Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Let's Have a Ball!

 The kind of ball I’m talking about are Rocky Mountain Oysters, also known as Prairie Oysters, Cowboy Caviar, dusted nuts or just plain ol’ calf fries.  For most people (let’s call ’em non-westerners perhaps?) the thought of eating calf testes does not sit well, but neither, for some, does eating sweetbreads, liver, venison or—banish the thought!—horsemeat as in France. 
Cowboys out on the range were not quite so picky; they knew that every edible part of the calf was not to be wasted as a food source.  And what does one do with buckets upon buckets of the by-product of castration?  For baby bulls to become meaty, hefty steers, manageable and likely to bring in a good price, well, castration was a necessity. And we’re not going to just throw away those meaty little…er…balls, now are we?
But these tasty testes are not just a food source. They’ve become a cause for celebration, literally a Ball about balls.  Several festivals now take place throughout the west celebrating this delicacy.  Down in Nevada where round-up might come earlier, due to the comparatively milder weather, than further north in the Rockys, a festival is combined with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March in Virginia City.  Aspen, CO, leaves their Rocky Mt. Oyster Festival and BBQ for September, while the most famous of them all, the Testicle Festival or TestyFesty, in Clinton, MT, takes place during August.
While I’ve never personally attended any of the above, I understand that the TestyFesty is something of a bikers’ bash. It includes a woman’s hot oil wrestling competition, a wet T-shirt clash, a man’s ‘biggest balls’ contest (in wet underwear—the mind truly boggles) and, most naturally, an eating competition of this famous food.  Since I’ve seen on the local news in NY people choking down hot dogs in a competition at Coney Island, I can only imagine what takes place in Clinton—a frat party on steroids.
 I haven’t attended any of the above but I have eaten Rocky Mt. Oysters.  The taste has been compared to many things but my first impression was chicken nuggets.  The ‘oyster’ name comes from their sliminess prior to cooking, not their taste. The crop is gathered at branding time, when vaccinating, ear marking and castrating are done.  Then hand that bucket over to your chef.  He or she, like a fine surgeon, has to make an incision to separate the first membrane or outer skin away, afterwards soaking the balls in water for an hour.  Some cooks use warm water, some cold.  At this stage, he or she will make a second incision and remove the last membrane, popping the oyster into waiting batter.
At the Cottonwood Ranch in Wells, NV, where I had my first taste of Rocky Mt. Oysters, Chef Amber’s recipe included 1 Cup of flour, 2 tsps of garlic powder, tsp. salt, tsp. pepper, and tsp. of seasoning salt; she fries in peanut oil for 8 minutes and serves with ketchup and other condiments.  I should think a nice combination of flour and cornmeal might make for a crisper outside, and fresh garlic would be a bonus along with spicy cocktail sauce, Sirracha, Tabasco or similar because, basically, these balls are pretty dang bland.
And I hope you may also enjoy my latest story contained in the boxed set, A Cowboy to Keep…

Catch a cowboy … Keep a cowboy …

Don’t miss this great collection from USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors!! Available at

Sheriff Ben Hammond is finally over the woman who shattered his heart, but when Dinah Horne suddenly returns, can he ignore the passion still burning bright between them?

Trading horses for subways for two years seemed like a good idea to cowboy Chay Ridgway, but can city girl K.C. Daniels keep a rein on his country heart?

BLUE SAGE by Kristy McCaffrey
Archaeologist Audrey Driggs rolls off a mountain and lands at the feet of rugged cowboy Braden Delaney. Together, they’ll uncover a long-lost secret.

Determined to take back what belongs to her, Addison Reed will do anything. Even trust a complete stranger.

HER MAN by Hildie McQueen
Deputy Mark Hunter falls for Eliza Brock during a murder investigation. Is it fate or bad luck, especially when she may be involved?

Widow Leticia Villarreal wants to establish a horse-racing stable and old acquaintance John Clay Laidlaw offers to help. But can she trust him with her business and her heart?

PHOENIX HEAT by Patti Sherry-Crews

After losing her fiancé and her New York City business, Harper Donovan returns to Arizona and meets cowboy Frank Flynn. Will his past and their differences extinguish the heat between them?


Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Wow, just wow! I'm glad you took the bullet for the rest of us and ate that oyster and are able to tell us what they taste like so we don't have to. I never knew all this partying around castration was going on. I also didn't know they did this to steers as part of ranching. I'm so naive! Well, I do enjoy food but I draw the line at eating offal. Thanks for the interesting post, Andi! As always it's been great working with you. I feel fortunate to be part of this set.

Andrea Downing said...

Well, Patti, sometimes a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do... I think we've had a great bunch of authors on this project and we've had fun, too. Thanks for stopping by.

Hebby Roman said...

OMG!!! Not only is this a very interesting topic, in and of itself, especially from a historical perspective, but the discussion of the "Balls," as in celebrations of cow testes does truly boogle the mind. Holy Moly!!! Makes me want to go to one of these shindigs, Andrea. Thanks for such a fun post!!! And an especial thanks to "Cowboy Kisses," for hosting you and spotlighting our boxed set, too.

Andrea Downing said...

Hebby, I think we should arrange an author's retreat to the Clinton, MT Testy Festy. How 'bout that?

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks so much for trying them and sharing with those of us who've never sampled this delicacy!!

Andrea Downing said...

You're very welcome, Kristy. I have to say that although they were definitely in the chicken nuggets category, they're closer to those nuggets that have defrosted and gone a bit soft prior to eating...

Agnes Alexander said...

Interesting. If I could get the idea of what they really are, I might work up the courage to try the oyster. Thanks for sharing this. I also appreciate you sharing the set of books. Planning to put them on my TBR list.