Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baked Gray Squirrel

Some time back I saw a gray squirrel in the street dart in front of a car and get hit. It laid like a lump in the center of the street while the car continued onward. I went over to inspect the dead squirrel and found that any damage to the squirrel was internal, there was no external bleeding. 
So I picked up the squirrel by its long, bushy tail, 
and within five minutes was opening up the front of the squirrel with kitchen shears, 
exposing the pink flesh inside. 
It was still very warm. I've never been real close to a gray squirrel and I was impressed by the beautiful fur and by how large it was. The skin clings tenaciously to the torso and it takes real effort to get it to come off. 
Above the back hips I found the internal bleeding where the car had done the damage. I was reminded of the first time I ever cooked anything. I was about eight years old, about 1965, and a quail was killed when it flew into one of the back windows of our house. I plucked it, found a recipe with the help of my mother, and then baked it in the oven. I remember it was very good. I was channeling this inner-child when Judy came out and found what I was doing. She was as mad at me as I've seen her in a long time, or ever. She was disgusted that I had my hands in that disease-laden squirrel and there was no way I was going to eat that thing. Well, I figured that I had already encountered whatever parasites, ticks or plague that might be inhabiting the squirrel and decided I might as well finish the job. 
I figured if I froze the squirrel and waited awhile to see if I survived the skinning, I would have survived the most ominous risk of encountering this rodent. 
Then if I cooked it, later, anything in the meat would most likely be killed by the cooking. The squirrel was actually quite beautiful. It had lots of nice flesh, and after removing the tail, head and ends of all four legs, I put it in multiple layers of plastic bags. I was going to take it to work and put it in the freezer there, but Judy assured me she would not throw it away if I put it in our outside freezer. 
To find a recipe for squirrel, I looked in the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. This dated to about the same time as the cookbook out of which I got my quail recipe. It said that when cooking squirrel, "Gray squirrels are the preferred ones." So far so good. It suggested you can "Stuff and roast squirrels as for Pigeons..." So I turned to the recipe for "Potted Pigeons or Squabs" and found that I needed to preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then dredge the squirrel with seasoned flour, which was in another part of the book and consisted of one cup flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (which I used) or ginger. Then melt the butter and saute the squirrel slowly in the butter until it is just seared. After searing the squirrel, add to the butter in the pan, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1 diced carrot and 1/4 cup of celery. We didn't have celery so I just used a 1/2 cup of chopped onion instead. I stirred these ingredients for 3 minutes. I realize now that I should have stuffed the squirrel with the vegetables, but instead, I cut the squirrel in half 
and then dredged the halves in flour 
and sauteed them briefly
and then added the vegetables to the left over butter and flour in the pan.
I put the squirrel halves in a cooking dish, 
put the sauteed vegetables over the top, then poured a cup of boiling chicken broth (at least it was very hot after about 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave) over it. 
I covered the cooking dish with tin foil and put it in the oven (it suggested 45 to 60 minutes). I pulled it out after 45 minutes, then thought of all the things I was going to die of if I didn't cook it properly and put it back in for another 10 minutes. 
As an aside, I might mention that this took place while Judy was out of town. I'd even asked Andrew if he was interested in trying it and his response had something to do with not eating an animal that had been living in a city where it was ingesting toxic asbestos insulation from attics (this coming from a kid who was eating frogs from a filthy looking tank from a shop in Chinatown). Well, this must be really over-the-top stuff. Back to the cooked squirrel. It looked good. I put half on my plate with some of the vegetables, 
let it cool down, cut off a bunch of the meat and went at it. 
Wow, it was really good! There was no gaminess at all. There was no fat. It was thoroughly cooked, but it was not stringy or tough. 
I guess there is good reason that the Joy of Cooking went through so many editions. I promptly went back and ate the other half, then polished off the rest of the vegetables and chicken broth flavored with squirrel. I cleaned the bones. This was all very reminiscent of an 8 year old boy 46 years ago extracting all the meat off of some tiny quail bones. I still felt the same excitement, the same sense of wonder. I'm glad that all of life does not always all have to change, at least all the time. For a few moments on a Saturday night I was a boy again. And it was good. 


  1. I have no doubt that if we were to ever have to live in a Mad Max type of world you would have no problem surviving.

  2. Bob, I'm learning through your blog just how.....interesting you are. I wonder- is there ANYTHING you won't eat? I can't wait to read THAT blog!
    Chris J.

  3. Great piece Bob ... (LOL) I just have to tell you the first thought I had is of Jed, Jethro, and Granny who I love!

  4. What the hell? A Cooked Squirrel, I mean really. You can get really cheap meat from super markets. That is just gross

    1. Read the article referenced by Judy below. You'll see that you are the one missing out. Get a life.

  5. the only thing i'd worry about is squaids :D
    I'd like to try that recipie.

  6. Interesting post about eating squirrel:

  7. Watched my Dad teach my brothers how to do this when I was a kid. Me being the youngest girl (squeamish) I think its gross but if I had to eat it I would I did back then..but only in a have to situation..interesting article I was reluctant to read but made it through... :)