Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tapping the Inner Surgeon

{Author's note: before I snatch myself bald and start screaming in frustration, I will now stop trying to upload photos on Blogger. It just ain't working!}

{Imagine here a lovely photo of a handsome caribou bull with very impressive rack. Go to if you'd like to see one.}

This morning’s task always brings out the anatomist in me. It was time to get the caribou forequarter that Sinka gifted us into the stew pot. Caribou is a lean, dark red meat that turns out most tender and flavorful when cooked by a long, slow, wet process. The Crock Pot is perfect.

{Here should be a photo of the skinned, intact forequarter on the newspaper-covered kitchen table with my very impressive large butcher knife.}

There are two ways to go about this. I could just start hacking down to the bone in any sort of haphazard fashion, and it would come out fine. But I just can’t resist carefully dissecting each major muscle group off of the scapula, humerus, and single forearm bone (ulna? Radulna? Any vets out there?). It takes a bit longer, but is lots more fun. The comparison to human anatomy is fascinating.

{Here should be a great shot of my clean dissection with the muscles of the posterior scapula reflected.}

Caribou are not large animals. A full grown male weighs about 500 pounds, and both male and female have antlers. They are herd animals, and congregate in large numbers, sometimes in the thousands. A huge herd is resident in the area east of here, a large tundra plain between the Kuskokwim River and the Kuskokwim Mountains about 75 miles away. The herd has historically numbered around thirty thousand animals. They periodically migrate into areas close to Bethel or one of the many villages along the river, and then they are hunted pretty heavily.

Caribou skin is prized by Native skin sewers; the fur is very soft and warm, and the hide is not difficult to pierce with a needle. It is also very lightweight. The individual hairs of a caribou are not solid, they are like tiny straws; this holds an insulating layer of warm air within the fur. A whole caribou skin makes a wonderful addition to a bedroll; it both cushions and protects the sleeper from the cold ground. The thicker parts of the fur are often used to make mukluks, knee-high fur boots that are very warm in winter.

My caribou forequarter started out weighing about ten pounds. Out of that I got about four pounds of meat. I chopped it into cubes, floured and browned them in an iron skillet, and now they are marrying the potatoes, carrots, and onions I put on top of them.

Anybody hungry?



Blogger wolfbaby said...

Being as that I am not a doc and never been a hunter I am almost glad you couldn't post the pics LOL however it does sound like a tasty dish:)

Thursday, June 01, 2006 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

i'll take a serving please, mmmmm.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

Wolfbaby--they weren't really any worse than what you see at the butcher's counter in the grocery store. Just a little more obvious in the anatomic origin. And the stew turned out quite tasty indeed!

Dr. C--you bet! Coming right up, and how about some fresh, hot cornbread with that? I'm delighted you could stop by, you are one of my favorite bloggers! Pleased to sort of meet you... and do visit any time.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 6:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Pam said...

Blogger is easier than some formats for photos, here is a suggestion I use at a word press site.--

Images and thumbnails -

Friday, June 02, 2006 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Omigosh...caribou is the best (red) meat I've ever eaten...


Saturday, June 03, 2006 1:08:00 PM  
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