Hey Tranter! The 'other' white meat?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by mrkirker, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. mrkirker

    mrkirker New Member

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    January 7, 2009
    Saving a Squirrel by Eating One
    By MARLENA SPIELER - New York Times
    RARE roast beef splashed with meaty jus, pork enrobed in luscious crackling fat, perhaps a juicy, plump chicken ... these are feasts that come to mind when one thinks of quintessential British food. Lately, however, a new meat is gracing the British table: squirrel.

    Though squirrel has appeared occasionally in British cookery, history doesn’t deem it a dining favorite. Even during World War II and the period of austerity that followed, the Ministry of Food valiantly promoted the joys of squirrel soup and pie. British carnivores replied, “No, thank you.”

    These days, however, in farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.

    “Part of the interest is curiosity and novelty,” said Barry Shaw of Shaw Meats, who sells squirrel meat at the Wirral Farmers Market near Liverpool. “It’s a great conversation starter for dinner parties.”

    While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio — that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws — many feel that eating squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.

    With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.

    The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by generations since. The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)

    “When the grays show up, it puts the reds out of business,” said Rufus Carter, managing director of the Patchwork Traditional Food Company, a company based in Wales that plans to offer squirrel and hazelnut pâté on its British Web site, patchwork-pate.co.uk.

    Enter the “Save Our Squirrels” campaign begun in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for their marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of “Save a red, eat a gray!” the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat.

    British bon vivants suddenly couldn’t get enough squirrel. Television chefs were preparing it, cookbooks were extolling it, farmers’ markets were selling out of it and restaurants in many places were offering it on the menu.

    Meanwhile gamekeepers, hunters and trappers were happy to know that the meat was being eaten, not wasted. “My lads don’t like to kill an animal if it’s not going to be eaten,” Mr. Shaw said of the hunters who bring him game.

    Many enjoy squirrel, however, simply because they like its taste. Mr. Carter said he didn’t know what he was eating when he tried it. But, he said, “at first bite, I thought it delicious.” Patchwork will send squirrel pâté, by the way, in return for a donation to “Save Our Squirrels” — but only within Britain.

    Mark Holdstock, a writer and broadcaster specializing in countryside matters, is less enthusiastic, having recently eaten squirrel on the air on “Farming Today,” BBC Radio 4’s iconic program devoted to rural issues. “It’s fair to say I didn’t dislike it,” he said.

    Nichola Fletcher, a food writer and co-owner of a venison farm, held a squirrel tasting for Britain’s Guild of Food Writers, finding “their lovely flavor tasted of the nuts they nibbled.” At a later event, however, she found the flavor disappointing, with “a greasy texture and unpleasant taste,” presumably reflecting these squirrels’ diet.

    Though squirrel has been promoted as a low-fat food, Ms. Fletcher said that in her experience, “the quality and amount of fat varied from no visible fat to about 30 percent, depending on the season, their age and, especially, diet.”

    Fergus Henderson, the chef and co-owner of St. John restaurant in London, offers squirrel on the menu “seasonally.” Though the meat is available all year long, it is in the spring, when hunting season is over, that country folk can focus their attentions on controlling the squirrel population. That’s when squirrel appears on St. John’s menu.

    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.”

    Other chefs may be less lyrical, but they are no less enthusiastic. The Famous Wild Boar Hotel in Britain’s Lake District serves squirrel Peking-duck style; at Matfen Hall, a grand country house hotel, it is layered with hazelnuts into a terrine; in Cornwall, it can be found baked into the iconic meat pie known as a pasty.

    If you want to grab your shotgun, make sure you have very good aim — squirrels must be shot in the head; a body shot renders them impossible to skin or eat. (You want to get rid of the head in any event, as squirrel brains have been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease.)

    Skinning a squirrel is “difficult and unpleasant,” the food writer Leslie Mackley said, adding, “You have to fight to rip the skin from the flesh.”

    A. H. Griffiths, who sells squirrel for the equivalent of about $3 per squirrel at the butcher shop in Shropshire that bears his name, added that it is “best left to the professionals.”

    “Each squirrel skinned makes the next one easier,” he added. “When you’ve skinned as many as I have, you find the best way.”

    Mr. Griffiths is a fan of the meat, likening it to a slightly oily rabbit. “We started selling squirrel a few years ago, after the owner of our local pub bragged about winning a squirrel-eating contest,” he said. Then, he said, the owner “caught a squirrel, casseroled it up, and we liked it so much Griffiths has been selling it ever since.”

    One might think that because of easy availability, squirrel would be the perfect meal-stretcher for these economically challenged times, but it takes a lot of work to get the meat off even the plumpest squirrel. (One would make a good main course.) Combined with the aforementioned difficulty in skinning, Mr. Carter said, many otherwise enthusiastic hunters, gamekeepers and chefs “can’t be bothered with it.”
  2. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    All I can say my friend is I have never seen any for sale or knowingly had one in a restaurant, mind you there was that Chinese the other day? Probebly more of a northern thing.

    The ones I shoot go straight in the recycling bin !!!! Actually I am after a particular little feller at the moment. He sits there and looks at me. I go get my squirrel gun and when I get back, he's gone. So I sit quiet for a while but he does not return until I go back in and put the gun away. Clever, but I will get him, and soon.
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  3. mrkirker

    mrkirker New Member

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    I would name him "Charlie"!
  4. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Charlie it is then.

