Revisited: Recipes for squirrel (garnish with tail)

Recently, in my guise as an advice columnist, I answered a question from a reader who was having trouble with squirrels trying to break into his house. More frightening than your typical 2 a.m. drug-inspired home invasion, this situation involved the furry yard-beasts chewing through various parts of the siding in an attempt to find shelter, food, girl squirrels or some paradisiacal combination of all three. The writer wanted to know what he could do to solve this problem. I gave a lame, tentative answer, but today I’ll elaborate.

Eat the squirrels.

How? For that answer, we turn to the outdoors columnist of my local newspaper. Keep two facts in mind as you read the following: (1) “dressing” the squirrel does not involve putting on cute little outfits but rather involves dismembering him; and (2) if you think removing the grey glands from behind the legs is really going to make a difference in how palatable the meal is, you better think again. Also, when the columnist says the broth “can” be used to make a delicious gravy, he is speaking in theory.

You must acknowledge that some of the names commonly used for squirrels aren’t exactly appealing when it comes to looking at them as table fare. Consuming critters known as bushytails or tree rats doesn’t put one’s salivary glands into overdrive. Then again, neither does goose liver, the basic ingredient in the gourmet delicacy pate de foie gras.

Yet as a reader recently noted, and as fond memories regularly remind me, properly prepared squirrel makes wonderful eating. Moreover, this is the time of year when squirrel hunting is one of only a handful of sporting activities which can be pursued with expectations of a high likelihood of success. So, with those thoughts in mind, why not take to the woods, bring home a mess of squirrels, and get ready for some mighty fine moments at the table?

I’ll leave obtaining the basic ingredients for the recipes which follow up to readers’ gumption, but drawing on a lifetime of dining on squirrel meat, along with the experience gained through writing a number of game cookbooks with my wife, I can offer some guidance when it comes to preparing this game delicacy.

As with any successful game cooking, the key first step involves dressing and handling the meat. Look at it any way you wish – squirrels are difficult to clean. The best way is to make a slit around the tail and a bit of a cut along the back hams and then shuck off the whole hide, following that with removal of the entrails. Alternatively, you can start in the middle and peel away toward both ends.

The keys are to get every bit of hair, along with any fat, off the carcass. Also, probe in under the animal’s front legs and remove the gray-colored glands found there (this is often overlooked). Once you have the carcass clean, and cut into pieces if desired, soak in a pan of cold water to which a bit of salt has been added for a half hour or so. Once you remove the meat, rinse it, and pat-dry, it’s ready for preparation. What follows are a few recipes suggesting ways to turn squirrel into scrumptious feasts.

ANNA LOU’S SQUIRREL

Place dressed squirrel in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add soda, and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and rinse squirrel well under running water, rubbing to remove soda. Return to pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Place squirrel in a baking dish, dot with butter, and bake at 350 degrees until browned and crusty. The broth left from cooking the squirrel can be used to make a delicious gravy.

SMOTHERED SQUIRREL

Saute flour-coated squirrel in butter until browned. Then cover squirrel with onion slices and sprinkle with salt and paprika. Pour sour cream over squirrel. Cover and simmer for an hour or until tender.

FRIED SQUIRREL

Mix flour, salt and pepper and place in a paper or plastic bag. Beat egg well and place in a shallow dish. Drop squirrel in flour bag, shake to coat, remove, and then dip in egg mixture. Return to flour bag and shake to coat well. Heat canola oil in large skillet and quickly brown squirrel. Then place browned squirrel in a roasting pan at 250 degrees for approximately 90 minutes or until tender.

SQUIRREL BOG

Sprinkle squirrel pieces with salt and place in a Dutch oven with enough cold water to cover completely. Add onion, celery and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until squirrel is tender and readily separates from the bones. Remove squirrel, saving broth. Let meat cool and then remove from bones. Measure broth back into pot. Add water if needed to make four cups of liquid. Return squirrel to pot. Cut kielbasa into quarter-inch slices and add to pot along with rice, and then stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until most of broth is absorbed into rice or until rice grains are fluffy and tender.

Eat me

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