Notable Nosh: Caribou Stew
I’m not actually sharing a recipe with you today but I thought some of my readers who are not familiar with caribou might like to see this dish made by my wife the other day.
Those of you who have been reading my blog over the past week or so will know that my wife has been very busy with a computer camp she organized for kids recently. They all required being fed lunches during the week and this particular task was taken up by my wife as well. They had one feed of Mac ‘n’ Cheese (a huge vat of which was made by yours truly), as well as a do-it-yourself sandwich affair. Since the students were all local Inuit children, my wife also included a traditional meal for them in the form of the caribou stew you see above.
Many of my readers will not have seen (or maybe even heard of) the Caribou before but you will likely be familiar with Reindeer. Caribou is just the name commonly used in this part of the world for the animal closely associated with Christmas all around the world. A while back, my wife put up a whole caribou in our freezer, one cut of which went to make the stew. We are down to just a few packages now and it has just struck me that Santa may well be stuck with just 7 reindeer pulling his sleigh this year…
I have to apologize for this picture as I didn’t take it myself but rather scabbed it from the CBC website. The last time I took a photograph of a caribou was with a non-digital camera and I can’t begin to remember where I’ve got them stashed now. Anyway, here you can see a small group of the beasts without ‘googling’ for them yourselves.
This is the cut my wife thawed. Although she cooked the stew the night before it was to be served, I saved her some time and did a final butchering of the cut for her while she was busy at work.
When I opened the package I was a little horrified to see that it was a very bony cut and I was afraid that it wouldn’t yield much meat. As it was though, there was plenty, along with the vegetables, to feed the kids a good meal with some bannock on the side.
I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the (pretty sizeable) vat of the stew. My wife added onions, carrots and potatoes and thickened the broth with flour. Since the bulk of the people eating were young children, she avoided adding any ‘exotic’ ingredients like bell peppers or the like, thus saving the kids from having to pick out any ‘nasty bits’. The seasoning was also limited to nothing more than plain old salt and pepper.
So, how does Caribou taste?
Well, first of all, I have never encountered the same sort of ‘gamey’ quality in caribou that I have in southern deer. I recall being served moose steak on one occasion and I could have sworn the meat had spoiled despite everyone else raving about how good it was. Diet, of course, plays a big part in this and I have noted this in white-tailed deer which I have found delicious on some occasions and almost unpalatable on others.
The caribou, especially in winter, consume lichen, moss and sedges and, though I would have thought this would give the meat a bitter taste (especially the lichen), this is not the case at all. Basically, I find the meat can be excellent, or not nearly as good, all depending on the cut. Some, I find, has a very soft texture I find unappealing, and these cuts also have a distinct note of liver about them, which I also dislike. Other cuts, however, are nicely textured and a delicious flavor not unlike an extremely lean beef. Indeed, I fairly confident that if I gave you a taste of it and told you it was beef, you would likely accept that without comment.
Anyway, we still have a couple of packages left in the freezer (cut from where I have no idea) but, if my wife doesn’t get to it first, I’ll try and share a recipe suitable for caribou for you sometime…