Monday, October 27, 2014

Under the skin... - preparing a moosehide lesson 1

a beautiful hide!
This is the hide from the calf that we shot this year

Ok then, here we go....
Preparing a moosehide with nothing but internetwisdom and a hide or 2.

I have 2 hides to gain experience in the field of braintanning; one relatively fresh one (shot this week, see here) and one that has been dwelling in our freezer since last year (see here),

the hide was infested with deerkeds!!!
Dozens of them crawled around on it...
The mentioned internet wisdom comes from various sources, but I want to do it the old fashioned way.... of course...

More sources;

In Swedish; - garva ditt skinn med fett

IKEA's hjälte 365+

Unfortunately things did not go as planned.... as usual.
First of all I did not get to working with the hide until today... 10 days later. All that time the hide hung up in the tree I put it in, being lashed by wind and rain. Because that was what we had for a good week; high winds and buckets of skywater! So much for accurate weatherforecasting.
The weather turned yesterday, still windy, but dry and a lot warmer. I really hoped the weather and the delay had not ruined the hide, because it looked quite dark. The week before it looked as if someone had poured white paint over it, leaving the paint running down the hide. I guess the tallow has been leeching out??

In the meantime  we had not been idle though, changing a lot of the interior of the house, rearranging furniture basically. All that rearranging meant that I had the means to redo my "mancave", see post here; initial mancave. The results will emerge in this blog soon, as I am quite proud of and satisfied with my own little workingplace.

But before I got to working with the hide, I had to take care of some other smelly business; unplugging the kitchendrain/sewer. After fixing this problem and having had lunch I went outside and got the hide.
Surprise!! The thing was as stiff as a board! And quite smelly...
I had made a makeshift scrapingpole, using a sewagepipe. So I draped the hide over the pipe, grabbed the 2-handed scraper I got for my last birthday, jammed the hide between the pipe-end and a board across my chest (a tip I got on BCUK) and made my first attempt.
But that did not work out. The hide just kept slipping off, no matter how I positioned it. So I went for plan B; a sturdy log + makeshift A-frame beneath it for support. I could not scrape the hide either. It was way to stiff and dry. So I dragged out an old bathtub, dumped the hide into it and started filling it with water. The air above and around the tub was soon stiff with a pungent smell and loads of flying critters! Even after 10 days I could still see plenty of deerkeds clinging onto the hair and there was an equal amount of flies present too, in all sort and shapes. I still feel creepy-crawly as I am writing this...
As I was filling the tub I saw the hide become supple again and the water took on a hue of dried blood. Well, at leas a lot of mess got rinsed out of the hide. I left the hide to soak for about an hour, before placing it over the new scrapingpole. By now I had put on an old raincoat to avoid becoming soaking wet and a pair of household gloves. The water did not look to appealing and, having several cuts and scrapes on my hands, I did not want to find out what the pathogens in that water could do to me via those breaches in my defensive barrier. Also the thought of just grabbing that less than appetizingly looking hide with my bare hands made me cringe.
So I hung the board around my neck once more and leaned into it! And immediately my nose curled... The air was difficult to breath. It felt sour, green and rancid... I can still smell and even taste it! The hide had soften up, but the meat and other leftovers were still tough as leather. So, with diminishing daylight, I hung the hide back up in the tree and will give it another, longer soak tomorrow, before trying to scrap the hide again.

Now, to elaborate some of the things I did, which might be unclear; the chestboard.
This is simply a thing piece of wood, which I hung around my neck with a cord. The board reached across my chest and down to my stomach. The point of this is to jam the hide between the chestboard and the scrapingpole to order to fix the hide in place and immobilize it, while scraping it.
The doublehanded scraper; a birthdaygift and bought at
2 plasic handles, blade is 12".
from the IKEA webpage
More info (in Swedish) here.
Another tool is the IKEA Hjälte 365+ stekspade or frying spatula. I stumbled across the idea at the Bomärkt blog , while searching for singlehand scrapers.
I simply bought one and will give it a try as well.

And to keep the subject with moose.... We received about 1,5kg of frozen moosemeat. It had been sitting in Ingrid and Esbjörns freezer since 2010. I was a bit sceptical about it, but it turned out very good! Apart from some small patches with frostbite the meat was very palatable still.
My wife made a stew out of it, together with chanterelles and chestnutmushrooms, carrots, celeriac and onions and we enjoyed the results of her efforts for 2 days. Find the recipe here, but it is in Swedish.
It really was delicious and the meat was quite tender and tasty!


  1. Brave of you to have a go at this on your own. Not sure wether I'm right or wrong but I think the hide needs to be bone-dry before you can scrape of the meat residue and the fat. I don't have hands on experience but an old Swede told us that he hangs the skins in his dry, well ventilated woodshed for months before he starts scraping it all off. When dried the smell will be a lot better also.

    1. I don't know; wet or dry.
      When wet the meat and membranes mostly just stretch along and sit tight and when dry it simply will not move.
      As for me this type of work is a no-go anymore. I might still be able to work smaller hides, so I'll cut up the next moosehide and see if I can manage like that.

  2. Good stuff. My 4 year old was also very interested in all the steps and pictures. I think you have a student. Thanks for sharing the details. Funny that IKEA has the right tools, I would have never guessed.