Opinion: Autolysis is not for everyoneOn Sunday, all five boats fishing below the dam at Pickstown limited on walleyes. Put in below town on the east side, and please put the large females back in the river.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
On Sunday, all five boats fishing below the dam at Pickstown limited on walleyes. Put in below town on the east side, and please put the large females back in the river.
I received an e-mail last week that complained I’m far too serious and that my columns lack humor. Bob, the writer, also said I spend too much time giving people heck. While I’ll keep these things in mind, I’m not a comedian, and I am serious about the things I write. Hopefully this new awareness will improve column material.
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We spent two weeks in New Zealand 11 months ago. Though that wasn’t much time, I did perceive the people to be more resourceful than we Americans. Along the coast, we frequently saw entire families in their boats checking crab and lobster traps. At low tide it was common to observe people prying paua shells (abalone) from rock formations. Family camping, and roughing it by our standards, was very popular.
I purchased some Kiwi hunting magazines during our stay. While similar to ours with several hunting stories as well as ads for guns, optics, ammunition and reloading components, the New Zealand magazines devoted far more space to game preparation for the table than our magazines. This tends to reinforce my initial comment about resourcefulness. By New Zealand standards, we leave half the edible meat out on the prairie in the form of a gut pile, and I’m as guilty as any American hunter.
One particular article talked about sweetbreads. Sweetbreads are the edible glands of an animal including — but not limited to — the throat, stomach and pancreas. With kidney preparation, it recommended skinning the kidneys of a young animal and then slicing them into rings and braising them in butter. The instructions for liver were the same except for carefully removing the bile bag that is filled with green liquid.
Animal age is not so important with heart, but it did recommend heart that had some fat attached. Slicing and frying or stuffing and baking were advised. With regard to brains, first washing in cold water, and then boiling in salt water for 20 minutes was suggested. Then, simmer each side until brown and serve on hot buttered toast. With sweetbreads, cook as brains, and then slice, dip in batter and deep fry until golden brown. Most of us enjoy mountain oysters. Preparation appears to be about the same.
What I really want to get into today is the process of autolysis. In 40 years of column writing, I’ve never touched the subject, although I must admit I’ve been curious. We’ve all seen the European photos or paintings of rabbits, waterfowl or upland birds hanging on a wall and suspended by a cord around their legs. They have not been field dressed, and they supposedly hang until they glow.
Personally, I’m not anxious to try autolysis with my next pheasant, duck or cottontail. When one dresses a pheasant whose guts are already cold, it emits an odor that would make a train take a gravel road. What must it be like after a week? Anyway, the following is what the magazine, New Zealand Outdoor, has to say about autolysis.
Hang the body for a number of days. This procedure is supposed to improve flavor. We are told that the organisms or germs in the game at time of death are harmless, and will not develop into harmful growth. The aging provides more nutrients just as cheese made from sour milk does. The article strongly warns the reader about flies. Once fly larvae hatches into maggots, putrefaction occurs, and we are not to eat it. Nothing is said in the magazine about preparation as food once the autolysis process takes place.
If any readers try this, the winter season might be best with its absence of flies. The closest I’ve ever come to practicing autolysis came years ago. Art Jones of Burke and I both had our deer hanging in my garage. The temperature inside the garage hung just above freezing, and Art suggested that we leave our deer hang (they still wore their hides) until mold formed in the inside of the rib cages. We did. It took two weeks.
That was back in 1972, and I don’t remember that the meat proved to be superior to deer hung for only a few days. It must not have or I’d still be doing it. If you have done anything with aging, please let me know.
New Zealanders have silencers on their hunting rifles. Silencers are strictly illegal in our country. Their deer are a nuisance — tags are not necessary — and they hunt them year round. The silencers make it possible to keep shooting at undisturbed deer after the first animal falls. These folks eat a lot of venison!
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Last weekend I went to the Kansas City chapter’s Safari Club International show, banquet and auction. It was interesting, and I’ll tell you about it next week.