Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How To Skin a Snake, Make Beautiful Snake Skins for Belts and Hatbands, and Prepare Snakemeat for Cooking or Freezer

Warning, this is rather graphic, and not for the fainthearted!

Here's how I do snakes, for the meat and beautiful skins.

First, I lop off the dead snake's head and bury it deeply, then I pour a little ammonia over the "grave" so that critters I care about won't get the notion to dig it up and play with it.

Then I hang the headless snake upside down for a few hours to bleed out. When the dripping is done to my satisfaction, I take the snake down and lay it flat. I start at the cut off head side of the snake with my knife just barely under the skin, at that exact spot where the row of belly segment "scales" meets the skin on its back. Then, CAREFULLY, ziiiip down with a super sharp knife blade. Not too deep! I don't want to poke any stinky innards. Then I do the same thing on the other side of the belly scales.

Next, carefully separate the meaty part of the snake from the mess of innards with a super sharp knife. Slide the packet of innards off, nice and easy, without rupturing anything or else, phew-ee! I find this part easier to do when I am wearing rubber gloves. For some paranoid reason, I always look around the innards for any possibility of baby snakes that might have been about to be born, had I not shot mama. They can bite, too.

After the innards are out, rinse the snake well, pat dry with a cloth. The top skin can then be peeled off in one piece. I use a dull knife to help "move" the skin off the meat, wherever it is needed. 'tis too easy to mess up a pretty skin with a super sharp knife.

You might find the most interesting things in snake bellies. I have pulled a full grown rabbit out of a 6 foot long eastern diamondback snake. The rabbit still had live "wolves" or bots squirming under its skin...These big ol' bot grub looking things are larvae of some kind of fly. The darned things will grow large under the skin of a rabbit, squirrel, dog, other critters...breathing out of holes chewed out of the host's hide. Some can get almost as big as half your thumb in length, and about as big around. I don't know why folks call them "wolves". I just call them disgusting. We don't generally shoot rabbits and squirrels for food during the "wolf" season, late spring and during summer. After the first few frosts, critters are generally parasite free. But for Mr. Rattlesnake, it was open season for rabbits.

That was weird, but the weirdest darned thing I ever saw in snake innards, was a snake's own beating heart. The rattlesnake was shot at 3 pm, here it was 9 pm, six hours later, and the heart was still beating, even though it was cut out of the snake's body. Stranger still, eight o'clock the next morning, the heart was beating, but barely. I am not making this up.

Speaking of snake reflexes, they continue moving for a while after they have been skinned. Something about removing the skin exposing nerves, I guess. If this bothers you, pop it into a bag, and freeze it for about a half hour or so.

A well done snakeskin makes a fine belt or hatband

After the skin is off, I use a dull knife or serrated rib bone or clam shell to get off every bit of whatever is not classified as "skin". Rinse well. Wash the skin by hand with detergent or soap. Rinse well. Rinse it some more. Pat the skin dry with a clean cloth.

Make a mixture of half glycerin/half boric acid (you can buy both at a drugstore). Coat both sides of the snakeskin with this mixture. With tiny nails, gently stretch and tack the edges of the skin onto a board. I like to put a length of wax paper between the skin and the board. The wax paper should be positioned so that the edges of the paper can be wrapped around the top side of the skin. This helps to conserve and hold the glycerin mixture in place, next to the skin.

Leave it like this for a couple of months. Longer is even better. Every couple of weeks, wipe off the glycerin/borax mix and renew it with a fresh application.

I have done the same thing using automobile antifreeze, instead of glycerine. I didn't care for the slight green tint on an eastern diamondback rattlesnake that I tried it on. It would probably work pretty good on a darker snake, though.

After the snakeskin has absorbed a great deal of glycering and boric acid mix for a few months, wipe the skin with a clean damp cloth, and it will be ready for any project.

How I prepare snakemeat for cooking or freezer

I clean the skinless and gutless snake with heavily salted water, and rinse well before freezing. My favorite part is the "backstrap", the two rows of muscle meat on either side of the spine. This can be chopped up and cooked like shrimp, YUM!! The flavor is delicate like lobster, almost, but sweeter.

The rest of the snake I cut into segments, then boil it in salted water (about as much salt you would cook noodles with). As soon as the meat begins to fall away from the bones, I lift the segments out, let cool...debone the meat. This meat can be used in an almost unlimited variety of recipes. It can be added to Jambalayas, Gumbos, stews, sauces. It can be added with ingredients to make patties for frying...

Although I have only eaten rattlesnake, it is my understanding that all snakes are edible. Some are said taste better than others. I heard that water moccasins taste horrible, in a cod liver oily kind of way.

There is no venom in the meat. The only poisonous part of the snake is in the head. Long after the snake is dead, reflexes are still strong, and it can still inflict damage, however unknowningly. Extreme care must be taken with the business end of a snake, dead or alive.

By the way, you may find this difficult to believe, but I used to be deathly afraid of snakes and other 'thangs'... I learned (the hard way, of course) that the more I confronted my issues head-on, the more empowered I would be. With every exposure, I grew less and less afraid...although it was just a tiny bit less, each time.

Now lookit me!!! I'm eating my durned issues for dinner.

This copyrighted material may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:


hellhound said...

Stuffed Snake Recipe

~ 1 - 3 ft. or longer or sea snake
~ 1 cup dried cornbread cubes
~ 1 tbsp oil
~ 1/2 cup beef stock
~ 1/2 stalk of celery, chopped
~ 1/2 onion,chopped
~ 1 tbsp Jack Daniels whiskey
~ 1 cup molasses
~ 1 cherry tomato

Slice down belly of snake from bottom of jaw to tail with a shallow cut. Gut the snake and throw away internals. Run gutted snake under warm tap water and remove extra blood.

In a mixing bowl, mix cornbread cubes, oil, beef stock, celery and onion. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Roll stuffing into a tube (snake) shape and insert along the inside of snake. Close up skin and sew together with cooking twine in a zig-zag pattern.

In a small mixing bowl, mix Jack Daniels and molasses. Set aside.

Place snake in a casserole dish. Make sure snake does not overlap as uneven cooking will occur.

With a cooking brush, brush snake with Jack Daniels glaze. Pour extra glaze around the snake in the casserole dish.

Place casserole dish into 275 degree oven for an hour and a half or until tender.

Remove casserole dish from oven and prop open snake's mouth. Place cherry tomato in mouth for appearance.

Serve and Enjoy! Cool


Shreela said...

I found a snake in my backyard during a weekday when all the neighbors were at work. So I decided I was going to force myself to get over my issues too.

I got my hoe and came down on that snake with all my might. The hoe landed in the middle of the snake, and both the head and tail end of that snake shot straight up into the air.

I almost puked on the snake when that happened.

I think maybe I should have someone catch a snake and teach me how to kill it better 8^)