Kangaroos are marsupials, from the large and diverse family of "macropods" (which means "large foot"). They're extremely efficient herbivores, well adapted for harsh environments- even their reproductive cycle is designed for efficiency and maximum survival of the young (they can have one growing embryo, one young in the pouch, and one outside the pouch, as well as being capable of putting an embryo into "stasis" when environmental factors are too harsh for youngsters). They're Australia's national symbol.
Generally, the name "kangaroo" commonly applies to the largest species: the red kangaroo, the antilopine kangaroo, and the eastern and western grey kangaroos. The smaller species tend to be called "wallaroos" or "wallabies", but they're all still kangaroos. Tasmania has lots of these little critters, and they're pretty cute.
They are also delicious!
|I contemplate the cuts I have to make to skin the carcass.|
I, personally, think it would be better to cull for population control, rather than letting them strip the land of available feed and start starving (with culling, the population stays stable and everyone has enough to eat- without culling, everything suffers, including the land). This means that, when I get the opportunity, I will accept culled wild game for our freezer.
A friend is a licensed cull hunter, and he helps to manage the wallaby population. Every now and then he offers me one or two of his kills, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to teach myself some "post-apocalyptic" skills. I've gotten a few field dressed animals from him, and I taught myself how to skin and butcher a wallaby.
|The freshly removed skin. I only wish I could have kept it.|
If I had really thought it through, I'd have tried save the hide by tanning it, or using whatever process was required to preserve the skin with the fur intact. Unfortunately, I didn't have the resources or the space (I understand tanning a hide can be a smelly process) to make this happen, so regretfully, I had to dispose of the fresh hide. Next time, though, I will make this happen!
|A whole wallaby haunch, plus the two shanks.|
Wallabies are basically all bum (all that muscle to power those hind legs!) so there's not much above the waist. I am determined to use as much of any animal as possible though, so I ended chopping up the neck, shoulders, forelimbs and ribs and cooking them to make broth and stew meat- I even tried drying some of the meat to make a sort of dry protein based thickener, which worked pretty well, but I also add it to my chookie chow mix as a protein kick for my laying birds.
|Carcasses are slippery- I found that using a paper towel |
helped me keep a firmer, and therefore safer, grip as I was
Start first by removing the tail at the first vertebral disc off the pelvis. If you chop this up, you have what is essentially "ox tail"- only it's from a wallaby. Cook it into a stew as you would ox tail. Next, cut around the knee joints until you have removed the lower legs. These are the shanks, and can be cooked like lamb shanks- in fact, they make a great substitution for lamb shanks. I like them slow cooked in a Moroccan style stew. Now you can cut around the muscles that attach the thighs to the pelvis- these are your roasts. I know they're pretty small, but for a two person household, a wallaby thigh roast is actually a decent meal. Cook in a roasting pan with potatoes and carrots, with herbs, like you would a lamb or pork roast. Once you're own to the back and pelvis, it's a matter of getting a flexible boning knife and cutting off all the meat you can- cube this up and use it for stir fries, skewers, stews, etc. Once you're down to the bones, make more bone broth and make some soup with the leftover meat that falls off.
A wallaby can give us (a two person household) five to six decent meals, plus several liters of stock and probably another meals worth of meat for soup, so for what is essentially a small game animal, that is a considerably good use of freezer space- and it helps the environment as well by controlling the population to keep it within sustainable levels.
Lastly- what is kangaroo meat like? It's like venison. Very lean, dark red meat, with a gamey flavor. The local wallaby is a little darker, and has a stronger but also slightly sweet flavor. For a wild animal, the meat is surprisingly tender.
I'll see you tomorrow with a new blog. Keep on living and learning!