Alligator Week

And now I will do what no one in the history of blogs has done before – follow up a post about selling t-shirts at a Hanson concert with a post about cooking alligator.  Natural progression right?

Here at the Johnsons, we’ve been experiencing Alligator week, which is kinda like Shark Week but more involved. And I think its been more like 3 weeks.  Mississippi now has an official alligator hunting season.  Its kind of a newish thing, and they give out a limited number of permits to lucky applicants every year.  My husband’s good friend was a lucky recipient of a permit, and so began the preparations for the Great Alligator Hunt of ’13.  First off, the permit allows you to hunt two gators:  one as big as you can find, and one that’s less than 7 feet long.

Here’s an overview of how to catch these reptiles, but anyone who’s seen an episode of Swamp People knows almost as much as me about this subject:

  1. Troll around in a boat from dusk till dawn looking for glowing eyes.
  2. Throw a hook at your chosen alligator and reel him in.  {This part is easier said than done, so I’ve heard}
  3. Once you get him secured, shoot him in the brainstem with a shot gun to sever his spinal cord from his brain.
  4. Figure out how to heft the beast into your boat.

My husband’s group was pretty successful this year.  On approximately Night #3, the team caught a 12′ long beast and decided he was ‘the one’.  And yes, its very much a team sport because these gators weigh many hundreds of pounds.  I don’t have any pictures of the Big One because it all went down in the middle of the night.  So instead, here’s a picture of one recent state record holder (13’6.5″, 471 lbs):

Photo from the Clarion Ledger

Looks like some distortion is kind of ‘sensationalizing’ this gator photo, but hey.  I like sensational stuff.

This guy was only the record holder for a couple of days and its already been de-throned.  Some other big gators were splashed all over the national news, but each only held the state record for a few days.  Nobody really expects this record to last long either.  Big gators abound, apparently.  (That’s probably why we now have a hunting season I suppose.)

So anyway, August’s friend sold the Big One to some real swamp people in Louisiana.  And that brings us to the Little One.

littleoneThe Lil Gator

He was harvested the following week, and because of the hassle factor involved in selling the gators, he came home to the Johnson residence for final arrangements.

The final processing included skinning the alligator in order to use the skin for _____ (I have no idea what.  Gator skin belt buckles? )  The skin is currently being stored in some brine solution in a garbage can in our shop until we procure the appropriate tanning supplies.  I will potentially update you on that adventure when it happens.

And that brings us to the meat.  August harvested about 2-3 lbs of tail meat from the Little One.  There was more but they weren’t really sure if it was “good quality” or “too fatty” and they don’t cover “processing” on Swamp People, so we really just don’t know.  Apparently alligator fat is to be avoided at all costs cause it tastes TERRIBLE.  There was also meat behind the jaws that would’ve been good but hadn’t been properly iced during storage.  Live and learn.

IMG_1811Half of the tail meat.

And what to do with 2 lbs of alligator tail?  Its often fried like chicken nuggets, but I decided that the best course of action would be to consult Mr. Emeril Lagasse, who I thought was Cajun but is apparently Canadian.  Whatever…  So I followed Emeril’s “Stewed Alligator in Creole Sauce” recipe to the letter, not wanting to mess up our precious alligator meat.  The recipe starts with a typical Cajun ‘holy trinity’ (bell peppers, onions, and celery) and finishes with two sticks of butter.

stew

I actually made a double batch and it turned out pretty good.  Not ‘knock your socks off’ good, but tasty.  The alligator itself tastes like…. Nothing at all.  For a creature that spends its entire life eating dead stuff in murky water, the meat is surprisingly tasteless.  The texture is somewhere between chicken and fish, but not at all bad.  I wouldn’t even class it as “weird”.  Shocking, really.  So if you do find yourself with the opportunity to cook some alligator (I know, fat chance…), well, take the opportunity.  The stuff is seriously not weird, which is SO weird to me, but anyways.

A few tips…

  • The Prep Time estimate of 10 minutes is WAY low.  That is the time it took Emeril’s gaggle of Food Network minions to do all the peeling and chopping.  Plan for more like an hour of prep time.
  • Buy canned whole tomatoes and chop.  I peeled my own (blanched and everything)… not worth the hassle.
  • If I get this opportunity next year, I might season the meat with cajun seasoning and let it ‘marinate’ a bit before cooking.
  • On second thought, next year I may try an etouffee instead.
  • Its a nearly Paleo recipe – just sub the worchester for something else and you’re good to go.
  • And for the rest of you guys who are not in the Deep South and have no access to alligator – you could easily sub chicken.  It’d be a great homemade soup for lunches, etc.
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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

4 responses to “Alligator Week”

  1. Anonymous says :

    M-D says: Fascinating post! And speaking of gators, Noxubee Refugee recently lost a 14’2″ gator to “natural causes.” There are some big critters out in these southern waters!

    • Mary-Hall says :

      I know August is generally unimpressed by the state record holders, and he seems pretty confident that the bar will keep going up. Mr. 14’2″ would be good evidence toward his point.

  2. pbrowder says :

    I really enjoyed this post as Rick is an avid hunter so I have had to learn to cook deer in a variety of ways, as well as wild turkey,duck, dove, quail, and pheasant. He also has tanned and mounted a 6 ft rattlesnake skin after almost stepping on it in our woods. So he would be most envious of your husband and his chance at an alligator.

  3. bethanybordeaux says :

    Um, this is amazing. While it was fantastic to see you in Nashville this weekend, I kinda wish I could have seen the gator. :)and for the record, I’m commenting on this alligator blog fromYosemite, so that has to be some sort of record as well.

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