I hear the echo's sounding loud and clear, over and over, "I'm not eating no squirrel meat no matter what". Have you ever eaten (hill slang) something and not know what it was until after the fact and then someone told you what it was? Did you get sick? Pass out? Die? You survived to tell about it, right?
I had a few occasions of something like this happening in my past military life. First, I was in a field training exercise for a week or two and eating field rations started getting old. Warm water and ten year old pre-fab food after training all day and night in the summer heat and humidity of North Carolina. So, about half way through the training, one of our senior squad leaders, Ranger Tweed, told us he was going to fix something special for dinner. He called it Ranger Stew. He said it was something he had grown to enjoy while going through Army Ranger school. Cool. Only tough guys would eat Ranger Stew, right? Or, else crazy. So, about sundown as training winded down till our next session at midnight, Tweed called everyone to dinner. Yep, it looked like stew, smelled like stew, and it tasted like stew. Remember the old "if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck?" Well, we complemented Ranger Tweed on his great meal. It was a nice change to the boring field meals. So, once we rubbed our stomachs and yawned, Ranger Tweed pulled out a baggie from his ruck pack and it had some brown type items about the size of a cut up tootsie roll. He informed us he used the substance as a meat filler in the stew. What was it? Alpo dog food. Not a single person complained or got sick. How about that.
Years later, I was in Budapest Hungary taking part in the United States and Hungary Partnership for Peace Program. We had spent about twelve hours during the first day touring Hungarian Military facilities and getting briefs. Later in the evening I attended a Hungarian Meet and Greet hosted by the Hungarian Government and Military. Jet lagged, hungry and ready for sleep, we smiled, shook hands and consumed appetizers offered by the host. My US State Department provided tutor named Tunda, shadowed me as I walked the food line. I was always skeptical eating anything I didn't recognize when outside the US of A. I ended up with a few crackers and a spread that looked like potted meat. It was very tasty and I had a few more. Maybe five in total. I asked Ms. Tunda what I was consuming and how tasty it was. She smiled and explained it was a very expensive treat in her country and few could afford it. In English I was consuming ground up hog brains. I didn't get sick and nearly 20 years later I'm telling you about it.
So, now that we know once we get past the psychological aspect of something eatable, let's get on with the squirrel stew recipe. Are you hungry yet? Just remember, critters are the essential foundation of a perfect wild-meal, especially the easy-to-find urban tree rat. Or, more appropriately, the chicken of the tree. Squirrel is an overlooked sustainable wild meat: Gamey in a good way but sweet, it's like a cross between lamb and duck with a slight nuttiness. Nutritionally, squirrel meal is 21.4 percent protein and 3.2 percent fat, and each average-size squirrel is about 800 calories a pop. Below is a recipe called Squirrel Stew with Wild Garlic Dumplings.
Step 1 - Break down the squirrel: Skin it, remove the insides, and cut off the feet and head. Clean the meat inside and out, and soak 5-8 hours in lightly salted water.
Step 2 - Cover with water and boil the soaked squirrel for about 10 minutes, then discard the water. Boil again in fresh water with a little salt for about two more hours. Let cool, saving the broth.
Step 3 - Bone the squirrel, and cut the meat into bite-size pieces.
Step 4 - Add the following to the broth; a handful of wild greens like new-growth dandelion or chicory; wild garlic bulbs, onion, or ramps; wild carrot roots (first year's growth) and wild carrot greens; wild roots like evening primrose or burdock; and bay leaves (optional).
Step 5 - Return the meat to the broth and cook until vegetables are almost done. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6 - Prepare the dumplings: Mix together 1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour, 1 cup (100 g) acorn flour, 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt, 4 teaspoons (23 g) baking powder, and chopped sautéed wild garlic bulbs. Gradually add 3/4 cup (177 ml) milk until doughy. Roll dough out to 1/2-inch (1 cm) thickness and cut into small squares. Place on top of stew in pot, cover tightly and cook an additional 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
Now, the magic question. Yes, I have enjoyed squirrel and squirrel gravy over home-made Louisiana biscuits down in Baton Rouge, LA. I have to admit, it wasn't bad at all. If I disliked it, I probably wouldn't be adding this to the website recipe folder.
Bravo Echo Out