I eat beaver. It’s delicious. My fiance loves it, too.
I’d heard fabled stories of eating the tail, but had not tried it myself.
Native Americans have been eating beavers since the 1400s. References of mountain men enjoying beaver tail are not uncommon; it’s even mentioned in “The Journals of Lewis and Clark.”
Beaver tails are made up nearly entirely of fat. What a treat this fat must have been in the frontier days. Trappers who lived off the land for long, hard winters subsisted on lean, wild game, and the fat from the tail of a beaver tail was likely a welcome treat.
Trappers in historical literature described beaver tails as “fat all through, are especially regarded as delicacies.” Another writer referred to their tails as “highly esteemed by trappers.”
So I decided to try it. My fellow trapping friends, Randy and Jeanie, came over to my house because they’d always wanted to try beaver tail, too. They brought some tails from beavers they had recently trapped and kept cool.
I pulled out my copy of “The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook,” by Steven Rinella, found “beaver tail” in the index and flipped to the page. The recipe was simple but stressed that beaver tail was best cooked over an open fire, like the mountain men did.
We started a fire in our outdoor fire pit and when it was hot enough, placed two tails on it. After a few minutes we heard the sizzling of the outer skin. Randy flipped over the tails. The leather skin was bubbled and blistered. After about 20 minutes total, both sides of the skin were cracked, and I announced that the tails were done.
After waiting a few minutes for the tails to cool, Jeanie and I each took one and flaked away the charred skin. What was revealed was a thick, creamy layer of fat. There was no meat, no muscle, just fat. We sprinkled sea salt onto the fat (I said it was an easy recipe) and cut it into slices. Everyone took a tentative nibble.
Not bad. Very mild. Fat is delicious, after all. One bone ran along the center of the tail and, holding it like corn on the cob, Jeanie and I chewed the remaining fat from the bone.
It reminded me of eating baby back ribs. The fat was very rich, so we experimented with eating some of the crunchy outer skin to balance out the texture.
I don’t think we will add beaver tails to our weekly dinner (we don’t need help hitting our fat intake), but it was a novel experience to share with friends.
It was interesting to picture the group of us modern-day trappers eating fatty beaver tails cooked over a fire, the same way trappers from centuries ago enjoyed it.