Surviving in the Deep South! (Part 3)
In part 3 of Surviving in the Deep South we are going to look at local wildlife. There are many local animals here in the deep south that you might not ordinarily consider as a food source because they are not normally eaten by many people. The ones we will be looking at today are: Alligator, Raccoon, Squirrel, Frogs and Rattlesnakes. I know what you are thinking…”I would never eat any of these!”. The thing is that when you or your loved ones are starving, and need protein, you will be surprised what you might eat! The key here is to know what can be eaten, how to prepare it and how to safely cook it so it can be eaten. Knowing what and how could save your life in a survival situation, so let’s get to it. 🙂
OK, let’s start with the Alligator as it is one of the largest local animals that are edible here in the south. They are found in many of the local Bayous, rivers and lakes. They have been known to grow to over 12 feet and can weigh 750 lbs. They are incredibly strong and can attack without warning. These should only be considered as a source of food in a last resort. If you are weak from food deprivation, please do not attempt to kill an alligator as it could be deadly for you. If you are lucky enough to kill one however, the meat is very tasty. (Taste like a cross between chicken and shrimp to me.) Most people only eat the meat on the tail, however many other parts of the alligator are edible. Much like a Chicken or Turkey, it has both light and dark meat and all of the muscle groups are edible. It can be prepared any way you prepare any other meat, but it is mostly served fried. (I think that is mostly due to the local culture.) You just need to remember that it needs to be cooked more like fish than beef and if overcooked it will become dry and tough. Rule of thumb is that when you think it needs another minute or two, then take it out of the heat. Like some other meats, it will continue to cook for a few minutes after it has been removed from the grease. It is also good in soups and stews as well and can make a very hearty meal. The hide can also be dried and tanned then used for many other things. I simply can’t emphasize enough how dangerous it is to try to catch and kill an alligator in the wild. Do so at your own peril. For Alligator recipes, look here.
Raccoons are another animal native to North America and found in abundance here in the Deep South. They are sometimes known as the Bandits of the forest. They are very intelligent animals and are able to solve many complex problems they encounter. They eat primarily plants and small shell-fish and can be viscious when provoked. They are also nocturnal and see very well in the dark. Because of their intelligence, trapping a Raccoon can prove to be quite a challenge. Because they are most often found in trees, the easiest wary to kill a Raccoon is to shoot them in the head with a 22 rifle so as not to destroy the meat. Once killed, they can be skinned and cleaned. The Hyde can be stretched and dried and used to make many items such as the coonskin caps of the 1800’s. A word of warning however is to be sure and carefully remove the musk glands before dismembering and cooking. Here is a You tube video on how to do it. I suggest you watch it and learn how to do it before you actually need too. While I have only eaten it BBQ’d, (tastes a lot like pork) it can also be roasted and used in soups and stews as well. Here is a link to Recipes for cooking Raccoon.
Squirrel are one of my favorites for eating and are also known as “Tree Rats”. Don’t let the name throw you, they are quite delicious when cooked correctly. As I stated in an earlier article, I have only had them grilled, but there are over 50 recipes for cooking these delicious little animals. I intend to try as many as I can. They can be found in almost any place that has trees here in the south while they are found all over the North America as well. They are easily trapped or shot with a small caliber rifle. Do not shoot them with a shot gun as you will wind up with an non-edible hunk of fur! Either trap them or use a rifle if you plan on eating them. They eat primarily different types of nuts, including Pine Nuts. They are easy to clean and have no glands that need to be removed before cooking. They are an excellent source of protein and cook quickly in a stew or on a stick over a campfire. Here is an excellent source of recipes for cooking Squirrel.
Frog legs are widely eaten all around the world. The leg is the only part of the frog that is worth eating in my opinion. I have heard that some people eat other parts but I do not recommend it. I have never even seen a recipe for any other part of the frog than the legs. Depending on the size of the frog however, the legs of the frog can get fairly large and when properly cooked are very delicious. They can be easily separated from the body and cleaned. Then just season them, roll them in flour and fry them for a tasty meal. They can also be grilled or BBQ’d if you like. Just remember that they too should be cooked like fish and not overcooked as they will become dry and tuff. Their entrails also make excellent fishing bait as well. They can usually be found near or in most bodies of standing water, and a sharpened stick or net is all that is needed to catch them.
Rattlesnakes, while being very venomous and dangerous are delicious to eat when properly cleaned and cooked. The key words here is “Properly Cleaned” because if you do not cut off the first section of the snake far enough back from the head then you could wind up with poison in the meat. I recommend cutting it off at least 2 inches behind the head to prevent accidentally cutting into one of the venom sacks. Also, make sure all children and pets are away from the work area while preparing the meat. I strongly also recommend that you secure the snakes head to prevent autonomic muscle reflexes from causing the snake to strike you even though it is dead. Cleaning a snake is a lot like cleaning a fish. Except the snake may do a lot more whipping around during and after the cleaning and skinning phases. (This can be a little unsettling to say the least!) Once it stops wiggling, insert a knife into the bottom part of the snake, and cut downwards toward the tail of the shake to the end of the skin. Remove entrails with your hand or thumb and/or spoon, and wash the body cavity out with cold running water. Scrape away any remaining bits of innards while rinsing. Rinse again thoroughly and then cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces for cooking. It can then be Fried, baked BBQ’d or used in a stew. How you cook it is up to you, but just about anyway you do, the rattle snake is good. I prefer the Texas Diamondback Rattlesnake my self, but many snakes are edible and can be eaten in a survival situation. Here are a few more recipes for cooking Rattlesnake.
The point of this section has been to point out that there are plenty of wild animals running around here in the Deep South and that anyone can eat if they are only willing to do a little work and try things that they would not normally. While this post does not even begin to scratch the surface of the list of all the edible animals that can be found here in the Deep South, I hope it opens your eyes and maybe even helps educate you on some of them. As always, I love to hear your comments on the subject. Well, I guess this concludes part 3 of the series and I hope you have enjoyed it! In part 4 we will be looking at how to deal with the intense heat and humidity that is so prevalent here in the Deep South. Until next time, Keep on Prepping!