you have to watch out for) and then wonder why it tastes so awful or gamey after they cut it up and when they go to eat it.  Learn to field dress as soon as you shoot it and it won't be so gamey!!

If it's fairly warmer weather don't stop by the bar before you go home to process it either. I guess this is the difference in hunting for sport or hunting to eat. We always plan on eating what we hunt or we don't kill it. There is no need to.

After skinning an animal and cutting it up, we soak any wild meat in salt water over night and rinse it before we cook or freeze it. Then for squirrel...fry it using much the same recipe for fried chicken and make gravy.

If it's a fat meat like ground hog or bear, I like to parboil before roasting or cooking. But still, for bear meat, I don't care what anyone does to prepare it. I'm not a big fan of bear meat. Bear's stink, live or dead, and I just don't like that smell. Even a hint of it but that's just me.  When we get some wild game in here, I'll try to get Ed to help me make a video lesson on processing, preparing and cooking.  But if you can't wait, there are already plenty online to learn from.