The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Eating squirrels

Dead squirrel

Bradley knows that Mark and I are interested in trying out more kinds of wild game, so he kindly brought a squirrel to work with him Wednesday morning.  He had shot it the night before, so the body had gone stiff overnight in the fridge and took five minutes to skin --- a long time compared to the one minute Bradley estimates it usually takes him.

Skin squirrel

After Bradley illustrated the proper skinning and cleaning technique, we chopped the carcass up into thirds as suggested and boiled the meat to provide our lunch.  Unfortunately, neither Mark nor I were thrilled by the taste.  I could have spiced it up relatively easily, but wanted to get an idea of what squirrel really tasted like, so left it plain.

Gut squirrel

Squirrel carcassI'm not sure our analysis of the flavor was really fair, though.  When I was able to pretend I wasn't eating squirrel, I thought it tasted a bit like chicken, but for some reason the idea of eating a squirrel didn't sit well with me.  I don't think Mark was able to divorce the idea of "squirrel" from what was on his plate at all.

In a pinch, I'm now confident that I could skin and gut a squirrel, and I suspect that hidden in a pot of vegetable soup, neither of us would have any complaints about squirrel meat.  But for now, we're going to stick to cultivated meat and venison, with the idea of rabbit still floating around for later.

(As a side note, Lucy was far more interested in the squirrel hide, head, and entrails than she usually is in offal.  Sounds like she, at least, has no problem wrapping her head around eating squirrel.)

Our chicken waterer lets you leave town for the weekend without worrying about your flock.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I had squirrel on a regular basis as a kid. My papaw and I used to squirrel hunt in Novemeber, mamaw would put em in the freezer. Not one of my favoite meats, but I could eat my weight in mamaw's squirrel gravy and baked sweet potatoes. I think what made it so good was mamaw cooked on an old woodstove. Enjoy your site much.
Comment by Charlie Engle Thu Sep 6 08:14:22 2012
As a person who has pet rats, I don't think I could ever consider eating squirrel. They're too cute, too smart, and too much like pets for me to think of them as food. Rabbit is also outside my food vocabulary. I'm a softie. That said, the pictures of the squirrel being cleaned didn't bother me at all, but that's probably because I spent some time studying to be a Vet Tech.
Comment by Angela Thu Sep 6 10:33:19 2012
Chicken fried squirrel is awesome! I always thought it tasted a lot like jackrabbit, kind of sweet and gamey. I don't have a problem with eating them because they are the biggest animal garden nuisance around here. They devour melons, berries, tree fruits, and nuts.
Comment by Athena Thu Sep 6 11:47:00 2012
You're setting up any meat for failure by boiling it for your first taste. I'm not a huge fan of squirrels but you're really not doing it any justice by simply boiling it.
Comment by Heath Thu Sep 6 12:10:04 2012

In my neck of the woods, we would call that squirrel a Ground Squirrel. They live in the ground and have an earthy flavor. Not favored in my home.

We also have, the silver tree squirrel that has a better meat flavor. You may want to check and see if you have silver squirrels in your area.

Comment by Mona Thu Sep 6 14:18:15 2012
Fun to hear everyone's pro and anti-squirrel-eating sentiments. :-) Bradley did suggest frying the squirrel up as another option, but he also said it might be a bit tough since it had sat overnight and rigor mortis set in. In retrospect, what I probably should have done was roast the squirrel, which is how I make tough chickens delectable, but first I need to do some work on the mental side of eating squirrel. It would definitely help if they were problems in our garden --- that's how deer came to taste so good. :-)
Comment by anna Thu Sep 6 14:39:34 2012

Mona, no ground squirrels over on Anna's side of the US. That's a grey squirrel if I'm not mistaken and a little larger than the ground squirrel.

Anna, do you have the red squirrels over there or just the grays?

Comment by Heath Thu Sep 6 15:00:18 2012

Mona --- Heath is right --- no ground squirrels here. (Although some people call chipmunks "ground squirrels".)

Heath --- We don't have red squirrels (not quite high enough elevation), but do have the occasional fox squirrel, which is like the gray squirrel but bigger and redder.

Comment by anna Thu Sep 6 15:13:28 2012

You made them sound kinda yummy, even with your mental reservations. Squirrels cause such problems in our garden. When we dispatch one, another seems to take its place within days. We always joke about getting the crock pot ready.....but we haven't tried one yet. I tried rabbit for the first time last year and liked it, so there's a chance I would not mind squirrel. I might try it next spring; It feels kind of disrespectful wasting them.

This University of California site has some good info. about most effective time of year to control them:

Do you think resting the meat for 48 hrs. would make let the rigor pass like it does w/ chicken meat?

