Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some…. SLUGS!
I was joking around with some friends last night in downtown Fairfax, and one of them began mimicking the creature I’m turning into. He crouched, pretended to stir a giant cauldron, and turned his manly baritone into crow’s cackle.
“Meehehehe,” he chortled. “Witches brew! Chicken blood, rooster eye, slug, and… Dr. Bronners!”
Yep, that’s my kitchen in a nutshell.
Banana slugs are edible, super fun to scout for, and they offer free protein in the environment. There are three species of slug that fall under the “banana slug” umbrella: Ariolimax californicus, Ariolimax columbines, and Ariolimax dolichophallus.
Before I get into how I deep fried slugs, I want to do a disclaimer. Eating slugs can be VERY, VERY DANGEROUS. In Australia, a man almost died after eating two slugs raw since a parasitic worm living inside the gastropods shimmied into his brain. Some slugs can cause your mouth to go numb, or worse. And some slugs, banana slugs included, will eat all sorts of non-edible-for-mammals make-you-horribly-sick nasties like toxic mushrooms and horse poop. Also, I’m no expert. Despite all the slug anatomy I tried to teach myself, once I dissected the creature I realized that I didn’t know which organs did what, and I didn’t want to risk eating any of them (I think eating a slug’s gentiles, for which they’re so famous–dilichophallus literally meaning, “long penis,” after all–wouldn’t be harmful).
First, I wanted to flush the slug’s system to get rid of all that toxic mushroom, horse poop forest detritus. I fed my slug leafy greens, apple, and watermelon, and kept her in the kitchen terrarium for ten days.
I cleaned out the cage every third day, removing any slug defecation and slime before it could accumulate in the habitat. And yeah, I used Dr. Bronners to disinfect everything each time.
After ten days with a temporary mollusk roommate, I brought a cup and a half of water mixed with a cup and a half of apple cider vinegar to a rolling boil, apologized to the slug, and dropped it in. I think the slug died pretty quickly–there wasn’t much wriggling or motion once it hit the boiling water. I let the slug boil for about fifteen or twenty seconds, then turned off the heat and allowed everything to sit for about ten minutes. Some slime began to bubble to the top in white gobs.
Next was the de-sliming process. Slugs are pretty freakin’ slimy. I brought a clean pot of water to boil, then let the slug hang out in there for about five minutes. Then I drained the slug, changed the water, and while I was waiting for the new water to boil, I wiped slime off of the slug.
Two more changes of water later, boiling the slug for about five minutes each time to be sure I killed any potential parasites.
Once the slug cooled down enough to handle I made a slit along the top, from one end to the other. Right underneath the skin I found a harder, dark muscle, called the mantle, which protects the internal organs.
I cut the organs from where they attached to the mantle, and used my fingers to scoop all the partially digested food scraps that lined the slug’s foot. I consulted Google about the organs, cut up the skin and the mantle, and threw the rest into the garden.
Never having deep fried a slug before, I treated it more or less like chicken. I wetted it with buttermilk first, then coated it in flour and spices. The flour was leftover from breading rooster thighs the week before; my ratio is normally about two teaspoons of salt and paprika, plus a teaspoon of garlic and cayenne to every cup of flour, but for a slug no one needs nearly that much flour, and I’m sure any dried spices would fry up just the same.
I brought a small pan of oil to sear-your-flesh hot, then dropped in the battered slugs. About a minute later, they were ready to come out. When they start to brown, they’re done.
I had the slugs with ketchup and they were oh-so-good. I was very surprised. The texture was like a cross between mushrooms and calamari. It was hard to pick out a specific “slug” flavor; they tasted deep-fried, oily, and subtle. Perhaps the flavor was overpowered by the spices, perhaps slug isn’t a pungent meat.
I definitely plan on finding more slugs in the future and making this dish again. They were great, cheap, and although it was a little labor intensive to keep them in the kitchen for a week and remove the slime, I think that’s part of the fun.