Seal fins are a time-sensitive delicacy: they are fresh and available at this time of the year. Andie Bulman bought her seal meat from the Treats at the Sea Seafood Truck. (Paul Daly / CBC)
Seal meat is difficult to describe – it’s dark and pithy, wild and fishy at the same time. While the fat in pork and beef is marbled and intramuscular, seal fat is an omega-3 laden liquid oil that permeates the meat, meaning the whole thing is nutrient-rich and has a silky smooth texture.
The seal meat market is relatively small. Thousands of seals are killed for pelts, and that healthy seal fat is turned into oil and capsules, but only bags of humans enjoy the meat.
Sure, the stigma surrounding the hunt might put off potential consumers, but I think most people are just intimidated by the unusual texture and don’t know how to cook with it.
My instinct is to bake a cake when presented with a fin.
My point of contact with a loin? Probably a roast made of cherries from my freezer, braised in wine and served with crusty bread.
This is me. There must be other things you can do right?
I’ve reached out to chefs and harvesters for new ideas, tips, and tricks for cooking with seals.
Let’s do a favor
A few years ago a friend raved about an amazing seal curry they tried. Jerry Joy, the owner of Indian Express, was the man in charge.
Joy has been working at Beachy Cove Café in Portugal Cove for two years but plans to move to Hunt’s Lane in St. John’s. He is aiming to get the new food truck up and running by May 1st, but suspects things may be delayed a bit.
Jerry Joy praised his seal curry. Submitted by Jerry Joy
“There are permits and other things that delay the opening so I can miss the rest of the sealing season, but don’t worry,” he told me. “My seal shells will be back.”
Joy’s seal curry is celebrated, but he’s also created a seal vindaloo and a seal hakka. “Hakka is a kind of fusion cuisine that combines Indian and Chinese flavors – it’s mostly Chinese, but it has Indian earthiness,” he said. “For this dish I broke the seal and fried it and threw it in a Manchurian sauce.”
While the curry dish was the best seller, Joy preferred the vindaloo.
“I think the acidity of the vinegar and garlic cuts through the bliss of the seal. It just works well.”
Cozy mood and slow cooking
Amy Anthony took care of the movie sets, worked at Mallard Cottage, ran the kitchen at The Ship and launched the menu with the opening of Bannerman Brewery. Despite not making the official announcement, she is preparing to open her own restaurant.
“”I’m renovating and redesigning the room in the old Big R on Harvey Road. I aim for a mood that’s a little bit mid-century and a little bit cozy, “she said.” I want brunch, live music, warm tones, all the things that I love most about happiness and food. “
The left cook Amy Anthony serves the guests at a fundraiser in 2018. (John Pike / CBC)
Anthony is also no stranger to working with seal meat.
“My favorite method of cooking seals is slow and low with a pile of hot chillies, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and kefir lime leaves,” she said. “Then pull it like you’re pulling pork [and] Throw it in a homemade corn tortilla with spicy aioli, pickled red onions, and fresh coriander. “
When Anthony was the ship’s chef, she displayed a seal on a memorable popcorn dish. “We served this with coriander aioli. I could eat that until my face fell off.”
She has similar plans for her menu in her new business. “You will see all kinds of games on the menu,” she said, adding that her sense of humor could be incorporated into the menu as well.
“I was trying to figure out how to make a seal ‘club’ house sandwich the other day because I feel funny and welcome PETA and protests outside my not-yet-opened doors … to more than educate them.”
“Don’t be afraid to try something new”
Taylor Reid of Chapel Arm is a one of a kind 17 year old. She is an avid hunter and goes into the forest with her father at a young age. In fact, Reid makes the pageant circle and writing essays on sustainable hunting is one of her talents.
Reid has just completed her seal harvesting course and will be on the water soon. “I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve helped my dad hunt since I was around seven years old, but having my own license is special,” she said.
Reid loves working with the tender meat and looks forward to the festival all year round. “I like to put the seal ribs in a Dutch oven and put some salt and pepper, fatback, butter, and some water on the bottom,” she said.
She then cooks the whole thing “for a long time” at 350 degrees Fahrenheit to make it “really tender”.
She’s also a huge fan of bucking. “I like to take whatever piece of seal meat I want and cut long strips that aren’t too thick or too thick. I season with honey garlic, but you could really use anything as long as the taste works for you.” She said. “I keep it in the dehydrator until it’s tough.”
The biggest tip Reid has to offer people new to meat sealing: “Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
She adds, “Don’t be put off if you don’t like it the first time. Sometimes all you need to do is figure out what works for you and play around.”
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