I’m back with a functioning laptop battery!
A family member of mine, who belongs to a hunt camp with some men he grew up with, recently gave me a moose roast and two packages of ground moose meat. Many a settler or First Nations person throughout Canada’s history has supplemented their diet with the meat of this large animal, hence my decision to do a post on my moose meal (at risk of drawing comparisons to Sarah Palin).
The moose hunt here occurs during one week in October, and is regulated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The most common way to get ahold of some moose meat is through a connection to a hunter. I’m not a hunter myself but from what I can gather, the ministry distributes a certain number of “tags” to licensed hunters, based on population statistics of the moose. This year, the hunt camp my relative participates in had a tag for one cow moose.
Having decided to thaw a package of ground moose meat, I wanted to find a traditional recipe but quickly realized that some of the oldest recipes involve drying, smoking, or salting the meat, or even soaking it in a brine – clearly not that practical for someone living in an urban setting. Traditional Indian methods focused on separating the meat from the fat and drying and smoking the meat over a green wood fire, and sometimes shredding or grinding it into pemmican.
Another problem in searching for a traditional recipe online is that some recipes, like one from Newfoundland, call for regional ingredients like “partridgeberry wine”. It’s pretty to hard to come by partridgeberries in Ontario (as far as I know…).
More modern options abound – I found lots of recipes for Mexican moose chili with salsa piccante, but I wound up going with something fairly middle of the road: moose meat loaf. The recipe comes from the All About Moose website. It’s a pretty standard meatloaf recipe, and I can picture settlers and rural pioneer farmers making this sort of loaf, or a similar tasting meat pie with some of their moose. It also included sage in the recipe, and dry mustard in the topping, which are two ingredients that I often saw paired with moose meat in my searches on the internet.
Usually moose meat is a very dry, lean meat (although my particular ground meat was not as lean as I have seen in the past). In the case of the meatloaf, the recipe called for two eggs instead of the one egg you would normally add to a beef meatloaf. Since it is dry, moose is often blended with another meat like ground pork to add more fat back into the meal. For instance, when moose meat is included in the traditional French Canadian tortière (meat pie), it tends to be used in equal parts with ground pork. Indeed, pork was a common meat eaten by early settlers in Canada. Here are some excerpts from pages 17, 27 and 28 of ”Harness in the Parlour: A Book of Early Canadian Fact and Folklore” by Audrey Armstrong:
“In the days of early settlers, pigs were expected to forage for themselves during summer and fall, and usually became fat on nuts and roots in the woods… In many areas, pork was the main source of meat, for early settlers could not afford to use their useful oxen or valuable wool-producing sheep for food.”
“Refrigeration took many forms. As often as possible, the carcasses of larger animals, used for meat, were processed in late fall after freeze-up, when a thaw no longer seemed likely. Entire carcasses were often hung outside in a spot where they would be safe from predators, and were cut up and used as required. In the event of a sudden thaw, the meat was taken down and cut into family-meal sizes, then packed in a barrel or box with wet snow, which would quickly freeze around it.
Sometimes a small stream flowing near the house was channeled through a ditch dug into the earthen cellar floor, so buckets of perishable food could be conveniently lowered into the cold water. Wells and springs provided a similar means of refrigeration.
In later years, river ice was cut into blocks and hauled to an “ice house”, where it was packed carefully with sawdust or cut straw…”
“Food that was not frozen for future use had to be preserved by other means. Fish was often hung and thoroughly dried, but frequently it was cooked, shaken from the bones, and placed between layers of salt and pepper and cooked, mashed potatoes, in barrels or boxes for freezing. Pork might be fried and packed into a crock, with the rendered fat poured over each layer to seal out the air, then stored in a cool place. Frequently, too, meat was preserved in a brine.”
Armstrong, Audrey. “Harness in the Parlour: A Book of Early Canadian Fact and Folklore”, published by Musson Book Company, Toronto, 1974.
All About Moose website
Ministry of Natural Resources website
All images in this post are Antiquated Canada images.