A visit to Maryland's Eastern Shore, where an annual festival is dedicated to all things 'rat. 1 14-ounce package smoked sausage or kielbasa The creature has lean, dark meat, full of tiny bones. One of the Abbotts skinned on a table, while other members of the family, plus Rhonda Aaron, took their places kneeling on the floor. Wet fingers with water and rub around perimeter of disk. Add cumin, Old Bay, oregano and cinnamon. Her curly red hair stays locked in a clip, her freckled hands work like weapons. "He just dibbled around with it until he finally come up with what we call the two-cut method," Abbott said. Not all of the skinners were adults. And fourth, I would try some yet-undetermined method of using hoisin sauce to flavor the muskrat, relying on bacon for added fat. 10. Not being one to shy away from a good challenge, my journey into muskrat cuisine – and the National Outdoor Show, the beating heart of muskrat culture – began. Optional: serve curry from a hollowed out pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper. This is the seat of the American federal government, the regulatory jungle of power and money, and yet so easily we forget that this is a city tucked into a rich estuary known as the Chesapeake Bay. (I never ended up running into Miss Nellie, as everybody called her; I think she stayed busy in the kitchen all day.) Add muskrat and cook for two minutes. That's where she had her muskrat. Friends and relatives have shuddered as I recounted my tribulations leading up to the contest, and I have had to justify eating this organic, free-range animal in ways I did not anticipate. All rights reserved. But first, I had to find one. Out of these cookies, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. "You can't farm in the wintertime and you have to have something to do. Flour surface of counter and roll out puff pastry to ¼-inch thickness. Growing up in the South, this self-consciousness didn’t faze us, but we didn’t know if we could expect that that tinge of hostility we are accustomed to in North Carolina – and we wrongly expected the worst. Wylie Abbott Jr. told me about guys buying whole farmhouses just with the cash they'd earned from selling pelts. Ted’s won three or four times. This isn’t like bringing home meat from the grocery store. Set aside. Rhonda Aaron is a legend. 9. Place in baking dish and bake for 2 hours, basting periodically with maple bourbon glaze. Optional: serve curry from a hollowed out pumpkin. I had fun reading it to the family. Over medium-low heat, sweat onion and garlic until translucent. In the moments following my win, I basked in the glow of an old trope: I was Kevin Costner in “Dancing with Wolves;” I was John Smith in “Pocohontas;” I was finally Ralph Macchio in “Karate Kid Part II.” My second place trophy was the magical talisman I received from the chief of the tribe, and if it weren’t so inconvenient for me to hang it from a leather cord around my neck, I would do it. Serve with Garlic Lime Yogurt. They featured Oysters, pit beef, ham and of course the Muskrat, at times a staple food of the eastern shore and still a favorite of its natives. The Crawfish Boil and Muskrat Stew Fest boasts the most unique festival menu on the East Coast and features muskrat stew, smoked muskrat, boiled crawfish, crawfish cakes, crawfish chowder, raw oysters and oyster fritters along with conventional festival food. 2 cups white mushrooms, sliced Set aside. Epicurious may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Someone may have squealed. Muskrat meat is dark red, fine grained, moist and tender, and when properly prepared, is similar in flavor to roast pork. A skinned muskrat is especially lean, and a long, slow boil would only further remove any residual fat. Slice one smoked sausage in half lengthwise, and lay the halves diagonally across the bacon square, the second half hanging over the edge to form tail. It is usually slow-cooked in a broth and was a valuable food source to Native Americans. Remove from heat and set aside. In the women's division, the four Abbotts wore T-shirts that said ABBOTTS BACK TO ATTACK and #ABBOTT STRONG. 12. Keep it clean there! Bloody flecks of ice littered my sink as I revealed a stiff, rabbit-sized animal in my bare hands. As I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, I scoffed with conquest, and placed the bowl in the refrigerator. "Jason’s won six times, so that’s 35. When we came back afterward for the evening portion, we parked again in the auxiliary lot, whence buses had been shuttling people back and forth to the school all day. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. A delegation arrives each year from Cameron Parish, Louisiana, a water-pocked place on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Houston, and the only other place anybody knows of with a robust muskrat-skinning culture. This is all in the men's competition—Abbott women are heavily overrepresented on the other side, as well. The resulting loin was about the size of a Post-It note. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. 3. … Dorchester comprises 593 square miles of land, 108 square miles of water, and for all that, a permanent crowd of about 30,000 people. Muskrat Alley Cafe: Good Breakfast - See 36 traveler reviews, 4 candid photos, and great deals for Rock Hall, MD, at Tripadvisor. 7. © 2020 Condé Nast. 2 tablespoons fish sauce "Now that was a good skinning rat," Aaron said. Baking soda can help with certain cuts of beef or offal and also tenderize. They used to be sold directly to Russia, where the luxuriantly soft fur is turned into hats and muffs, but nowadays, Aaron said, the pelts go first to China, where they're made into the accessories, and then sold onward to the north. An unusual scent, deep and fishy, wafted from the dead rodents. I asked Wylie Abbott Jr. to explain the difference between the old way and the new way. That’s considered as a rat dynasty. ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning She has been featured in a documentary film and on television not only for her multi-year sweeps of the muskrat cooking competition but also for her reign as one of the top women’s muskrat skinning champions in the history of Dorchester County. I wondered if she had decided to let someone else win in 2014. 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add the potatoes, red wine, tomato paste and spices. When I returned, I spotted Rhonda Aaron registering her dishes from a distance, and then, before I could reach her, she vanished into the thicket of camouflage and blaring geese. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. "I feel good about the skinning," she said afterward. There were a lot of ins and outs like this that Aaron explained that afternoon in her garage, going through one rat after another. In fact, the entire day would turn out to be punctuated with the sound of the two-part honks ricocheting through every hall and classroom in the building. There's a pan on the floor to her right. The bulk of their diet consists of virtually anything, including roots, grasses, leaves, and stems. We also noticed then that nary a single contestant of neurosurgeon of dead animals the. 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