The art of buccaneering meat may be as old as time itself. Buccaneering ( book-ah-neer-ing ) meat is a time honoured tradition here in Trinidad and Tobago. Thus, for this post we will have to take a dive into our history to get an understanding of the word “buccaneering”.
History of Buccaneering Meat
The first thought that comes to mind when you think of the word would be the buccaneers that roamed the Caribbean Sea and attacked the Spanish ships for their bounty. But, where did they get that name? As it turns out, the name buccaneer is derived from the Arawak word buccan which means a wooden frame for smoking meat. Perhaps, the wayfaring seafarers learnt this method from the Amerindians they traded or lived with. And, this is where we turn our looking glass upon Trinidad and Tobago where this method of preserving meat is still practiced.
Preserving the Wild Meat
As you would see in the upcoming pictures this is the exact method that was used. The wild meat (e.g. agouti) was placed over a wooden frame and smoked for some time. As a method of preserving meat, this method was used a lot long time where there weren’t any refrigerators on the island. It was commonplace to see meat being preserved in this way in most homes of yesteryear, especially those in the countryside where the men hunted wild animals in order to add a bit of protein to everyday meals.
Hunters used this method exclusively. When they hunted in the forest for days, the journey home was a long way off so this was a necessity. They would setup a camp before going off in search of wild game in the forest or “sentry”* a wild animal where tracks or signs of feeding under a tree were seen. It is at the camp that the buccaneering would be done. This would ensure that the meat would last a long time before they got back home.
What you need
For the smoking process certain bushes like black sage, and fever grass (lemon grass) were used to give the meat a particular flavour while it smoked over the fire. The fire would be set low so as to allow more smoke than heat to “take” the meat, thus gently drying the meat without overly cooking it. Common animals hunted include Agouti, Manicou (Opossum), Lappe, Deer, Tattoo (armadillo) and Anteater.
A Quick Look at the Process of buccaneering meat
When I thought of doing this post I wanted to present it exactly as the hunters would do it so off to the countryside I went with an Agouti to buccaneer. My uncle showed me how it was done back then when my father, grandfather and him hunted in the forest.
Now, you may wonder how the “buccaneered” meat was cooked afterwards so let me explain. Usually the meat was hung up in a “crocus” bag close to the fireside in the kitchen so that smoke would always “hit” it while you’re cooking daily meals. That even ensured that the meat was smoked/ preserved a bit more. When the meat was ready to be cooked a piece of the meat would be cut and placed in water to rehydrate, then it was used. However, in our case, we cooked the Agouti right after so the re-hydration part wasn’t necessary.
So here’s Bucaneering Meat Trinistyle.
Steps in the process of buccaneering meat
WARNING: SOME OF THE PICTURES ARE VERY GRAPHIC. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED
Ok so here we have a fresh agouti that’s being prepared to buccaneer. After cleaning, the carcass is opened and chops are made to every part of the meat in an attempt to spread the meat flat. The term used for this is Tallah. I have no idea of the origin of the word. I hope someone can enlighten me. The meat was then seasoned with some salt and green seasoning.
Now it’s time to build the “galta” as my uncle called it. Buccan in Arawak. Note how easy this would be to build in the jungle. Coming to think of it now, this could be a predecessor to barbecuing. Don’t you think?
Now the process is on the way. We placed the agouti belly first.
Then we placed it on its back.
After about an hour and a half the meat was ready.
In the mean time the “chulha” ( fireside) was being organised to make a “cook”.
The meat was diced and washed to get rid of some of the char.
This is not your ordinary stew agouti, this is roucou stew agouti. Note the colour. Lookin’ nice eh? 🙂
Of course being in the countryside there’s lots of provision growing around the house. Here I’m having my roucou stew agouti with yam and dasheen (taro). Want some? 🙂
Anyhow, the agouti tasted most delicious and the food all natural; straight from Mother Nature. The lime continued until late that evening until it was time to go home……. All the memories still play back in my mind from time to time remembering how the buccaneer agouti and provision was…For me it’s a treasured taste memory, one I would hold on to for the rest of my life.
See you soon.
*Note: Sentry – to lay in wait of a wild animal. Usually the hunter will build a scaffold atop the tree and wait on the animal when it passes.
P.S. I did a little video of the process for buccaneering meat. Check it out below.