BY JOHN MACNAB
This is the first in a series of recipes using fox meat as the main ingredient. Inflation is rising, energy and food prices are going up and people are looking for cheaper alternatives to butcher meat. What better than the ready supply of free meat available from our burgeoning urban fox population? Each recipe will provide a different way of obtaining your fox and in this article, I will cover how to prepare your fox. Then there will be a recipe with serving suggestions and wine pairing advice. Happy hunting!
First kill your fox
This week I will introduce you to, what is known in urban fox hunting circles, as the ‘old classic’, the 12 bore double barrelled shotgun. Catching urban foxes almost exclusively takes place at night so some patience is required, and you need to be prepared for a long evening. Have a flask of tea and some sandwiches to hand.
For this method you can stay at home and the only requirement is a window overlooking your garden. A first floor window is preferable, but you can with care use a ground floor window. Just take care not to shoot your neighbours. If you can fit motion activated security lights so much the better, foxes are not bothered by these, it provides a clearer view of the target and alerts you from inside the house that a fox has arrived. Lay some bait—cooked meat is best—on your garden and retire to the window. Keep the window open and your gun pointing out; the trick we old urban fox hunters have learned is to minimise movement.
The next step is easy, security light comes on, a fox is sniffing the bait and, without hesitation take aim and blam! You got a fox. Try not to miss as you will scare the sh**t out of your fox, and you will have to go and clear up that mess. Please be aware that this is a time-limited strategy for killing foxes in your garden. It is great fun, but the neighbours tend to ask what the noise was and once you have done it a few times they will begin, despite your protests that you heard nothing, to suspect that it was you. Also, you may bring the wrath of the local animal rights softies down on you; and they’re a nasty humourless bunch.
Skinning a fox
This is not for the squeamish but nobody else is going to do it for you so you must learn. The process is best achieved if you can hang the fox up by one leg and you will require a knife with a very sharp point. It is purely a matter of choice whether to leave the head and the tail in place. Experienced fox skinners tend to take pride in removing the whole pelt. Make a circular incision above each of the hind paws and pull the skin down the legs. You will then need to make an incision between the legs and continue pulling the skin down to the head and off the front legs. This is the point at which the head—which will by now be wrapped inside the skin—may be removed. What you will be left with is an almost intact skinned fox.
Next the slightly messy bit. Make an incision down the whole length of the front of the fox along the transparent membrane which contains the internal organs. Once the incision is complete these will fall out and it will be obvious where to cut them and remove them near the neck and the rectum (rectum? Bloody right I did…I shot him!). You may want to keep the kidneys and other offal and freeze them and always keep the tail; that will feature in a future recipe.
You probably have not butchered an animal before but the best attitude towards this is ‘just how hard can it be?’. You need a very sharp knife for this, possibly the one you used to skin and clean the fox. But this time you need the blade to be sharp, not just the point. You will also need a large wooden cutting board. A common way to butcher an animal, and this applies to cows, rabbits and horses (oops, we don’t eat them in this country) and it is called ‘quartering’. This is quite confusing as you would think you would end up with four pieces but, in fact, you end up with more than that. Just Google ‘how to quarter a rabbit’ and apply those principles to your fox.
Or for those who like a challenge, try following my instructions. Lay the animal down on its front and with your knife remove the two front legs together with an incision across the animal just above where the legs join the body. Repeat for the rear legs. Set aside the main body with the ribs. Now place the legs on the cutting board with the legs pointing away from you and separate with an incision between them. Repeat for both sets of legs. Next place the main section of the body on the cutting board and orient it such that an incision towards you along the spine will separate the two halves of the ribs. Job done, you have quartered your first fox, something women find very attractive in a man.
Preparing the fox meat:
For this recipe you will need to remove as much meat from the animal as you can. Most of it is easy to pull off the legs but you may need some nicks with your knife to remove the meat from the ribs. Then dice the meat into half inch cubes and set aside.
- Fox meat prepared as above.
- Salt, black pepper, water, olive oil, 2 onions, 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsp. sliced ginger, 2 lemons, 1 bunch kale.
- Heat a large pan, brown the meat and remove from the pan. Heat the oil in the same pan and then chop and fry the onions and the ginger. Squeeze the lemons and add the lemon juice and once that is bubbling, add seasoning to taste and add two cupfuls of water. Bring to the boil, add the fox meat and simmer for 1 hour.
- Take the bunch of kale and put it on the compost heap; it is truly terrible stuff and people will think you are middle class.
Fox stew goes very nicely with baked potatoes or baby new potatoes with butter. If you must spoil a good dinner with other vegetables, then boil up some frozen peas. At least you’ve made an effort.
Don’t forget that you shot your animal with a shotgun so the meat will be peppered with lead shot. You can waste your time fishing it out of the meat before you cook it but most of it will fall out during cooking and will be in the jus so you can remove it then. If any remains in the meat and the kids swallow a few, just lie and tell them that a bit of lead shot won’t do them any harm and that they were not going to university anyway.
I would always go for a red wine with any stew and, as this is your first fox, killed, skinned, butchered and cooked by your own fair hand, why not celebrate? I always go for a Rioja and the best ones are those labelled ‘Reserva’. Specifically, I suggest La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 2010. At £139.94 a bottle it’s a bargain. After all, the fox was free.
- This article is dedicated to ‘Jane Macdonald’ also known as ‘Christine Hoxworth’ who spent much of yesterday contacting the advertisers on this site in an attempt to cancel them. She failed. Better luck next time. Meanwhile, bon appetit, Dear.