George Ricks has many talents, but he said coon cooking is not at the top of the list.
For that, he turned to friend Al Travis, who he met in college when they both majored in biology.
The 57-year-old Travis lives in the house he grew up in located in rural 6th Ward in St. Helena Parish.
I found him in his front yard stoking a natural wood fire in his big fire pit. He had one “helper” already present and more expected to arrive.
“No telling who will turn up this evening,” Travis drawled. “When they see that fire, they start coming.
“This is what we do on weekends. We get a bunch of friends together and we cook, whether it’s hot or freezing cold outside. We always build a fire. It’s mostly game we cook; I even cooked a rattlesnake this August. It was OK — a little fishy for me.”
He does more than cook, though. Travis’ biggest hobby, even bigger than deer hunting and speckled trout fishing, is trapping — both with leg-hold traps and snares.
“I trap coyotes, hogs, coons and bobcats,” he said. “I cooked one of them (bobcats) once; t tasted just like a pork chop.”
Travis is a serious hobby trapper. He learned the art from his Uncle Lige Travis, who taught him “every aspect of trapping.”
When Travis was in college, he trapped for the money, selling $4,000 worth of furs in 1978.
As more arrivals drifted in, they took their places around the cheery fire. There was something primal about it — grown men imbibing beverages around a fire, watching meat sizzle and talking about politics, cooking, hunting and trapping.
Oh, as for the coon, it was tender as butter: sweet and mild, much less gamey and tenderer than the venison cutlets cooked on the grates at the same time.
Here’s a recipe:
The seasoning blend referred to in the ingredient list below is a frozen mixture of onions, celery, green and red onions, and parsley.
Travis noted that charcoal can be substituted for the oak wood in the fire pit, but wood warms them while they cook on cold nights.
2 full-grown raccoons with musk glands removed
Ice water slush to cover the raccoons
1/4 cup concentrated liquid shrimp and crab boil
2 10-oz. bags of frozen seasoning blend
2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 cup bacon drippings
2 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. paprika
3 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Soak the raccoons for half a day in enough ice water slush to cover them. After soaking, remove and discard the heads, feet, and as much body fat as possible.
Put the raccoons in a pot with enough water to cover them, and begin heating the water on high. Add the shrimp and crab boil, and the seasoning blend; then cover. Boil for 1 hour, and then check the raccoons for tenderness. If not tender, boil an additional half hour or until tender.
While the water is boiling, build a fire with oak wood in a fire pit. Blend the barbecue sauce, bacon drippings, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika and Worcestershire sauce, and set it aside. Remove the tenderized raccoons from the boiling pot and place them whole on the pit grates. Baste them liberally and often with the basting sauce until done. Carve and serve. Serves 6.