Monday, January 6, 2014

Fried Muskrat with Onions

The muskrat is the largest rodent in a subfamily that includes lemmings and voles. Voles remind me of the movie "Never Cry Wolf" in which a government researcher studying wolves eats a diet of voles to duplicate what the wolves are actually eating (to prove that the wolves aren't decimating the caribou population). I have images in my mind of the researcher holding a vole up by the tail and plopping it in his mouth, then chewing and hearing the crunch of bones. Mmmmm. Makes me hungry? Ugh.
Muskrat picture taken from here.
Muskrat picture taken from here
When I was young we had a ranch near Kamas, Utah which had a small man-made pond just out the back door. I remember on several occasions watching early in the morning as a muskrat made its way into the pond and swam around. We even got some poor, grainy black and white photos of the muskrat that I can't find. I remember digging up part of its den just off the pond and finding lots of tubers. That is the only muskrat I've ever seen.

Muskrats are also known as marsh rabbits and I am surprised to find how commonly they are eaten, even now, and how widely their good taste is proclaimed. It appears that they are particularly popular eating in Michigan and Ohio.

I got my muskrat from Exotic Meat Market. Their supplier is a government trapper in the eastern United States. It was already cleaned and missing the ends of its limbs and its tail, but retaining its head.
Muskrat out of its shipping package.
Muskrat teeth.
The recipe for "smothered muskrat and onions" was obtained on the internet and was very simple, much more simple and much quicker than the opossum recipe I made last month. I soaked the muskrat overnight in a solution of one tablespoon of salt to each quart of water. The soaking substantially softened up the carcass and really bloodied the water. 
Muskrat soaking in water and salt solution.
After soaking overnight, the water has turned blood red.
The soaked muskrat has softened up a lot.
After draining off the liquid I cut up the muskrat into pieces with kitchen shears and coated the pieces in a mixture of one-half cup of flour, one and a half teaspoons of salt and one-quarter teaspoon of paprika which had been placed in a bag. I put three tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and browned the coated muskrat pieces, then added four sliced onions and one cup of sour cream, then covered the pan and simmered it for an hour. 
Muskrat cut into pieces.
Coated pieces in a frying pan.
Cooked until the pieces are browned.
Sour cream and onions added on top.
The only issue I had was it left a burned layer on the bottom of the pan that was difficult to clean, but the sour cream/onion mixture was wonderful on its own and it worked very well with the muskrat.

The muskrat is all dark meat and quite mild. One bite had a tiny hint of a livery taste, but other than that had no gamy taste. Most of the meat is in the back legs and the flap meat between the ribs. There is not a substantial amount of meat on the muskrat so one is only enough for about two people.
Cooked muskrat smothered in onions.
Individual pieces show how dark the meat is. But very soft and tender.
A pile of muskrat bones left-over.
In comparison to the opossum I ate recently, I liked the opossum more - larger, meatier, a little milder flavor, but substantially more difficult to cook, at least in comparison to the two recipes I used. What surpises me is how good both were to eat. I had guessed before-hand that both would be gamy and tough and it was just the opposite. 

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