Thursday, August 30, 2012

Squirrel Casserole.

Today we return to the list of the top ten forgotten British foods, as decided by a competition run in 2006 by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers. There are still a few left for us to consider: here is the list so far, with links to the stories.

4. Grey Squirrel Casserole
6. Rabbit with Prunes
7. Fife Brooth
8. RomanPie  
9. 16th C Pancakes

Today it is the turn of No. 4, ‘Grey Squirrel Casserole.’

The native squirrel in Britain is the red squirrel, and pretty it may be, but tasty it is not. The grey squirrel from North America was introduced to Britain and Europe sometime during the nineteenth century, for reasons which to me are not clear, but are not directly related to its apparently improved culinary value over its red cousin. Suffice it to say, the good idea went environmentally bad, and by the 1940’s the grey squirrel was officially declared a pest. This coincided with serious World War II meat rationing in England, which gave impetus to its use for the pot. 

Even before the war, there were brave souls prepared to hunt down and eat the appealing little American immigrant. I give you some tips, and a recipe for a squirrel casserole, from The Sportsman's Cookery Book: Containing More Than 200 Choice Alternatives to the Everlasting Joint, (1926) by Hugh Pollard. He comments initially on the ‘strong resinous flavour’ of the native British red squirrel, and notes that it requires marinading before cooking. He then goes on to give a recipe for the very tasty introduced pest.

Squirrel (Grey).
The grey squirrel, since put down in Regent’s Park, has spread through the Home Counties and is doing a good deal of damage. He is fairly edible, and was always a popular dish with the early American settlers.
Quarter four squirrels and put them into a casserole with onions, carrot, juniper berries, garlic, and a glass of vinegar or a bottle of wine. Add water enough to cover, and let them stand thus for forty-eight hours.
Cover the casserole and simmer for two hours, add suet dumplings, and cook for half an hour, squeeze in half an orange, and serve without telling your guests what they are eating.
Alternatively the squirrels may be taken out after half an hour’s cooking and finished with the dumpling by baking in the oven in a brown dish.

Quotation for the Day.

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.


Mama Hen said...

I have eaten squirrel, but not in a casserole - just roasted over the fire after it was shot & cleaned.

Piet said...

In the Midwest in my father's day squirrel was one of the wild meats they actively hunted and ate. His mother prepared it by skinning and quartering it, frying it briefly before stewing gently for a good long time with the standard stew vegetables and a bay leaf, then thickened the pan broth. This was generally served over (American) soda biscuits. Grandpa said they would try to bring back two for each person at the table but of course they weren't always successful.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Mama Hen: was it not tough cooked that way?

The Old Foodie said...

Piet: thanks for sharing this story: I love it when a post triggers a family memory, and then it is shared with so many others. Thankyou.

Mama Hen said...

Yes, it was very tough cooked that way. When you're a couple preteens out hunting the first time, you don't really care so much.
I have had it fried too, after MUCH marinating - it was still tough but not as bad as some steaks I get in some restaurants today!

Judy said...

No, it is not tough if it is a young animal similar to rabbit. And I love it stewed as Piet describes or smothered/fricasseed.

gerry.gerard said...

Squirrels if done right can be very tasty. If you know what your doing, and how to do it. I enjoy the slow cook method. With a little red cooking wine, beef broth, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, potatoes, carrots, onion. This makes for a very savory stew, served with fresh bread. Throw out grandma's recipe and reinvent a squirrel recipe of your own. Not saying old recipes dont have there place, but with all the spices and herbs at hand these day theres no reason you cant become a squirrel culinary chef.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi all. I doubt if I will ever get the opportunity, in Australia, to eat squirrel. I will have to visit one of you!