Friday, March 28, 2014

Twenty Gallons of Squirrel Stew.

I have always thought of squirrel stew (when I have thought of it at all) as a stew of necessity and hard times - a stew for the lonely soul scratching out a self-sufficient existence in the wilds, or the passionate hunter intent on justifying the death of his victim, or the wartime housewife trying to find an alternative for rationed butchers-meat. I have certainly never, ever, considered squirrel stew to the volume of twenty gallons. Twenty gallons is a lot of any sort of stew, but squirrel?  How many folk would that amount serve? What sort of occasion would mandate such a dish? I don’t know the answer to that last question, but I can tell you how many squirrels it would take. Twenty, that is how many. Plus a sizeable chunk of pork, which begs the question of the default name of ‘squirrel soup’ perhaps.  The information came my way courtesy of Mrs. Reavis, a contributor to yesterday’s source - How we cook in Tennessee ... Compiled by The Silver Thimble Society of the First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tennesee (1906.)

This interesting booklet also includes a recipe for a rather more manageably-sized squirrel stew (“Make the same as chicken stew, using four squirrels to a pot of stew”) as well as instructions for broiled and stewed squirrel, plus a rather elegant dish of opossum which I also give you for good measure. Those Tennessee Baptist ladies could sure cook up a storm, it seems.

Squirrel Stew for Twenty Gallons.
Twenty squirrels, five pounds pork, half bushel tomatoes, half bushel potatoes, three quarts okra, six large onions, eight red peppers, three packages corn starch, ten dozen ears corn, three pounds butter, salt and pepper to taste. Boil four or five hours, stirring often.
Mrs. Reavis.


Clean thoroughly and scrape it. Mix together bread crumbs, chopped onions, parsley, salt and pepper, and the liver chopped fine and a beaten egg. Stuff the body with this mixture. Sew it up and roast it. Baste often with salt and water to have it crisp. Dip a cloth in its own grease and rub it well. When done take up on platter and garnish with sprigs of parsley and sliced lemon, and put a baked apple in its mouth. [no contributor credited here]


SometimesKate said...

The first recipe looks like burgoo. Not far from where I grew up is a tiny bluff town called Arenzville that hosts a burgoo festival.

Entspinster said...

I seem to recall that about the time of Abraham Lincoln, politicians would lay out squirrel stew and whiskey on election day-- brought voters into town.

Gary Gillman said...

I am very glad burgoo was mentioned, as I had the same impression: a dish of wild meat and fixings as are easily found to feed a large group. Burgoo is par excellence a communal dish and this squirrel dish sounds similar in many respects. What could sound more regional American, burgoo? In fact the term (almost without question) is from bulghur, for wheat. Burgoo - with that spelling - was a gruel on British ships in the 1700's. Like so much else that seems American, it was British in origin.


Lady Anne said...

Dear Lord! It's things such as this that make me glad I'm a vegetarian!

The Squire is from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, and he has mentioned his father eating squirrel. I'm going to send the link to this page to my two sisters-in-law.