Fun with fermentations: Drunk raccoons

My 10-year-old daughter asked me today, what are yeast?

I started into one of my typical speeches about the difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, the role of the nucleus and fun with fermentations.

We have some basic microbiological work to do, and the French professor reminded me I was talking to a 10-year-old.

I reminded the French professor she should stick to French.

But if I’m going to teach her hockey basics, I guess I can teach her some micro, and she can teach me about art (she’s really talented; and that applies to both mother and daughter).

Hockey player and veterinarian, Scott Weese of the Worms and Germs blog, writes that rabies and distemper are the two things that come to mind first when a raccoon is acting strangely. Rabies is a big concern because it can also be transmitted to people. Distemper is also a viral infection, caused by canine distemper virus, and is transmissible to dogs and some wildlife species, but is not zoonotic. Raccoons are very susceptible to distemper and infections and outbreaks are common. If raccoon rabies is present in the area, we need to err on the side of caution and treat an abnormal raccoon as potentially rabid until proven otherwise. If raccoon rabies isn’t in the area, an abnormal raccoon is generally assumed to have distemper (but rabid raccoons can hitch rides on vehicles, so we can’t rule out rabies completely without testing).

But there is one other possible cause for a raccoon to be acting somewhat drunk… alcohol.

A story from last fall (yes, I’m a bit slow) in the Washington Post describes a rabies scare in West Virginia, where the raccoons were ultimately determined to have been intoxicated by alcohol. No, they hadn’t raided a liquor store – it turns out they’d been eating fermented crab apples.

Surprisingly (and good to hear), they weren’t euthanized right away because of their abnormal behavior. Just like we do for any other drunken mammalian species, the raccoons were held until they sobered up, and were then sent on their way. A picture of one of the young offenders was released by the Milton (W. Va) Police Department. It’s much cuter than the typical mug shot.

Drunk or not, it’s still a good idea to stay away from raccoons, especially in southern Ontario.

How about possums? Raccoon meat for sale at L.A. supermarket, store under investigation

An Asian supermarket in Temple City has come under fire for selling dead raccoons after a video circulated on social media showed bodies of the animals in the frozen meat section.

racoonChristina Dow posted the video she filmed Monday at Metro Supermarket in the 4800 block of Temple City Boulevard, showing the frozen raccoons in plastic bags along with packages of meat and fish. Dow pleaded with her Facebook followers to share the video.

According to Dow’s Facebook page, she found seven to eight “freshly slaughtered raccoons” inside the supermarket freezer. She noted the dead raccoons were fully intact and the fur bloody.

“Is this right or what?” she says on the video.

The raccoons were apparently sold for $9.99 per pound. One particular raccoon was sold for roughly $54.

An employee at the supermarket told the Los Angeles Times that health inspectors had hauled out their supply of dead raccoons on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department would not confirm whether it removed the dead raccoons.

But it said the department was investigating.

According to the department, a raccoon would be considered a “game animal” under the California Health and Safety Code and could be sold.

But it could be sold only if it’s from an approved source and is not considered an endangered or threatened animal by the Department of Fish & Game.

The supermarket employee, who declined to give his name, said the owner of the supermarket is avoiding media calls.

Along with selling exotic meats, the 12,000-square-foot Chinese supermarket has its own farm, delivering vegetables and fruit daily, according to its website.

Zoo animals for dinner – Why not?

In a form of logic that only the Brits could come up with, The Independent argues that if a recent listeria-related recall of turkey breast and ham by a Texas firm is casting doubt on Thanksgiving plans, then why not go for exotic meats, like the deer and turkeys in my backyard in downtown Manhattan (Kansas).

Not quite sure how the editors at The Independent got to zoo animals in the headline.

Chef Dave Arnold, director of culinary technology at the International Culinary Center’s French Culinary Institute, blogs in a Nov. 8 blog entry written for Popular Science magazine’s Web site, that those who prefer tougher meat should enjoy wild game even more than standard meat and poultry, which he says are generally butchered young to ensure tenderness, and lack the flavor of their full-grown counterparts.

Arnold’s tastes are nothing new – during the Middle Ages, bear meat consumption was symbolic, and bear paws are still considered a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine. Beaver meat has been eaten by indigenous North American populations for generations.

Upscale Chicago eatery Moto served a road kill raccoon dish back in 2008, and this past June an Arizona restaurant owner caused a public uproar when he put lion burgers on his menu.

Exotic meats are generally avoided due to concerns over bacterial contamination and animal cruelty. However, in light of recent fears of listeriosis sparked by common meats found in neighborhood supermarkets, people may be more willing to step out of their comfort zones this Thanksgiving.

But no one got sick in the listeria positive recall cited in the story because at least someone was looking (in this case, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service). And the public was warned. Recalls are not the same as outbreaks.

Dave Arnold’s Low-Temperature Game Cooking Notes

In all cases sear the meat first and put into Zip-loc bags with butter. Cook in an immersion circulator for the prescribed times, then sear again for a minute or two per side on high heat.

Yak: cook at 56°C for 24 hours. Rich and gamey, with notes of duck.

Lion: 57°C for 24 hours. Tastes like pork but richer.

Black bear: 57°C for 3 hours. Tastes a little bloody and metallic. Younger bears are reportedly better.

Beaver tail: 60°C for 48 hours. Woodsy, delicious.

Duck, and birds that cook like duck (teal, widgeon): 57-58°C for 45 minutes to an hour for the breast. Braise the legs.

Squab: 56°C for 45 minutes for the breast. Braise the leg.

Raccoon: I recommend cooking raccoon in a traditional braise.