We don't encourage the routine killing of opossum for food. However, it is considered acceptable to cook and eat any possum found lying dead along the road after recently being hit by a car.
In military survival training we are taught to never kill a possum just for the fun of it because they are one of the few animals in the wild that a man can catch with his bare hands-well, you'll need a stick or a rock too. (Porcupines and snakes are in a similar category.) Of course, if you really need the meat for your family, that's a whole 'nother story.
Round here you don't have to hunt very far to find a possum; you don't even need a gun. Just go out and walk along the roadside.
Remove as much hair and fat as possible from the animal after he is skinned. Also, they can be soaked in salt water or vinegar water in the cellar overnight before cooking, or if you are fortunate enough to have an icebox, that will work too. You can simmer him for a spell in water with salt and pepper before cooking. Simmer until meat begins to become tender.
Since the meat does have a "different" flavor, you may wish to serve it with sauerkraut, sweet-sour red cabbage, radishes, barbecue sauce, A-1 Steak Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, etc. Possum don't taste nothin' like chicken.
Vegetarians can eat the vegetables and toss the possum after cooking. Since road kill would be considered accidental death; they could still claim they did not kill an animal for food. "Vegetarian" in these parts of the mountains means "A man who can't hunt."
Baked sweet potatoes and possum continue to be a local favorite. Persimmons, also a local native plant, are also a favorite among connoisseurs of fine dining.
You can add or subtract from the following list of ingredients depending on what you have ripe in your garden at the time, what needs to come out of the cellar, or what is left over at the end of the day at the farmer's market.
Charlie Sommers' way of preparing possum:
Charlie says possum should never be skinned. Like a pig, a possum should be scalded and scraped. The skin helps hold in the delicious possum juices and makes an admirable crackling. Leave the possum whole. After scalding and scraping, the possum should be gutted and washed. While scalding use water at a temperature of approximately 160F, if your water is too hot the hair will be "set" rather than loosened and you will have a mess on your hands. If you can plunge your hand into the water 3 times but are leery of the 4th time your temperature is about right. Stuff your possum with sweet potatoes and sew him closed. Bake in about a 350F oven until tender; time will vary depending on the age of the possum (try for young possums). Serve with pinto beans, turnip greens, and glasses of Jack Daniels, if you must have dessert he suggests persimmons or paw paws.
Charlie says he got the method of cleaning possum from William Hill who was born in Tennessee about 1870.
Mothman Possum Stew
1 possum, cut-up
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
4 carrots, cut in thick slices
1 small can whole kernel corn
1 can whole tomatoes
1 bell pepper sliced
2 zucchini cut in large pieces
1/2 head cabbage cut in large pieces
8 ounces tomato juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
10 drops Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
Brown possum in oil in a Dutch oven or heavy skillet. Add all ingredients except potatoes, cabbage, pepper, and zucchini. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer another 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Mason County is home of the legendary Mothman for which this delicacy is named.
Roasted Sassafras Possum
1 skinned and dressed possum cut-up
3 cups sliced carrots
6 cups onions, quartered
6 cups potatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic minced
1 can cream of mushroom or celery soup
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups water
Salt and pepper
Note: Ramps can be substituted for onions.
Brown possum in a little grease in an ovenproof iron pot then remove pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Arrange possum artfully on top. Bake covered at 350 degrees F for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Please note there is no sassafras in the recipe; it gets its name because in Sassafras, Mason County, where I grew up, this is considered an ethnic food.
Some hillbillies use to gnaw on sassafras roots all winter and lived to be 100 but now they claim it ain't good for you.
Coon Hound Possum Gravy
1 fat possum cut-up
cooking oil or grease
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 onion, chopped and sauteed
1/2 cup sherry or homemade wine
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry possum in large pan or Dutch oven beyond the point of being well done. Fish out possum pieces and feed meat to hound-dog (don't feed him the bones as he might get choked). Add water and stir up crunchies. Thicken with flour and water. Mix remaining ingredients and add to pan. Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve gravy over biscuits.
Making good gravy suitable for biscuits that you would be proud to serve your man requires years of practice and apprenticeship under your momma. If you are having trouble with the flour and water thing and your momma is up the river--ask your granny. Don't kick your hound if it doesn't turn out right the first time.
West Virginia-Mex Possum Stew
1 lean possum cut-up (lean is probably winter kill)
1 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (4 ounces) green chili peppers ( adjust for your taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces red wine (optional)
1 small can whole kernel corn
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans
1 can (15 ounces) canned tomatoes
1 can beef broth or two cups water
1 package taco seasoning mix
Dredge meat in flour to coat. Brown pieces in hot skillet in cooking oil. Add remaining ingredients. Stir and cover. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours stirring occasionally. Can also make in a slow cooker. Serve with rice. Place a large bag of corn chips in center of table. Shredded Cheddar cheese and sour cream make this a real gourmet dish. Forget the avocado; folks who eat possum don't eat avocados.
Below are some of our family secret recipes.
Leah's Fried Bologna Sandwich
Two slices of bologna (preferably Cavalier brand from the local gas stations)
One slice mouse cheese (the kind with holes in it) from same source
Miracle Whip salad dressing
Pickles-zesty bread and butter chips
1/2-inch slice home grown tomato from Brookie's garden
Two slices home-made bread
Remove outer wrapper from bologna. Make four 1/2-inch equidistant cuts in the outer edge to prevent cupping while frying. Fry in small amount of cooking oil until brown in places. When done, place cheese between hot bologna and combine bologna with other ingredients to make sandwich. Eat while bologna is hot. Serve pickles on side. Goes good with cider.
Leah is my little sister who helped raise me up right.
Mothman Bean Soup
1 1/2 cup little navy beans
2 slices bacon or ham
Salt and pepper
Wash and rinse beans in cold water three times. Cover beans in cold water. Bring to boil and boil 10 minutes. Pour off water and rinse. Add fresh water two inches above beans. Add 2 slices bacon or cut-up sliced ham. Cook slowly for three hours stirring occasionally and add water as needed. One hour before finished, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cornbread and fried potatoes. Garnish with chopped raw onions if desired.
This is called "Mothman Bean Soup" because it will make you disappear into a cloud of gas.
Leah's Chicken and Noodles
2 chicken breasts
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 heaping tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
Mashed potatoes (leaving a few lumps)
Boil chicken breasts in 1 quart water until done. Remove chicken and lay on plate until cool; preserve liquid. Add chicken bullion cubes to liquid and bring to boil. Add egg noodles and when almost done cut up chicken into pieces and add to noodles. Cook noodles longer than package directs (about 15 min.). (Cooking longer makes noodles softer.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix a thickening with flour and milk until thin enough to pour and add to noodles and stir while pouring. Keep adding milk until it looks good. (Those are the only words I could get out of her) Cook until thickening cooks up and mixes with noodles. Place a large serving of mashed potatoes on each plate and form a bowl in the center of the potatoes. Fill the bowl with the chicken and noodles.