Rattlesnake As Food

Before you start cooking rattlesnake, it would be a good idea to have a Waco Rattlesnake Cocktail to fortify yourself. This rattlesnake species is found under the bridge at 314 17th Street, Waco, TX.

1 1/2 oz Balcones True Blue Whiskey
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp Absenthe
1/2 tsp powdered sugar
1/2 egg white

Hard shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and sip.

Rattlesnake meat can be prepared just about anyway you fix other meat. You can use it like chicken, bread it, fry it, put it in pasta dishes, chili, fajitas, really any way you would use chicken or pork. The main way people ruin rattlesnake meat is by over cooking it. For health reasons, you do not want to serve it rare, cook just until tender.

Where do you get rattlesnake meat? You can buy USDA inspected on line and have it next day air shipped to you frozen. It is very expensive. Or, you can catch your own. I have never done this so I will tell you the method described at Ehow.com.

Make sure your rattlesnake is dead before moving forward with the skinning. Also be sure the time between the time the snake has been killed and butchering is short otherwise do not eat it. Put on latex gloves. Cut off the head with a cleaver or meat saw at least 1/2 inch behind the head. Use extreme caution as the venom is inside sacs in the jaw. You do not want to accidentally pierce a finger with a fang or open the venom sacs. The venom remains dangerous even after the snake is dead. Dispose of the head by burning it or in another safe and secure way. You do not want your garbage man or neighborhood dumpster divers getting bit by a poisonous decapitated snake.

Turn the rattlesnake belly up. Starting at the head end, make an incision with a sharp scalpel down its stomach to its tail where the white and black colorings meet. Cut through the tail meat and peel away the meat from its skin. Gut your rattlesnake meat and wash it off with cold water just like you would a long fish. Cut the rattlesnake meat into three-four inch pieces with a sharp knife. Soak in brine then freeze in water if you are not going to cook it immediately. I recommend freezing the meat in baggies filled with various marinades.
Rattlesnakes can carry many pathogens on their skin such as salmonella, they slither on the ground through some gross stuff. Food safety first. After you are finished butchering the snake, remove your gloves and wash your hands with plenty of soap and hot water. Timely butchering, soaking the meat in salt brine, refrigeration and good hygiene will insure that your meat is safe for consumption.

Rattlesnake Chili is what you find for sale at many rattlesnake roundups. Brownwood's Rattlesnake Roundup is March 18-20 at the Brownwood Coliseum, hosted by the Brownwood Jaycees. Contact 830-646-3586, rattlesnake@hyperhog.net.
There is valid criticism for stopping these round ups. It has been reported that up to 1% of the Texas' snake population has been caught for a single roundup. Rattlesnakes are relatively slow to mature, have only modest litters, and are already adversely affected by habitat destruction and persecution. These events remove thousands of snakes, including large numbers of reproductively mature animals. Since rattlesnakes are an apex predator, a sudden decline in their population could have ecological consequences, particularly for the rodents on which they typically feed. Anything that reduces the rodent population and keeps the plague away is our friend. However, if you are gonna kill an animal you ought to eat it and wear it.

Here is a common recipe for Rattlesnake Roundup Chili. I don't think you'll find Rattlesnake Chili at Brownwood's Roundup because as I wrote earlier, rattlesnake meat is wildly expensive. Even at wholesale, with a 100 pound minimum order, it is $18.95 a pound plus overnight shipping. I would only eat rattlesnake meat that I killed and butchered myself or was USDA inspected because the danger of contamination by bad handling is too great. For one thing, many rattlesnakes are chased out of their hiding places by gasoline and who wants to eat gasoline. The other reason is you can get really very sick, even die, by eating salmonella contaminated meats and God only knows how long it was before Billy Bob killed that snake and he finally put it in the refrigerator. So you won't see me eating snake at fairs or Roundups unless I see a USDA sticker and a Health Department permit.

2 medium onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 15 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can chili beans
¼ cup chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 lbs. rattlesnake meatJuice of ½ lemon

Saute the onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos in some olive. Remove from pan toss into a into 3qt sauce pan. Add paste, beans, spices to sauce pan and slowly simmer for 40 min. You may want to add a little water if it gets too thick. Meanwhile saute the rattle snake chunks in the oil and juices of the vegetables until the meat is tender to the fork. Cool, then remove the bones, chop and spritz the lemon juice over the meat. Add the sauteed meat chunks to the chili a few minutes before the chili is ready to serve. You don't want the meat to become tough by over cooking.

And here is a recipe more appropriate for a meat costing $18.95-$60.00 a pound delivered.

Pistachio Parmesan Crusted Rattlesnake

2/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup crushed pistachio nuts
1/4 cup beaten eggs for wash
1/4 cup buttermilk
6 4" long sections of snake (cleaned of course)
1 1/2 ounces butter a a few teaspoons of olive oil for sauteing

2 artichoke hearts per serving, quartered and sauteed in butter and wine Coarsely chopped fresh basil for garnish

Combine white wine and lemon juice in a saucepan. Let simmer until reduced in volume by half. Add heavy cream and let simmer until thick but not brown. Add salt, white pepper and sugar.
Whisk in 1 pound of cold butter pieces slowly over low to medium heat. You will probably have more sauce then you need, left over can be saved for another dish.

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and pistachio nuts in a shallow pan. In another shallow pan, mix eggs and buttermilk. Lay snake meat, flesh side down, into the wet mixture, then roll snake in the breadcrumbs.

Heat butter and in a saute pan into which you place breaded snake breading side down. Adding the oil to the butter helps to prevent the butter from burning. Saute for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so the breading doesn't stick to the pan. Flip and finish cooking in a 350 F oven for about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the snake.

Plate with artichoke hearts and basil decorating the snake pieces and drizzle with lemon butter sauce.
Yield: 6 servings

A side of rice would be a nice touch.

Snake meat contains roughly 93 calories per 100g (3.5 oz) of raw meat, depending on the type of snake. This is roughly half the calories and one third the amount of fat of a similar amount of sirloin beef steak. So if you are on a diet, leave off the lemon butter sauce!