By Chris Henderson
As promised last week, let’s take a look at some recipes for cooking squirrels. You know, squirrels were a staple in the diet of the earliest settlers of America. They were plentiful, easy to get and nutritious. The same is still true today. By the time you read this, opening day of squirrel season will have come and gone. The leaves are falling, and that’s a good thing.
When you bag some squirrels, you are faced with the unpleasant task of cleaning them. As stated previously, I have never found an easy way to do this. I have read many, and all have fallen short. The best method I have found is to cut a slit in the hide on the squirrel’s back, insert a couple of fingers and pull in opposite directions. Gutting them is easy, but a bit on the smelly side. Once you do get the little critters cleaned, you are in for some truly great eating, if you follow a few simple procedures. Remember, once the cleaning is over, the rest of the road to a good meal is easy. You just have to do it right. First of all, cut the squirrels into pieces and place the pieces into water to which you have added some vinegar and salt. As the old saying goes, this isn’t rocket science. Just put some in. Let them soak overnight. This will draw the blood and the gamey taste out of the meat. You are now ready to cook or freeze the squirrels. When I freeze them, I do it with a vacuum sealer. This wards off freezer burn, and keeps the meat tasty for a very long time.
Here is one of my very favorite squirrel recipes. First of all, you boil the meat until it comes easily off the bones. After the bones are removed, finish the cooking in a slow cooker along with the gravy of your choice. When the meat is fully cooked, serve the meat and gravy over noodles, rice, mashed potatoes or spaghetti. This will make for one of the finest wild game meals you have ever eaten. As a variation, you can substitute spaghetti sauce for the gravy.
Squirrel pot pie is another great meal. Just follow the above steps for boiling and de-boning the meat. Then, in a pie crust, place gravy, mixed veggies and the squirrel meat. Bake it until it bubbles, and dig in. It’s just about as good as it gets.
Oven-fried squirrel is another really tasty treat. With this one, you parboil the squirrel, but don’t remove the meat from the bones. Coat the parboiled meat with your favorite coating, place in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, and bake in the oven until done. If you like, baste with your favorite barbecue sauce or hot sauce, much like you would do with chicken wings. You can also deep fry them, if that’s what you prefer.
On an episode of “Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern,” the host, a personal hero of mine, cracked open the cooked heads of squirrels and ate the brains. According to him, they’re delicious. I have never tried this, but, who knows, I just might give it a try this year. I pride myself on having an adventurous palate, and this seems like an interesting challenge. If I decide to try it, I’ll let you know what it’s like.
When you come right down to it, just about any recipe that works with chicken will work with squirrel, too. The only difference is that the squirrel needs to be parboiled as the first step of the recipe. If you have never tried squirrel, you have missed out on some really great eating. This year, be sure to give it a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.