I've had some lion steak sitting in my freezer for awhile. I got it from Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market who marketed it for some time, but no longer has it available. I'd tried lion meat previously, some stew meat and ribs. The taste was fine, but it was very tough, very chewy.
|This is a lion photographed in Masai Mara, Tanzania. The lion steak I had was from a captive bred lion in the U.S.|
This time I was determined to take steps to tenderize the meat by both brining and marinading it. Brine, which has a higher concentration of salt than the moisture in the meat, is absorbed into the meat by osmosis. It carries the flavoring into the meat and also causes the muscle fibers to hold more water, keeping the meat moister. The acid in marinade breaks down the texture of the meat and makes it more tender. My brine/marinade mix, which also included some nutria (the subject of another post), was one tablespoon of salt for each cup of water, the juice from four Meyer lemons, about 8 crushed juniper berries, pickled ginger and about four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
|The lion meat has very distinctive white lines going through it.|
After nine hours of brining note that the lion is now gray, the brining takes most of the blood out of the meat. Also note the cracks in the meat. The texture of the meat was broken down substantially, making it sort of floppy and falling into individual pieces.
I put olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of minced garlic in the sous vide bag and cooked it sous vide for 19 hours.
The final product could not have been much more different from my first experience. The meat had absorbed the garlicy flavor and was nicely spiced and very moist. Most importantly, the meat was pretty tender, not much of a chewing problem.
The brining/marinading and sous viding transformed a meat that was almost inedible the first time I tried it, to something quite good. We shared it as an appetizer for Thanksgiving at our friend's home. There were 12 there for dinner and each person was given some meat and asked to eat it without knowing what they were eating. All ate it and enjoyed it.
|Cooked and cut lion meat.|
This was a great test of the power of brine and marinade in dealing with non-traditional meats.