I’ve read many times in wilderness survival books how the stomach of a creature can be simply emptied, cleaned out, dried and used as a waterproof container. It has always been left at that – no how to, no description or details. Doing some experimentation with friends, I realized there is more of a process if you want to turn a creature’s stomach into a container that doesn’t smell really bad or rot. Following is a description of what has worked for me so far…
Start by peeling off any big chunks of fat that are clinging to the fresh stomach – don’t get carried away removing loose membrane/tissue if you notice it – I did this once; the stomach was too thin (and brittle) after I removed lots of the loose membrane. Now find a good looking spot where the stomach narrows into a tube and cut it there.
Squeeeeze the half digested food out – save it to eat if it seems delicious – when you’ve gotten as much stomach mash out as you can by squeezing, carefully turn it inside out to get at the rest of the stomach contents.
I don’t remember when or where I learned this (it was from the internet though, of of course), but traditionally people would remove the inner stomach lining as part of cleaning stomachs for later use. I don’t know what the name of this inner lining is, it consists of tons of little hairs, so to speak. I want to say little milli and villi, or celia, in any case putting the inside out stomach into a pond, puddle, bucket of water or creek overnight will help this layer loosen a bit, as well as give you a chance to clean the stomach off well. The inner lining can be removed with your fingers – basically by brushing/peeling it off with them.
Now the stomach can be tanned, a process that will make it rot resistant, sterile, and good smelling. Any plant material that is rich in tannins can be used for this – I use hemlock bark, chopped up into small peices and brewed into a tannin rich tea. Other sources of tannin are Alder, Spruce, Fir, and Aspen barks, dock roots, tea, sumac leaves…. For bark, fill a pot half full with chopped-up bark (the finer you chop it the more tannin you can get out of it), then fill the pot almost full with water and simmer for an hour or more. Pour off the tea - you can do this a few times with one batch of bark to get more tannin out of it and have more tea to work with. Taste the tea, it should be astringent and feel like it is ‘tanning’ your mouth.
Plop the stomach into the (cooled) tea, in a bucket or whatever you have, and leave it for four days to a week. Leaving it longer shouldn’t hurt, leaving it long enough that the tannins can effectively bind with the stomachs fibers is the main goal. Try to make sure there aren’t many folds, that the tea is in contact with all of the stomach – inside and out. Stir it up and turn it inside out a couple times during the tanning.
When you are satisfied, take it out of the tea, squeeze the moisture out of it, stuff it with old rags, newspaper, moss etc. so that when it dries, it dries in the shape you want it to be. After it dries, carefully remove whatever you stuffed it with – it’s done!
If all went well, the stomach will be waterproof, rot resistant, nice smelling and depending on the creature, fairly durable - though probably not the kind of thing you could make a backpack out of. AMAZING!