Monday, April 05, 2010

The Squirrel Experience.

So, after letting my squirrel meat soak for about twelve hours, I decided to cook it and try it.

I was in the kitchen, pulling it out of the fridge when something suddenly occured to me:

"Sweetie?" I asked Sunny as I walked back into the living room. "How do you actually cook a squirrel?"

It turns out there's two main ways, you either stew the meat and make squirrel stew or squirrel and dumplings, or you dredge it in flour and fry it like chicken. I opted for the fried option for two reasons:

1) I haven't eaten anything fried in months and I really miss it...and this is a special occasion so I don't have to think about eating healthy, and...

2) You can't make much of a squirrel stew with just two squirrel legs.

Seriously, does this look like the basis of a stew to you?

Me neither. For size, those squirrel legs are on a saucer, not a plate. What I had was basically two decent-sized chicken wings worth of meat, so I decided fried was the way to go.

I kept the recipe simple. I don't mind blowing my own horn and saying I make some awesome fried chicken with fourteen different herbs and spices (In your face Colonel Sanders!)...but while chicken is basically a culinary blank canvas, the whole point here was to discover what squirrel tastes like, so rather than drown out its flavor, I settled for just adding a little garlic powder and oregano to the breading.

A few minutes later I had some golden brown, and rather appetizing looking squirrel. Here it is just before I took it out of the pan:

Tell me you're not hankering for some delicious Kentucky Fried Squirrel right now...I dare you.

Anyway, I liberated the meat from the pan waited to let it cool down a little...occasionally giving it a little sniff to see if I could discern whether a delicious tasty treat or a stomach-churning ball of pure evil awaited me. It smelled amazingly good. Once it hand cooled down enough, I picked up the bigger of the two pieces and took a bite.

My first reaction was: Wow! This tastes like really, really good dark meat chicken. Kinda like a cross between a chicken wing and a chicken leg, but with way more flavor!

My second was: Holy shit this is tough. What's this squirrel made of? Vulcanized rubber?

Well, taste first...

Yep, I'd go so far as to call it delicious. I'd originally figured that, at best, squirrel would be something I'd think was okay and would become a very rare, a once-in-a-very-long-while, when the opportunity comes up, camping trip, if I'm honest, I'm kinda disappointed that I can't buy it at the grocery store.

People had told me that squirrel was overly greasy and gamey, but I didn't get any of that at all. It was definitely rich, but it wasn't greasy, probably similar to good roast lamb, and it certainly wasn't gamey...which was probably down to me soaking it for most of the day today.

...but as I said, it was tough. In fact, I'd say it was 'just this side of edible' tough...but to be honest, I'd kinda expected that. Firstly, this isn't factory farmed, corn fed meat from an animal that was kept as immobile as possible to keep its meat tender and juicy. This is meat from an animal that used its muscles every single day.

The other thing is that, when I shot it, I could tell from its size that it was definitely an older adult, probably around five or six years old. Basically, if we're going to stick to he chicken analogy, a young, one year old squirrel is like a nice plump hen...whereas the squirrel I bagged today was an old rooster...and everyone knows you make Coq Au Vin with an old Roosters, you don't flash fry it.

That's obviously why a lot of people choose to stew their squirrels, because I get the feeling that if I'd got a few more and stewed them slowly in the crock pot, it would have fallen right off the bone.

To be honest, the hardest thing about the whole process was simply getting my head right with what I was doing. You see, this squirrel was also another thing to check off my 'man-list', because (other than fish) this is he first animal I've ever killed, skinned cooked and ate...and let me tell you, it's one thing to look at a cut of meat pre-packaged, frozen meat...but it's entirely another to look at a cut of meat that was looking back at you that morning.

As I've mentioned before, people have this weird mental disconnect between the food they eat and the animal it used to be. People simply don't associate hamburgers with the quadrupeds that eat grass and say 'moo'...but what I didn't realize was that I had a version of that same mental disconnect myself.

Had someone come to the house this morning with a big pot o' squirrel meat, I'd have cooked it and tried it without thinking twice...but it's a different matter when you remember peeling the fur and chopping the paw off the leg you're about to put in your mouth.

Anyway, while I understand that hunting, skinning and cleaning your own meat isn't for everyone... if you ever get the opportunity to try some squirrel meat, go ahead and try. It really is good.

"The animals we eat today aren't necessarily the best tasting, or even the most nutritious...they're simply the animals our ancestors first managed to domesticate...and, to put things into perspective, no matter what you eat, someone, somewhere will think it's really, really weird.


Scratch the hostile fay said...

Dent used to talk about a roommate of his, who would kill squirrels and put them up in their freezer... Creeped him out a tad.

But hey, if that's what you like.

Dent's brother would probably pay you to take out some of the varmits in his back yard.

I'm afraid I'd have to draw the line though. The oddist thing I've ever eaten was goose. Which tastes like really greasy chicken!

Bon appitit!

Paulius said...

Well, I can understand how 'whole' squirrels in the freezer could creep someone out...but a bag of 'processed' squirrel just looks like meat...because that's what it is.

Hell, I'll try anything once...if I don't like it, I've lost nothing, but maybe my favorite food of all time is something I haven't tried yet.

Finding that out is definitely worth trying some bad things as well, right? said...

That's an amazing couple of posts about killing and eating the squirrel I'm from small town and took a rabbit while bow hunting the only edible portion was also the hind legs.

I was amazed by the amount of meat actually on that squirrel kudos for cookings and eating that thing.

Paulius said...

Well, there was actually a lot more meat on the squirrel, but I'd made such a mess of skinning it that I just decided to quit while I was ahead and just took off the back legs.

Oh, and I kinda regretted not taking a picture of the squirrel before I skinned it, it was an absolute I said in the post, it was at least four years old...which is probably why it was also so tough.

the best meat on a rabbit is the 'saddle'... When it's completely skinned and cleaned, that's the meat on its back, below the rib cage on either side of it's spine.

Evan 08 said...

Kudos. I used to eat squirrel quite a bit when I was a kid.