Comment by Paula B. Thu Sep 6 15:48:44 2012

Paula B. --- If nothing else, I'll bet you could feed those squirrels to pets. Lucy went ga-ga over the parts we gave her. Since the bones aren't hollow like bird bones, you can feed the carcass whole once skinned and gutted. (And you might not even have to do that much preparation depending on your pet.)

I definitely think that letting the meat sit in the fridge for a couple of days would help with toughness. I don't know why I didn't do that --- too excited, maybe?

Comment by anna Thu Sep 6 17:17:16 2012
Charlie --- I just realized that you're our Charlie from the library! Thanks so much for dropping by! :-)
Comment by anna Thu Sep 6 18:48:54 2012
I have always seen it prepared breaded & fried (which I don't care for) or cooked to death in a crock pot which is alright. No matter how you fook it, it t is still a tree rat IMHO: One meal a year is plenty for me!
Comment by Phil Thu Sep 6 20:45:17 2012

My mom used to cook squirrel and rabbit that dad brought home from a hunt. She would put it in the pressure cooker with tomatoes, onion and other seasonings. We would eat it with polenta (corn meal mush). Sometimes she would fry rabbit like chicken then finish it off in the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker made it very tender and tasty. This was the in the 50s & 60s when we had it regularly and I am not sure I would eat squirrel or rabbit today with all the toxins in the world. Domestically grown rabbit would be good I think but God knows what they are out there eating in the wild these days. But it sure was good back then.
New to reading you blog, enjoying it. Thanks, Nancy

Comment by Nancy Thu Sep 6 21:06:04 2012

Phil --- Sounds like you've eaten quite a few of those tree rats anyway. :-)

Nancy --- In a wooded area like ours, I figure squirrel would be just as good for you as any other pastured meat. Sure, there are some aerial toxins that fall to the ground, but we're breathing those in all the time and eating them out of our garden. Now, if I lived in the city, that would be a different matter....

Comment by anna Fri Sep 7 08:06:37 2012

Hey sweetie,

So some of my friends in Texas are into eating squirrels. They've basically cut out most meat except what they hunt themselves -- which is a trick in suburban Abilene. Fortunately, their yard has a lot of squirrels. Want me to ask for their recipes? It turns my stomach, but they swear it's tasty and have fed squirrel to friends who say the same.

On another note, you mentioned feeding the carcase to Lucy. My dog book said not to give dogs any kind of bone -- hollow or otherwise -- because they can carry diseases. But it didn't specify whether this is only a problem with factory-raised buy-in-the-store meat. Or if it's just for seriously up-tight pet owners. Or what. But I've been good and done what the book says -- Rebecca only gets raw hide chew sticks from the pet store. (And of course, any disgusting thing she finds for herself and gnaws.) Any thoughts on this one?

Comment by Heather Sat Sep 8 18:09:22 2012

Heather --- I really appreciate the recipe offer, but it was hard enough to trick Mark into trying squirrel the first time. I think it might be in his dry beans category --- I need to do some serious mental preparation before feeding it to him again. :-)

About dogs and bones: I'm not sure about disease, but a search of the internet did suggest that bones could puncture intestines and cause a bacterial infection of the abdomen. However, another website notes: "Rawhide bones, green dental bones, and even pig ears have all been causes of intestinal obstruction in dogs as well. Though manufacturers of green dental bones claim the product to be entirely digestible, intact bones have been excised from dogs' intestines and have even caused a few canine deaths."

Personally, I do lots of things that are slightly dangerous but are healthy in the long term if the 1% chance of disaster doesn't kill me. I apply the same theory to pet feeding, so we give Lucy all bones except cooked poultry bones (where I think the percentages tip in the dangerous direction).

Comment by anna Sat Sep 8 19:18:51 2012
Nice!! I'm glad to see we're not the only crazy ones. ;) Justin ended up killing six squirrels so far, but one was too torn up by buckshot for me to feel comfortable eating it. We only harvested the front and back legs and tiny backstraps of the remaining five (wasteful, I know, but I need baby steps), and put them all in the freezer for a few days. Yesterday, I parboiled the meat with some chopped onion, orange juice, pepper, salt, and water in order to prepare it for making stew. The meat came off the bones relatively easily (I was also pretty conservative and didn't keep any too-icky-looking pieces), and we both taste-tested it to see what it was like at this point. Honestly, it really did taste like dark-meat chicken to both of us -- quite flavorful and something that I could definitely eat right there if I were hungry. Today, I plan to throw the meat in a crock pot with potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, habaneros, garlic, tomato juice, lemon juice, chicken stock, and lots of seasoning. I'm baking some fresh bread, and along with a crisp salad, I think it will be very good!
Comment by mitsy Sun Sep 9 09:20:32 2012

