HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

squirrel (Moved from Ontario Board)

Anyone out there eaten squirrel? Am looking for anecdotes, tips, etc. Patricia

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Haven't tried it myself, but in the southern US cookbooks earlier in the last century, a recipe for Brunswick Stew invariably included squirrel as one of the primary ingredients. Seeing as this is Ontario/TO Board, I am picturing those grubby, scruffy animals outside my office and I am going to let YOU go first with that recipe....

    1. Yes, Brunswick stew is the way to go. Tasty but lean meat. You should get squirrels that eat nuts and live in wild nut groves for the best flavor. A head shot with a .22 is best.

      1. I've eaten squirrel quite often as a teenager, hunting south of Montreal. Generally stay away from urban areas - you don't wanna be eating 'city' squirrels. Although somewhat rare, wild squirrels (and other rodents, and rabbits) can be diseased, the more common being tularemia. When cleaning the animal, take a gander at the liver. Liver spotting is a sign of the disease - you want to bury the carcass and wash your hands well. I mention this as a simple precaution, not to scare you off...
        Also when cleaning, beware of the claws. Being careless, I had some fingers shredded on these razor sharp nails (remove the feet first...)
        They are very lean, so baking them tends to dry them out. A stew is a good preperation.
        Funny thing about Ontario squirrel and Quebec squirrel is color. I've never seen black squirrels in my area, only grey ones. Yet in Ottawa and Toronto, the black squirrel is quite prevalent. Other than color, they seem quite similar...

        3 Replies
        1. re: porker

          I used to eat them often when I hunted them as a kid. The prize winners are the Fox squirrels here because they are bigger. I like them quartered, floured and pan fried with bacon, onions and gravy like you might do liver. Many rabbit recipes will work well for squirrel as well or many chicken recipes.

          1. re: Docsknotinn

            Pan-fried for young ones; braise for older ones. Really really good.

            1. re: Docsknotinn

              I agree on the comparison to rabbit for recipes. Most any way you would prepare rabbit you could substitute squirrel. That being said, my favorite preparation was always in a stew with lots of potatoes, carrots and onions. We always enjoyed the flavor of the meat itself so went very light on additional seasoning, usually sticking with just salt and pepper.

          2. A childhood neighbor thought squirrels were "sweet" and she bought hundreds of pounds of nuts and grains to feed the greedy little varmits. Within a year there was a veritable plague of those furry-tailed tree rats gobbling up livestock feed, fruit, nuts, and vegetables all over our rural neighborhood. Enter Tony, the Southern Italian (a Sicilian raised in South Carolina living in CA) and his 22 rifle. These were fat succulent little rodents and most were quite young.. products of the huge litters a well-fed squirrel can raise. Within a few months squirrel meat was at a premium because virtually all of the squirrels had been eaten. Our soft-hearted (some said soft-brained) neighbor then turned to feeding raccoons.. another story involving Tony, this time with his coon hounds Bell and Foggy. Fat squirrel we found to be tastier than fat raccoon.

            12 Replies
            1. re: fromagina

              Squirrel is good meat (if not dumpster fed). Raccoon is not good eating.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Gamey.. stringy.. and oddly greasy like mutton; but not delicious like mutton. Our dogs wouldn't eat it. The chickens ate it. Tony ate it cacciatore-style. The local farm kids sported racoon tails on their hats that year.. to replace the squirrel tails of the previous year.

                1. re: fromagina

                  Wow. You must have really spoiled dogs! I'm sure my dog wouldn't turn up her nose at some nice greasy racoon. Funny that people will eat "furry tailed tree rats" but are horrified at the idea of eaing real rats.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I've seen some glossy, fat rats that thieve from the grain silos and I could easily translate them to a lovely individual presentation a la Cornish game hens!

                    1. re: fromagina

                      I've mentioned before that I've eaten rice-field rats (trapped far from where people live) in Burma. Very good.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I'm curious.. does the flavor differ much between male and female rice field rats? I notice a difference between mature rabbits. After gophers ate a 50' row of garbanzo bean plants, I trapped them in a carrot-baited Hav-a-hart trap, fattened them on vegetable trimmings, and had a lovely meal of chubby Pocket Gopher simmered in white wine in a mature mushroom sauce, and served with freshly made fettuccini.. lovely. I did learn that the gophers needed separate quarters as they are quite territorial. I still wonder how such territorial creatures can get together.. separately.. and eat every plant in a row.. When I became a predator in my garden, the remaining gophers move next door. Some squeamish neighbors heard of my gopher feast and refused to let their children play with my son.. intolerant food bigots.

                        1. re: fromagina

                          fromagina, that is the best and most awesome of tales. Haven't a clue as to gender based taste differences. The Burmese feel the same way: the critters eat our much needed rice; the least we can do is eat as many of them as we can catch. As to separate quarters--even the biggest rodents are the same. Capybara (the world's largest rodent) meat in the Amazon is delicious. People had actually tried raising some in captivity, but they just don't get along. invite me the next time gopher futtuccini is on the menu. You have a lucky son!

