Step 1: Skin the Raccoon
Drayton nails the raccoon’s feet to a board and lets the body hang down, which keeps the skin taut and easy to slice. He runs his knife down the legs, first, then works his way down the body, cutting and pulling back the skin as he goes.
Step 2: Cleaning the 'Coon
Once the skin is off the body, Drayton removes the head and neck, then opens the chest cavity and removes the internal organs.
Step 3: Removing Musk and Fat
You must cut out the scent glands, which will ruin the meat if left on. Slice the front and hind legs in search of the glands, which look like little peas or marbles, and streaks of fat. Trim fat aggressively from all parts of the raccoon.
Step 4: Portioning the Meat
Wash and break down the body. Separate the legs, the halves of the ribcage, and the spine into separate cuts, taking care to trim fat and any scent glands off the spine. Remove the raccoon’s feet.
Step 5: Vinegar Soak
Submerge the meat in white vinegar. Drayton only does this for a few minutes. Others do it overnight, or longer, claiming that vinegar tenderizes and reduces the “gamy” flavor of the meat. It is especially important when cooking older raccoons.
Step 6: Seasoning the Meat
Remove the meat from the vinegar. Drain. Season. Drayton sprinkles generous amounts of Montreal steak seasoning, creole seasoning, and crushed red pepper, as well as a few bay leaves and two chopped white onions. Some older recipes call for just red pepper, black pepper, and a little bit of onion.
Step 7: Pressure Cook
Drop the seasoned meat into a pressure cooker or pot and cover with water. Add a splash of white vinegar. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender. “It shouldn’t be falling off the bone,” says George. “But you should be able to slide a fork in and out.”
Don't Forget the Sweet Potato!
Meanwhile, skin and chop a few sweet potatoes.
Ready to Bake
When the raccoon is tender, remove it from the pressure cooker or pot.
Place it on a baking tray, over the sweet potatoes. Season again—Drayton adds more red pepper and creole seasoning, and a splash of Kitchen Bouquet—then cover in foil and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. By the time the meat is done cooking, it should fall off the bone.