Mitsy --- I was trying to remember where I'd been reading about squirrels --- your blog! :-)

I think I should have worked harder at mentally preparing Mark for the meat rather than springing it on him. The trouble is, I'm so empathic that when he doesn't like something, even if I liked it originally, I suddenly don't like it. No good, huh? :-)

Comment by anna Sun Sep 9 11:04:02 2012
Squirrels are little more than tree rats. Y'all would be amazed were I to show y'all the damage they do to electrical and Cable TV system lines. Eat all of the squirrel you can, as far as I'm concerned.
Comment by Thor Tue Sep 11 22:07:37 2012
Thor --- That would make it much more inspiring to eat them up if they were doing that kind of damage!
Comment by anna Wed Sep 12 20:03:28 2012
Bagged two today that were robbing my deer feeder, going to try a crockpot recipe for brunswick stew.
Comment by Phil Sun Sep 16 21:52:57 2012
Phil --- Sounds good! You may make our mouths water enough to try again. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Sep 17 07:45:16 2012
I hope it makes me a better squirrel fan haha. I remember now the biggest turn off for me is getting hair all over the meat while cleaning them... Maybe I just need more practice!
Comment by Phil Mon Sep 17 21:21:57 2012
Phil --- The hairs could have been part of my problem with the meat too. I thought I'd rinsed the carcass off pretty well, but it was a dark morning (and I never turn on the lights if I don't absolutely need them) so I don't think I did that great of a job....
Comment by anna Tue Sep 18 09:53:21 2012

I had intended to comment on this post a while back, but hadn't gotten to it. I've eaten squirrels most of my life. When in high school, I spent innumerable hours hunting squirrel to the chagrin of my dad and step-mother. I'd often eat them after searing over an open fire. Not exactly the best of meals, but hey... I was a teenager.

Since then, we eat quite a bit of squirrel at my uncle's cabin in Mississippi. The best way I've found lately to cook them under primitive conditions is just to fry them with no batter in a bit of oil on a coleman stove. I find they're actually pretty good this way.

I couldn't imagine eating them boiled though... that is the absolute worst way I could think of to prepare a squirrel. I'd take a squirrel roasted over an open pit fire any day over boiled. I bet if you tasted the meat prepared in a different fashion you'd be more pleased. My only gripe about squirrels is the amount of effort that goes into a usually small amount of meat. Unless one has a ready supply of fox squirrels, there's not too much meat on the critters.

Comment by Shannon Wed Sep 26 00:29:53 2012
Shannon --- I think you're right --- I shot myself in the foot by boiling the squirrel. Unfortunately, that turned Mark off so much, he's not willing to try again. :-/ I'll have to learn and do better when I serve him his first rabbit!
Comment by anna Wed Sep 26 13:28:29 2012
Phil- You can also dip the squirrel in water before skinning. It helps a great deal also. Now on the other hand squirrel can be cooked about every way you can think of. Two of my favorites would be squirrel dumplings and fried squirrel slow cooked in mushroom gravy. And I will say I prefer rabbit over squirrel, but usually the squirrels lose the bot fly before the rabbits here in mississippi. But happy hunting. Be safe n try new recipes that may improve your desire to eat them tasty bushytails.
Comment by Tyler Fri Nov 2 23:47:41 2012
Me and my family eat and enjoy gray squirrel we live in the sierra nevadas and i know they feed on acorns and pine nuts i see and hear people say many negative things about hunting and processing our own game but many of these same people have no problem walking into a grocery store and buying a steak or tri tip that was most likley raised and slaughtered as fast as possible and at a commercial rate so i believe that we should know how to fend for ourselves and not depend on someone else to provide food for our family's thats why me and my family are proud to call ourselves AMERICANS......And yes we say The Pledge of Allegiance UNDER GOD and love our neighbor but unfortunately have lost faith in our government ...
Comment by mountain man Wed Nov 28 23:46:36 2012

Oh man, I hate it when people shout the words "American" and "God" at me. What do politics and religion have to do with eating squirrel, anyway? It's like you're shoehorning your beliefs into a discussion where they do not belong, yelling at people who don't feel the way you do. I know it's a great way to get a lot of "likes" on Facebook, but what you don't tend to see when you do things like that is that it's also a great way to get a lot of people sighing and rolling their eyes at your behaviour. Yes, it's a great idea for people to know where their food comes from. It's an even better idea for them to at least know how to go about getting that food themselves. It's admirable if they actually do that.

Comment by Angela Thu Nov 29 08:55:06 2012
Words fail me. I thought only starving hillbilly trumpers ate squirrels. Evolved intelligent humans don't eat meat, let alone squirrels....sad.
Comment by Setay Mada Sun Jun 27 13:13:49 2021

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