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Capybara look both like charming pets and delicious food.. kind of like guinea pig/cavies. A Peruvian friend served me guinea pig years ago and I loved it.. taste's like rabbit and gopher and squirrel. His food-stock cavies were quite big and a lovely agouti brown. I've not found any cavies available that look like they'd be worth the trouble of butchering. I was served marmot once.. now that is one delicious rodent.. and it has some size to it.

                            My fine cat keeps the gopher population down to manageable levels so I've not been tempted to cultivate and harvest any gophers lately. I'll let you know if I do!

                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  My Chinese friends practically worshipped raccoon. I'd see them sometimes at dusk (the 'coons, not my friends) when coming back from hunting. I knew southerners always hunted them, but I never really cared for them, so I left them alone.
                  That was until my Chinese friend (who, as a coincidence, was also named Tony...) asked me to bring him a 'coon.
                  I'll never forget the first time, sneaking the carcass into the back room of his restaurant in the city (can you say health infraction?). His employees were all eyes and curiosity as he opened the bag.
                  "Ahhhhh" he beamed, "Shhhkunk!"
                  He certainly knew it was a raccoon, but his very limited grasp of English had him misname it.
                  Although my friend has since passed, we still remember that one and laugh...."Shhhkunk!"
                  They preferred it in the fall when the weather was getting cooler, making soup out of it, insisting that it had preventative qualities.

                  Oh, Fromagina, MY Italian friend always preferred wild rabbit over farm-raised. He also enjoyed pigeon chicks!

                  1. re: porker

                    Sigh.. I remember when at least one person in the area was raising squab. It is NOT easy to find squab in our area now, alas. Rabbit is lovely, whether wild or domestic, but fat young cottontails have a flavor above and beyond any domestic rabbit I've raised.. and I used to raise some very tasty rabbit. The closest I got to a feral flavor was when I finished off a batch of young bunnies on mustard greens. I suspect that good exercise contributes to the wild rabbits' superior flavor.

                    I love the skunk tale!

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Hey Sam,

                    Definitely a case of "chacun a son gout". Love squirrel, and also love the taste of autumn racoon. My grandma braised racoons we hunted on her ranch in late October/early November with apples and prunes, and it was just brilliant.

                    The closest flavor analogy I've ever been able to compare autumn racoon is to the thigh and leg of a wild turkey, but a bit richer.

                    Please don't dismiss racoon as a food...after all, there at least six breeds of coonhounds for which the breeding has been perfected towards tracking these creatures into trees. And not for sport this breeding was done.

                    Yoroshiku,
                    Andy

                    1. re: AndyP

                      I'm suspecting the one racoon we tried might have been stressed from the hunt, very old, or not well. As I recall, there were certain glands that had to be removed? Or is that with muskrat? Hmm. I just might be inclined to dispatch one of those huge hand-fed racoons that plague the near-by town of Pacific Grove. I've seen them roaming the streets at night and the females are as big as country males.. and the males look like chow dogs.

                3. I'm not sure if he still has it, but after my parents bought a home to retire to in the country, my dad managed to bag a squirrel and tossed it in the freezer until he could get at least one more - enough to throw into a stew or something. Even though he makes a point of bragging about how it was a bigger, meatier fox squirrel, not a puny grey squirrel, it still wouldn't go very far by itself. He's not the most skilled hunter - as far as I know, he never did get a second squirrel.

                  Of course, while Mom is a very adventurous eater, everyone seems to have a line that they don't care to cross, and I think hers might just be a chalk outline shaped like a furry-tailed tree rat. So, for all I know, every time he pulls out the rifle she could be out there with an umbrella, alerting the local rodents that there's a nearsighted predator about.

                  1. I think we're seeing as many different kinds of responses as there are differences in squirrels from region to region. The squirrels I grew up eating in central Illinois are generally about the size of gophers - my father hunted both squirrel and rabbit, and any specimen of either one would have about the same amount of meat on it. And, since they inhabited a strictly deciduous woodland, their diet was pretty much all hardwood nuts, buckeyes and acorns (plus of course what they stole from gardens!), and so the meat was neither particularly lean nor as strong-tasting as that from pine-forest squirrels.

                    As for the cooking method, while my mother would sometimes make hasenpfeffer from rabbits, her usual technique, and the only one she used with squirrels, was to season and flour the pieces, brown them, and then slow-braise them so that they made their own thick, rich gravy. She cooked the only raccoon my dad ever brought home the same way, and the memory of it still makes me really, really hungry.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      IIRC young raccoons are the way to go. God, do I miss that slow-braised squirrel! Onion are nice in that.

                      1. re: Aromatherapy

                        Me too...not enough to move back to Illinois, though! Still, we do have a squirrel-hunter in the family again: Elva, our whippet. She's nailed ten in the back yard so far...

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Wow. Kelpie (see avatar) has only nailed two. Mostly they sit up in the big tree in the middle of the yard and swear and throw things at her.

                          This whole discussion just reminded me of my trip to Colonial Williamsburg a few years back. It was October, and the place was crawling with squirrels getting ready for winter. After watching one fat squirrel trying to find the perfect place to bury his acorn in the lawn in front of the Governor's mansion, I said to the guide: I know one thing that's really inauthentic here -- in colonial days there's no way there would have been so many squirrels running fearlessly all over the place!