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January 12, 2009

Squirrel stew

Filed under: American Food,English food — Mr. Henry @ 8:21 pm

Who isn’t trying to save a few dollars these days?

To that end, two recent newspaper articles caught Mr. Henry’s attention this week. In the New York Times Dining & Wine section Marlena Spieler reports from Britain on the increasing appetite for squirrel.squirrel.jpg

Coincidentally the Jacksonville Journal, a daily newspaper deep inside the Gator Nation, reports this week that squirrel hunting is a year-round southern tradition. Although writing in the sports section, the author thoughtfully includes the following robust recipe for “manly” squirrel stew (in case your own family recipe happens to be for sissies).

Note the addition of an entire cup of barbecue sauce (K.C. Masterpiece, original) as well as ¼ cup of flour for thickening. Mr. Henry particularly appreciates the delicacy of adding only ½ bay leaf. Evidently ten squirrels boiled for 45 minutes only achieve those subtle aromatic top notes when seasoned with the slightest hint of bay.

– 10 squirrels.
– 11/2 cups lean ham (diced).
– 3 large potatoes (chopped into 3/4″ dice)
– 2 medium onions (chopped)
– 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (chopped and drained)
– 1 16-oz can whole kernel corn (drained)
– 1 10-oz package of baby lima beans (frozen)
– 1/2 bay leaf
– 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
– 1 cup K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce (original)

Salt and pepper squirrels. Place in large soup pot, adding enough water to cover them. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook it for 45 minutes or until meat begins to fall off the bone. Remove from stock. Allow to cool and remove meat from bone. Add all ingredients to the stock (leaving out the squirrel). If it’s a little thick just add water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add squirrel and simmer for 30-45 min, stirring occasionally. To thicken, mix 1/4 cup of flour with 1 cup of cold water and add to stew. Serve with corn bread.

This recipe vividly reminds Mr. Henry of the special stew served as a hazing ritual for admission to his high school athletic-letter club. After downing a quick bowl, hapless pledges were forced to run wind sprints which never failed to purge the stomach violently. Worthy traditions like this one doubtless help prepare for economic downturns by engendering manly appetites for quarry freely and abundantly available in North Florida’s hardwood forests.


According to the Jacksonville Journal, you will be relieved to learn that hunting the wild squirrel is not as difficult as it may sound.

“A squirrel is smart, but will usually lose the mental match-up with a hunter of average IQ or better.”

In Britain squirrel hunters only aim for the head in the belief that a body shot spoils the meat. Not so in Florida:

“There have historically been fistfights over whether to use a shotgun or .22-caliber rifle on a squirrel hunt. Neither work any better than the operator when it’s all said and done. The truth is that there’s room for both guns.”

If you can’t stand up to a manly stew, borrow an idea from the celebrated London chef Fergus Henderson.


Mr. Henderson, who cooks with both poetry and passion, sometimes prepares his squirrels “to recreate the bosky woods they come from,” braising them with bacon, “pig’s trotter, porcini and whole peeled shallots to recreate the forest floor.” He serves it with wilted watercress “to evoke the treetops.”road_med.jpg

There must be more squirrel recipes in this useful kitchen companion.


  1. My dear Mr. Henry, While I appreciate that you are quoting the esteemable Gator Nation (I am sure it is a fine paper), please note that most Southerns have never hunted squirrel and have never eaten said cute/amusing rodent. Please also note that most of us consider Florida to be the southernmost borough of New York City (at least from Tampa south). We also all do not eat oppossum, road kill, or chittlings. This is not to say that some folks do eat the above, however, it is not common. Just wanted to clarify this because it is so stereotypical to assume that Southerners eat this garbage, make moonshine, keep bluetick hounds, and “chaw tobaccy”. Oh, I’m not accusing you of this belief but some of your readers make make that assumption. Muah!!!

    Comment by Jennie — January 18, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  2. Oh! Last note. Facinating book (made me a little ill) is from Northerner Ted Nugent. “Kill It and Grill It”. Yummm….I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Comment by Jennie — January 18, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  3. ummmm……. I have that cookbook.

    Comment by Leanne — January 22, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  4. In the wild west northern territory town of Darwin in Australia. Where men are men – and are also lunch for the salt water crocodiles, there exists the Roadkill Cafe, with the delightful slogan: “You kill it, We grill it”.
    yes they serve croc, camel, emu, kangaroo, possum etc
    Hmmm ….. the Australian Coat of Arms – probably the only Coat of Arms where the animals on it are served for lunch

    Comment by Leanne — January 22, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  5. Just don’t eat the brains. Apparently squirrel brains (fried, I assume) are popular in some parts of the US. However, you can get “mad squirrel disease” from consuming them. Interesting article in the New Yorker about 9 years ago on this very subject.

    Comment by Imelda Blahnik — January 22, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

  6. I remember watching a rustic outdoorsy cooking/camping show, in which the host was demonstrating how to kill, skin, gut, and cook squirrels, and sang the praises of this low-fat, healthy meat source. He had a big pot of butter, flour, heavy cream, and sour cream in measurments of 1-2 cups each. Yes Camp Cook, very healthy indeed.

    Still, I have a hard time feeling sorry for fricasseed squirrels. A couple years ago, my pear tree was laden with hundreds and hundreds of pears. Just before they were ready to pick, some S.O.B. squirrel or squirrels, took bites out of every single one. There wasn’t one pear that was free of a gnaw mark. Little S.O.B.s.

    Comment by jelodi97 — January 23, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  7. Little-known fact: fruit that has been only slightly molested by birds/squirrels etc is sweeter, as the fruit releases sugars to stop the “bleeding”. I know a chef who has his eye on buying one orchard’s entire crop of slightly pecked fruits, to make some wonderful cooked preserves. I dont’ think he’ll talk about that part, though.

    Comment by raincoaster — January 26, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  8. And January 21 was Squirrel Appreciation Day. No fooling. You can look it up.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — January 29, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

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