How to cook a squirrel
During my 26-plus years at the Daily Inter Lake, I’ve gotten a lot of unusual calls from Flathead folks on a number of topics.
I’ve been asked to check out UFO sightings, dig up obituaries from a hundred years ago and find a particular recipe from the Flavor section a reader had inadvertently tossed out. I’ve taken calls with all kinds of alleged news “tips” to check out this or that. Some made stories, some didn’t.
Perhaps the most unusual request I’ve gotten in recent memory is from an older gentleman who wanted to know if I had any recipes for ground squirrels. I told him I’d try to dig up a wild game cookbook from my hometown’s Rod and Gun Club that I knew had game recipes, even a few for cooking skunks. There were probably a few squirrel recipes in that cookbook, I told him.
He called last winter when I was working from home during the height of the Covid pandemic, and truthfully, his request fell through the cracks. I forgot to look for the cookbook. Well, he called back a couple of weeks ago to remind me I’d promised him some ground squirrel recipes. I’ve searched all over for that darn wild game cookbook and can’t find it, so I went online to see what I could find in terms of squirrel entrees.
First, I needed to know the difference between a ground squirrel and a tree squirrel, and whether there’s any difference in terms of cooking the critters. Let the record show I myself have never cooked a squirrel.
The Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, California, had this to say: “With one look, you may not be able to tell the difference, but with a careful eye you will find tree squirrels have bushier tails to aid balance while running up and down trees, whereas ground squirrels have shorter and less bushy tails and their fur is brown-gray with grey and white dots.”
All of the recipes I came across didn’t differentiate between ground and tree squirrels, so it’s my assumption that both kinds of squirrels are, pardon the pun, fair game, for consumption.
The rule of thumb is to cook two squirrels per person for a meal. And as for recipes, there are a number of “tree rat” (as one source called them) delicacies from which to choose: Squirrel Stew with Paprika and Greens, Buttermilk Fried Squirrel with Southern Gravy and Squirrel Alfredo.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources seemed to have the best selection of squirrel entrees. I’ll be packing up some recipes to send to my ground squirrel-loving inquirer, but for everyone else, here’s a recipe from the Georgia DNR that made me chuckle:
(Adapted from ‘The Everything Wild Game Cookbook’ by Karen Eagle)
4 Whole, Small Squirrels, Cut Up
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons of Rub of Choice
2 Cups Barbecue Sauce
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 ½ Teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat squirrel meat with a nice layer of olive oil, sprinkle with your rub of choice, and lay the meat in a single layer in a baking pan. Bake those bad boys for 30 minutes. Combine barbecue sauce, garlic and sesame oil and brush this on meat to taste. Bake for another 30-60 minutes or until meat is tender and can be pulled from the bone. Finish by basting with as much sauce as your heart desires, and don’t be afraid to get messy with it! I mean it is BBQ after all.
After all this research I don’t have a hankering to eat a squirrel anytime soon. But I wonder what it tastes like. Chicken, perhaps?
News editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.