    I wonder if he uses tunnels?
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  5. mrkirker

    mrkirker New Member

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    In our neighborhood we called then 'tree rats' - so perhaps he does. Keep a close watch on your ammo bins and fishing line. You don't want to catch any booby-traps that the bugger might have set up!
  6. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Walked into a fishing line tripwire once, only a training course but I never forgot that moment. To anyone who thinks they would see one, your wrong!!!!
  7. mrkirker

    mrkirker New Member

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    I saw one across a trail here in E. Tennessee one morning: Only because a dew-covered spider web was using it for support and the morning sun illuminated it. I backed out of there fast. Charlie, it wasn't; it was a dope-growing Bubba.
  8. Before one may prepare squirrel, or dispose of it in the trash bin, Tranter, it is necessary to HIT said squirrel with a weapon capable of inflicting sufficient force to bring about its premature demise. This is, of course, as opposed to hitting bird feeders or other assorted yard objects in place of the squirrel. I just thought I would point that out for your elucidation. ::::::ducking ::::::: :D;):p
  9. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    I will have you know sir I have damaged no more bird feeders since the last incident. The destruction of said feeder would have been more tolerable had the squirrel not survived that shooting. Leaping to safety at the last moment as he did.

    There was the unfortunate gazibo incident, the remnants of which we currently explain as modern art. You think I jest? I will post a picture on the morrow. We needed a new one anyway.
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  10. hkruss

    hkruss Active Member

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    As a veteran of 'The Great Squirrel Wars', I can verify that squirrels can be quite palatable if properly prepared. As a teen squirrel sniper, I dueled many a tree rat 'mano a rodent' until there was only one victor. Due to my superior skills, an accurate .22, and opposable thumbs - I WAS THAT VICTOR !!! And as the saying goes, "to the victor goes the spoils". I would clean my vanquished foe, keeping only the legs since there isn't a lot of meat on the body, then batter the legs and fry them in a cast iron skillet. Good eating, but it takes a lot of squirrel legs to fill you up! My grandfather would fry them up head and all. You were supposed to take a butter knife, and using the handle, crack the skull open and eat the brains!! Never could bring myself to eat squirrel brains!!
    One warning, if you desire to eat squirrel. A lot of them will have these nasty looking worms in them which appeared as big lumps under the fur. As a rule, we would wait until there had been a frost to hunt them. Seems the cold weather would rid them of the worms.

    For those of you who feel that there was no danger in hunting these vicious creatures, I will tell you of my injury received while on a squirrel hunting 'op'. I was in the bush, well camouflaged , still as Death when suddenly, NATURE CALLED. And I don't mean just unzipping and taking care of business, I mean, it was time to release the hostages, if you know what I mean! So I drop trou and backed up against a tree and squatted. The evacuation was going fine for the first 20 seconds or so, when suddenly, and without warning, I felt immense pain in numerous locations of my aft quadrant. Scraped by thorns? No. Butt spasms you say? No. It seems I had disturbed a pile of red ants at the base of the tree who had climbed up the tree to butt level and then mounted a surprise attack on my, er, 'flank'. I leaped from my position, pants down, with much slapping of my bare bottom and a LOT of cursing! As if that wasn't enough, my hunting partner picked that particular moment to come easing up the trail we were hunting on, thereby witnessing the spectacle and to this day, never letting me live this incident down!!!
    So apparently, the squirrels had some sort of alliance with the ants. One more reason I hate 'Squirrely'. On a positive note, I fully recovered from my injuries, and 'butt' is doing fine. The injury to my pride, however, I will carry the rest of my days.
  11. fmacsin1

    fmacsin1 New Member

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    After reading these squirrel stories, I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one to have been "snookered" by 'em! As small as their brains are, is it possible they can outsmart humans? When I moved into my new house, I too, was having squirrel problems and was thinking how smart I was as I was opening one of my sliding windows and slowly, ever so slowly sliding my .20 gauge shotgun out of the window to blast a huge gray squirrel off of my deck. However, I did not notice my next door neighbor coming up my front stairs bringing a welcome 6-pack of beer as a house warming gift, but HE did notice the .20 gauge barrels coming out of the window. Fortunately the gun wasn't pointed at him but away from him, however, it gave him a scare and he said, "holy sh--!" and of course there went the squirrel and scared the h--- out of me too! Needless to say, the squirrel lived to eat more of my birdseed and neighbors always called before they came over! But it's a story that's told all over town with me having been the principal at the time; it really cut down on people coming over the house! Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing after all. . .!
  12. Tranter, have you considered employing a more powerful and efficient weapon in your quest to eliminate the local rodent population? Perhaps an SA80a2 or a Minimi would be more successful. :D;):p
  13. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Yes Pistol but would a Mimimi do this to our gazibo?

    Attached Files:

  14. Well, one thing is for sure, a Mimimi would certainly cause talk among the neighbors! I suspect the local constabulary would be a bit miffed as well. :D;):p
  15. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    I always thought a Minimi was a clone, but much smaller?

    Just for the record and drifting for a change, I guess a magazine for a Glock 17 is going to fit right into a 19 but stick out a bit? Theyre both 9mm.
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