Well, it's done. Last night I pulled the possum out of the fridge and wrestled it into a pie. As it baked away in the oven my stomach was in knots - would it be good, would it be ok, would it be edible? I had searched the internet to no avail and none the game recipe books at the library made any mention of possums, even in the sidebar. What was I to do? I had to make it up.
The one note I had read at the library mentioned that cooking game in wine helped reduce the chewiness that is often associated with game. So some wine, stock, juniper berries and sage all went into cooking the meat. Lovely strong flavours to complement the possum. And what to put with the possum? Well, kumera seemed like a good place to start, a semi-wild food as well, the sweetness of it might help balance the strong gamey flavour. Then carrots and beets, two tasty, earthy foods drenched in the gravy made from the stock liquid and wrapped in a flakey pastry crust. I mean, how does that not sound good? Oh yeah, possum.
While the pie cooked away in the oven I was also concerned with what I might serve it with. I'm used to meat pies, and game meats in general, being served with a delicious fruity chutney to contrast the richness of the meat. Unfortunately, all I had in the freezer were blackberries (another semi-wild food here) so they would have to do. I was surprised and a little hopeful at the glorious (and very rich) smells that were emanating from the kitchen - perhaps not all was lost.
After almost at hour in the oven, the crust was nicely browned and I wanted a taste, so I pulled it out of the oven and cut myself a piece. It certainly smelled good. I dropped some chutney on the plate beside it and tucked in.
It was delicious. Amazing. Very rich and tasty with pockets of sweet, earthy beets. Wow!
I took it next door where we were meeting with our neighbours and offered it out. There was certainly a poor reception to start, but once Stephen (he had to taste it - it was our dinner that night) said it was good, a few of the braver folk tasted it and came to similar conclusions. Yessss!!!
So I have attached the possum recipe here in case anyone else in the world decides one day to give it a go. I found about 4 different recipes on the internet (all involving lots and lots of chili peppers) so this will vastly improve the culinary choices for cooking with possum. I hope those of you who try it enjoy it as much as we did.
Awesome Possum Pie
*Note: make sure you have a freshly killed (ie., not poisoned, or diseased) possum and age it appropriately in a cool place. We left ours in the fridge for a good 3-4 days. Also, the fat on possums is not good, so remove as much as possible before cooking it.
1 small possum, skinned, cleaned and jointed
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 - 1 1/2 cups red wine, Merlot was good
10 juniper berries
4 sage leaves
6-8 kumera, depending on size
a knob of butter
a splash of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 small beets
~1 Tbsp. butter
~1Tbsp. flour (equivalent to however much butter you put in - you're making a roux)
1. While jointing the possum, try to remove as much of the thin film covering the meat as possible, this will save time later. Place in a stock pot with stock, wine, juniper berries and sage leaves and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature and simmer covered for ~1 1/2 hours.
2. Peel and chop kumera, place in boiling water and cook until soft. Drain water and place pot back on stove (heat turned off, the element should still be warm), mash kumera with butter and milk until you desired consistency of mash is produced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Chop carrots into small cubes. Set aside.
4. Slice beets thinly and place on pan. Oil lightly and bake in oven at 200oC/400oF until soft, about 20 minutes.
5. Make flakey pastry of choice and chill in fridge.
6. Remove possum from pot, retaining stock liquid for later. Once the possum has cooled to touch, remove as much meat from the bones as possible and place it in a bowl. Discard bones.
7. Now, make the gravy. Place the butter in a pot and cook over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the flour and stir until mixed. Keep stirring a little longer to toast the roux (this adds a little flavour and removes the floury taste). Add 3/4 - 1 cup of possum stock liquid (skim off the fat) and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and heat until the desired consistency is reached.
8. Add your meat and the carrots and beets, mix until everything is evenly coated. Pour into prepared crust. Spread the kumera mash over top and place in 200oC/400oF oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.
Best served with a lovely berry chutney. Mine was made with frozen blackberries (recipe at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2643/spicy-blackberry-chutney).
PS. In New Zealand it is a widely known fact that possums are carriers of Bovine TB which humans can contract. However possums who contract this disease usually die within 6 months and are extremely rare to find (~2% chance of finding a possum carrying it). Other wild game, like deer, chamois and hare can also be carriers of this disease, but no one mentions this. . . .is there perhaps some bias here. To learn more, check out http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/infosheets/possums/possums_tb.pdf