I know this post isn’t going to be for everybody.
But I have successfully completed a very Newfoundland-specific culinary challenge and wanted to share.
I have cooked my first seal flippers. And if I do say so myself, they are FREAKING delicious. To me at least.
After we moved to St. John’s years ago, we attended a wonderful event on George Street organized by the Swiler’s Association and it was there that we sampled our first seal flipper pie. Liam thought it tasted like oxtail – it was rich and dark and dense and meaty. Whoever made that damn pie really knew what they were at. I’ve had eaten seal since on several occasions and it was always delicious.
But it’s a bit intimidating for someone who didn’t grow up with it. And of course, it’s also controversial due to the misinformation spread about the seal hunt and seals in general by various organizations and individuals. Seals are not endangered in any way. Look it up.
If you’re a vegetarian then you get a pass. But if you are the sort of person who eats organic meat, sustainably caught fish, and is in search of “ethical” protein, then please stick with me.
Our new next door neighbours in Petty Harbour are Leo and Kimberley, the founders behind Fishing for Success, a social enterprise dedicated to teaching young people about fishing. And traditional foodways, like seal flipper, are a big part of their mission.
So got the flippers from Leo. But it’s all in the cooking. So for that MAJOR bit of input I turned to Brenda O’Reilly, the current chair of Hospitality NL, co-owner of O’Reillys Irish Newfoundland Pub and Yellowbelly Brewery and a true expert on all things to do with Newfoundland food.
The first stage is to soak the flippers in vinegar and baking powder for a couple of hours to tenderize and lift the fat. Guess what vinegar I used????
After a good rinse, dry them off, dredge in cornstarch and brown them in a pan with scrunchions (pork fat). Put them in roasting pan with mirepoix and more scrunchions and slow cook, covered with a bit of water for about three hours. Then turn the oven off, let cool naturally, and then pull the meat off the bones, just like pulled pork.
Then either freeze the meat for later or make a pie.
Cooking challenge unlocked …