Friday, January 24, 2014

Sour coon pfeffer (racoon pickled in onions and sour wine)

I ask you.

(Photo from wikipedia.)

I have become passionately devoted, if I wasn't already, to library cast off book sales, and especially to rummaging about on shelves and in boxes thereat, hunting for old obscure cooking pamphlets. There's no end to the gems, from no end of sources -- very often from foodstuffs manufacturers or kitchen appliance manufacturers (whose recipes can be quite good), or from women's civic groups or church groups. A recent favorite is Right eating ... keeps you swinging' published by the Carnation canned milk company in 1964, and intended for an audience of older teens and young adults about ready to go out on their own for the first time. ("Why be healthy? Because it's so much more fun than being unhealthy." Very true.)

Now I happen to have been just thumbing through Favorite Recipes from New Glarus, Wisconsin, published by the New Glarus Tourism Association sometime before September 3, 1977, which is the date inscribed inside the cover by a previous owner of the pamphlet. It looks very clean and unused, by the way. Many of the recipes in this one are followed by an explanatory little sentence, as "a family favorite," "an Amish favorite," "we have prepared this for Christmas in our home for 55 years." I'm sure the ladies were all encouraged to tell a little something about their treasures, when they sent them in to be considered for inclusion in the pamphlet. And every single recipe is followed by the name and address of the proud donor. On every page the pale brown typescript opens up vistas of generations gone by, and of a thousand private lives on a thousand shady American streets. Is the Kundert family of New Glarus still making Zueri Bieter every Thanksgiving? And is Mrs. Purdue of Canyon Road East in Puyallup, Washington, still known -- or perhaps her daughter or granddaughter is -- for Apples Wilhelm Tell? (She very properly credits Marcel Forster of Marcel's Pastry Shop in Seattle with the apple concoction. "I have changed it somewhat.") I'm indebted to a Mrs. Snyder of Mullens, West Virginia, for a recipe for Mock Oysters which is, incredibly, nothing but elderberry blossoms fried in butter.

But nothing is more incredible than this, which I give in full, not forgetting the unorthodox spelling of raccoon. It's on page 33, and comes from the New Glarus fire department, which seems perfectly right. Only strong men could cope with it.

Sour Coon Pfeffer

8 to 9 racoons
salt and pepper
pickling spices
sour wine

Clean all fat from racoons and cut up. Soak one day in strong salt water. Then drain and rinse. Place in stone crock, a layer of meat at a time, salt and pepper each layer and add a few slices of onion to each layer. Put pickling spices in tea balls or sack (1 pak to 4 racoons). Cover with sour wine; let stand 3 days in refrigerator. Using the wine it was soaked in, cook in a roaster at 350 F for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Serves 40.

I'll bet it does. And I'm puzzled by the idea of having access to a whole lot of sour wine. What kind of wine, originally? Did the firemen buy it up cheap and let it sit around for a year or two? But then, procuring enough of that ingredient would in a way seem to be the least of the cook's problems here.

Because, really. I ask you.

I think we had better stick with this.

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