I haven’t had much of a chance to get out and challenge the squirrel population this year. The ones raiding the bird feeder and those making forays across our yard to the neighbor’s butternut trees live under an unspoken umbrella of protection here on the home front. However, their woodland cousins are fair game.
On the way home from work a couple weeks ago, I stopped by to see my longtime friend and veteran squirrel hunter Bill Barker. I found Bill in his usual place… standing at his work bench and fine tuning one of his classic turkey calls. Before I left, he casually commented, “Would you like to take home four squirrels I killed this morning? Karen and I have eaten about all the squirrel we want this fall.”
You betcha, Bill!
Thinking I might have squirrels to clean, I was surprised and greatly pleased to see Bill walk to his garage refrigerator, open the door and point to four young fox squirrels, cleaned and soaking in salt water. He quickly bagged them up for me, and I was on my way.
Four squirrels were too much for my wife and me to eat at one sitting, and I planned on fixing two and freezing two.
When I got home, my wife said, “Why don’t you invite my sister, LeaAnn, and our brother-in-law, Warren, for a squirrel dinner?”
I checked to see if they were “game” for some wild game. Warren couldn’t remember ever eating squirrel, and LeaAnn thought it was years ago, and she remembered it as being tough. But they said they were up to the challenge.
Having gnawed on many a squirrel leg, I know how a fox squirrel, when fried by even the best cooks, can be tough and chewy.
I made up my mind to try to make their wild game experience an enjoyable and tasty affair. Donning my chef’s hat, I quartered the squirrels and proceeded to marinate the pieces in a dry red wine with garlic and onion. After marinating for two hours, I drained and dried the pieces of squirrel, lightly coated them with hot sauce and rolled them in a flour dredge, then browned them in peanut oil in an iron skillet.
Once browned on both sides, the squirrel pieces were placed in a foil lined broiler pan, covered and sautéed in homemade blackberry wine, garlic, adobo, onion, and red pepper. I slow-cooked the squirrel pieces at 275 F for three hours and basted them several times with the thickened blackberry wine sauce.
The results were excellent! Paired with blackberry wine, the meal included mashed potatoes, fresh sweet corn, homemade bread and squirrel gravy made from the pan drippings from the iron skillet. As for the squirrel, it was full flavored with a touch of blackberry and fall-off-the-bone tender.
The meal got rave reviews!
It never fails to surprise me when I see individuals taste exotic fish or wild game for the first time and then say how good it tastes. If wild fare is given good care in the field and is properly prepared, you can’t beat the things that come from our Good Lord’s larder for flavor or taste.
Over the years, we have eaten and cooked just about anything you can name from the woodland and waters, and we’ve dined on a bunch of other exotic species as well… raccoon, muskrat, ‘possum, beaver, bison, quail, pheasant, prairie chicken, duck, goose, wild turkey, groundhog and so many more. However, I draw the line when it comes to the insect world. I’ll leave the dining on bugs, worms and such to the likes of Andrew Zimmern.
Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.