Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Wyoming II - BAAAAAALLLLLLLSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Way back when I had started this project, I was contemplating doing the Rocky Mountain oyster for one of my Colorado recipes.  I opted instead for a nice Southwestern-style bison burger  However, I never completely let go the idea of trying out that most legendary organ meats, that which makes men (probably women too but definitely the menfolk) shudder - simply because of what part of the body you are slicing up and frying.  For my final Wyoming post - and my final regular State-by-State post (yes, this is, technically, the last one, though I've got a few more coming to tie it all up) - I've finally decided to tackle those balls.  Finally.

Official Name: State of Wyoming
State Nickname: The Equality State, The Cowboy State
Admission to the US: July 10, 1890 (#44)
Capital: Cheyenne (largest)
Other Important Cities: Casper (2nd largest), Laramie (3rd largest), Gillette (4th largest); Jackson (largest town, would be 10th largest city - this is the town in the middle of Jackson Hole) 
Region: West, Mountain West, Big Sky Country; Mountain (US Census)
RAFT NationsBisonPinyon Nut
Bordered by: Montana (north), South Dakota (northeast), Nebraska (southeast), Colorado (south), Utah (southwest), Idaho (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: bison (mammal), cutthroat trout (fish), western wheat grass (grass) 
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Native American (Shoshone) and frontier foods, especially beans, beef and bison; game animals such as deer, elk and moose; sheep; bread

For the few of you who still haven't figured out what I'm talking about: Rocky Mountain oysters are testicles.  Bull testicles.  And you slice them up and fry them.  I really haven't found any other recipes for them on the internet: you just skin them, slice them, bread them and fry them.  That's it.   But the difficult part comes in the prep work: these things have to soak for a while in water, and depending on the recipe, they then have to soak in milk.  This is after you complete the arduous task of carefully slicing them out of their tough pouch.  I actually did this wrong at first - and they turned out so not well that I had to try it again.  The following photos are from that second attempt.

If you are curious about trying this yourself, you can go to any good Latino or international supermarket for real beef bull balls (say that five times fast).  There are a few good such markets in the DC area that sell organ meats such as bull testicles (one or two in Prince George's County near Laurel comes to mind).  However, you could opt instead for bison balls instead of bull balls if you have access to them.  Strange as it may seem, in Baltimore I was able to get my hands on some bison balls (...ahem...) by driving up 83 to Gunpowder Bison, where they have all sorts of bison / buffalo organ meats.  And yes, they do have balls.  Since they were surprisingly cheap, I got a few - I spent about $7 or $8 for three frozen bison testicles - in case I messed up on one.  They only take a day in the fridge to go from rock solid to soft, squishy balls.

For the recipe, I found a few useful ones, but was entertained by the following video from Youtube user "maestrojed", which showed step-by-step how to make Rocky Mountain oysters while playing goofy music in the background.  The entire second half of the video shows reactions of people eating Rocky Mountain oysters (of course, it will not play below but you can play the whole video on Youtube).

The text for the video reads as follows:
A party born from a night of crap-talking and a challenge to try rocky mountain oysters. Using both Buffalo and Yak testicles we documented the prep, cooking and party reactions. [maestrojed 2010]
So it's even closer to what I attempt than I thought, since they're using buffalo balls too.  Don't ask me where to get yak balls.

The Recipe: Rocky Mountain Oysters

For your Rocky Mountain oysters, assemble the following:

* bull, bison or other large animal testicle - the fabled Rocky Mountain oyster!  Try to get more than one in case you mess up, but don't get TOO many, in case you just don't like them.  The ones I got cost me a total of about $8 for three of them.  I honestly thought they would be pricier, but I guess there isn't a big demand for bison testicles.  Bet you never thought you'd read those words, huh?
* milk (for dredging and soaking)
* cornmeal and flour (also for dredging)
* cayenne, garlic powder and salt (again, for dredging)
* vinegar (some recipes call for this, and the first recipe I used required it, but the video above does not.  You can do fine without it)
* oil for frying (of course, choose an oil with a high smoke point, like peanut or rice bran oil)

The ingredients shown above were from the first and more unsuccessful attempt.  Most of these didn't change, so I still used this photo.  However, I also assembled the following that are not pictured above, but were in the second and more successful recipe shown in the video:

* red wine (still had some from the handy screw top Bota Box of Cabernet Sauvignon)
* Tabasco sauce (actually did not have this on hand, so I picked up a small bottle)

Rinse your buffalo ball.  I decided to do just one at a time in case I wasn't too into balls.

Slice open the hard pouch, and carefully remove it from around the testicle.

Try your best not to cut open or into the testicle, though I found this difficult.

Are they sure this isn't Rocky Mountain brains?

Soak your denuded bison testicle in water for 30 to 60 minutes.

And then soak it in milk for as long.

Poach the bison testicle in boiling water for about five or six minutes.

And get ready to slice your ball.

It will be a bit hot to handle - okay, you can let it cool down a bit first.  Slice up your ball.

Now for the dredging part: have three bowls ready.  Dip each slice of testicle into each in the following order.  The first will have milk.

The second will have your powdered ingredients.

And the third will have your red wine and hot sauce.

Fry in hot oil for about three to five minutes, or until golden brown.  Eat with hot sauce.

Ummm, what can I say?  Well first of all, I've never eaten bison testicles before.  They are a little on the gamey side, though I suspect bull testicles would be as well.  I can't say I'm sold on eating these things again.  It isn't the mental block of eating testicles that gets me (note to self: refrain from whatever Brokeback jokes your very un-heterosexual mind is concocting as you type this).  It's the combination of the flavor - again, a bit gamey - and the texture.  I can't really describe it because I've never eaten anything like it.  It's one part spongy to ten parts soft and pudding-like, but a hard pudding.  It's a weird feeling in my mouth and the hot sauce doesn't do much to mitigate that.  But at least now I can say that I've had Rocky Mountain oysters, finally.

Now, does anyone want that last frozen bison testicle I have sitting in the freezer?  I'm probably not gonna finish it.

- - - - -

That's it!  That's the last post in this series!  Well, the last one that I had originally planned to do.  Yes, there is one more mashup coming up.  But what comes after that is one final, ten-post retrospective of different regions of the country.  And then after that, that will be the last post in this series.  For the first of those last ten posts, I am heading back up north to Alaska, a state I explored very little the first time around, to give one more go at the Last Frontier's unique seafood.  Last time it was salmon on a cedar plank.  This time?  Snow crab.


Lee, Hilde Gabriel.  Taste of the States: A Food History of America.  Howell Press: Charlottesville, VA, 1992.

"maestrojed" (Youtube user).  "Balls: The Movie - Rocky Mountain Oysters".  Posted July 9, 2010.

Steele, Dennis, and Molly Myer.  "Bit-O-Wyo Beans".  Bit-O-Wyo Ranch, date unknown.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Wyoming" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Wyoming".