In this week’s By Thistle By Thimble story "The Road to the Old Stone Chapel", Mr. Shields has a bit of trouble with beavers when a beaver pond conflicts with his plans to repair the road to his chapel. Luckily, all ends well for both the beavers and Mr. Shields when Mr. Shields gets a lesson in how to live in cooperation with the surrounding wilderness.
If your surrounding climate has forced you indoors more than you would like, why not, likewise, embrace the chill by spending some time in front of a warm stove making beaver tails?
Don’t worry—this isn’t a recipe for actual beaver! Beaver tails are a traditional Canadian fried pastry, which is made in the distinctive oblong shape of a beaver’s tail. Covered in cinnamon and sugar—or topped with honey, lemon, or jam—a batch of hot beaver tails makes a cozy winter treat.
I’m including a recipe for the dough below, but in a pinch you could also use homemade or store bought pizza dough.
Frying these perfectly may take a few tries to get the knack of, but they’re delicious even if they’re a little over or under cooked. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil, and keep making adjustments as needed. Most of all, pay attention to the color—when the dough is golden brown, it’s ready to eat.
3 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons, plus 1 tsp honey
3 Tablespoons olive oil, with extra for oiling the bowl
3 cups flour, with extra for flouring your counter
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cinnamon
Mix the yeast, warm water, and 1 tsp of honey in a mixing bowl. Let that sit for a minute, as you heat half a cup of milk so that it’s just barely warm. (About 10 seconds in the microwave was perfect for me.)
Add the milk, salt, vanilla, egg, and the rest of the honey to the bowl. Mix until it comes together, then gradually begin adding flour. By the time all three cups are added, you should have a relatively un-sticky dough. Feel free to add a little more flour if your dough is still really wet.
Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop, and knead in more flour until the dough is the consistency of pizza dough. Oil the mixing bowl, place the dough back inside, and drizzle a little more oil over the top. Cover the bowl with a towel, and leave the dough to rise for about an hour.
When the dough has risen, begin heating your frying oil to 375 degrees. Pour the quart of vegetable oil into a high-sided skillet or stockpot, and begin over medium heat. Monitor the temperature as you work by using a candy or frying thermometer so that you can adjust the heat as needed.
As the oil heats, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl.
Then, break off a golf ball sized piece of dough, and roll it out into an oblong shape. Cover with a towel to keep the first “tails” from drying out as you continue to break off and shape the rest of the dough.
When the oil is ready, carefully slide in the prepared pieces of dough. Unless you have a very wide pot, you should fry them one at a time. If you can keep the temperature close to 375 degrees, these should cook for about a minute on each side, but if your oil creeps hotter you can cut the time shorter.
Once each beaver tail is cooked, let it drain on rack or paper towel for a moment or two, then dredge it through the cinnamon and sugar. While beaver tails are often served with additional accompaniments, like honey and lemon, when they’re fresh and hot we found that they didn’t need a thing extra!
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.