Squirrel: It’s What’s For Dinner

Judy sent me this article from The Guardian about chefs who are making various dishes out of squirrel, specifically Grey Squirrel. There’s a lot of Grey Squirrel meat to be had in the UK because of an organized attempt to cull Europe’s invasive Grey Squirrel population, who are driving the native Red Squirrels to extinction. The Grey Squirrels migrated from North America to Europe, where they made themselves a little too comfortable.

Squirrels in snow
No matter the season, there is no shortage of squirrels in our garden.

And so there is squirrel ragu and squirrel pie, among other delights. I for one would be willing to try squirrel meat. Nothing against my vegetarian readers – but for those of us who are carnivorous, is eating squirrel any worse than eating sheep or pigs or cows? In fact, some in the article argue that squirrel is an ethically superior meat, as it requires absolutely no environmentally damaging inputs.

Not to mention that it wouldn’t be bad to reduce the supply of squirrels in the gardens. Their habit of excavating flowering pots and digging up Crocus bulbs can be exasperating.

Though for my money they are not nearly as destructive as rabbits. (Luckily we don’t have to contend with deer and moles, which can do even more damage.) In any case, the squirrels in our garden look remarkably plump (though the squirrels may think the same about me).

huckabee
Mike Huckabee: celebrity spokesman?

In order to help Americans get over any reluctance to make squirrel a part of their healthy diet, there should be a marketing campaign. Perhaps the celebrity spokesman could be Mike Huckabee, the professional gasbag and former presidential candidate, who likes talking about how he ate squirrel while growing up in Arkansas.

french squirrel

Come to think of it, a better idea (though this would need a different celebrity spokesman) would be to give squirrel meat another name. A French name: écureuil, which is French for squirrel. Instead of eating squirrel stew, we could savor écureuil bourguignon. Écureuil looks hard to pronounce, but in some places that could add to it’s appeal.

Anyhow, it’s just a thought. For more on the pros and cons of squirrel cuisine, read the whole article. 

64 Comments on “Squirrel: It’s What’s For Dinner

  1. I actually see very few gray or even ground squirrels in my area, I think because we have a fair number of coyotes, hawks, owls, foxes and other carnivores that eat squirrel. An occasional rabbit comes through, sometimes nutria.

    • We need more predators around here. There are a few coyotes and hawks, and I hear rumors of foxes, but clearly they are vastly outnumbered by the squirrels and rabbits.

  2. Squirrel hunting’s big in east Texas. Two species are hunted — fox and cat squirrels. For most of the state there’s no season and no bag limits, but in east Texas there are two seasons, beginning in May and then again in October. I’ve had that east Texas treat called squirrel and dumplings. Throw in some homemade biscuits and some mayhaw jelly, and you’ve got yourself a meal.

    I haven’t eaten squirrel in some time, though — not since I had a pet fox squirrel for eight years. Every time I see a squirrel now I think of him, and I just couldn’t.

  3. Here in the west, the eastern gray squirrel was introduced to a park at the turn of the last century and is taking over lots of our native squirrel habitat. Oh yes, it’s a great idea to add them to the diet of carnivores. We also have a large rat population…Just sayin’

    • Well, I just realized that I misspelled. It should be *cherse*. It’s a line that that Spencer Tracy says about Katharine Hepburn in the George Cukor movie, Pat and Mike. He’s talking about Hebburn’s character and says: ” Not much meat on her, but what’s there is cherce.” Probably not an okay thing to say now, but the story./movie is from the early 50’s. Anyhow, it’s a quirky line that I like. https://www.quotes.net/mquote/71889

      • Oh, that kind of “cherce/choice”. There’s also a cherch in the online Urban Dictionary, even if that’s not what you meant.

  4. As the step-daughter of an avid hunter, I’ve eaten squirrel a few times, and it’s pretty good. If it were allowed, I’d shoot all of mine and pack them in the freezer. They are my “rabbits” who have destroyed so many things–pulled the lining from my hanging baskets, chewed up the wooden niche I have on a tree, dug up countless bulbs/plants and knocked over tons of pots. Grrr!

  5. The American grey squirrels carry squirrel pox, to which they are imune, but they pass it on to our native red squirrels, who then die. The grey sqirrels are able to eat their food before it is ripe, so none left for the reds, they then starve. Can you wonder that we don’t want the greys over here. In certain areas food is being left for the greys in feeders which operate by weight (the greys are much heavier) the food contains contraceptives, so hopefully, eventually they will die out!

  6. Paul & I enjoyed your post, fortunately we are spared your grey squirrels.. so don’t have to consider eating them. However kangaroo meat has been around for a while.. a very lean meat, but, as far as I know has never been popular.

  7. If anyone is assembling a list of places to gather/hunt/kill/eat/take away excess squirrels, please come to NH. You can camp out in my yard of mature oak trees and be in squirrel heaven. I can’t stand them myself and all they do is damage and cause me to not be able to plant tulips. Hence, my super enjoyment of your spring posts. 🙂

  8. My problem with eating squirrels is the killing and dressing them. My Dad was a big hunter/fisherman. I ate all sorts of wild meat when I was a child. I liked it. I have in the past cooked squirrel, fish, venison etc. Again I didn’t kill and dress it. When I look outside and see 9 grey squirrels sitting on and around the bird feeders or one or more digging through the flower pots I wish for a verminator to arrive and relieve us of these pests. I would even cook their dinner for them, Squirrel Stew.

  9. I applaud the UK for coming up with a creative solution to get rid of an invasive pest. I can only imagine how many squirrels it take to make a meat pie! I have eaten squirrel before and its not bad. Just a lot of work for a little amount of meat.

  10. I deal with squirrels, deer, moles, rabbits, groundhogs, possums… Well, you get the idea. My parents raised rabbits and they were often on the menu. I was in a fancy restaurant once in NYC and ‘lapin’ was on the menu. I ordered it. When the woman at the next table went to the restroom, her husband leaned over and said he too was ordering ‘lapin’. Said his wife would freak out if she knew it was rabbit, lol.

  11. Nope. I have been known to say, about squirrels (and other things, like protein rich insects), “I hope I never HAVE to…” I would if I had to.

    In my area there are a few proud red-necks (self-named, I’m not insulting, they wear the name on bumper stickers) who go out and shoot squirrels for fun. It’s a go-to family reunion event! Fun…

    If a person HAS to, no problem. In the area I used to live there were too many deer, not enough predators (man moved in), and it was dangerous to drivers, as well as the deer starving. There’s a reason for hunting. And the meat was donated to food kitchens.

    Too many? Invasive? That’s different. Let the professionals deal with it. We don’t need a lot of yahoo squirrel shooters taking it into their own hands (like we’d get here). Squirrels are considered vermin, right? Would you eat rat? Some people do. But, let’s think of the germs and diseases they carry. Like eating a city pigeon vs a wild dove. My daughter had a boyfriend years ago who hunted duck. It didn’t bother him when they had rice breast, and it is said to be fine after cooking, but yuck. Who would want to eat something they knew was cysts formed by baby parasites? I’ll eat my meat from clean, commercial sources, thank you very much!

    As for having your pots knocked over or bulbs dug up? So? My dog does the same thing and I’m not about to shoot him, am I? I’d rather see the birds at the feeders, and the squirrels antics trying to get to the feeders, than pristine bulb beds. It’s nature at work. It’s beautiful.

    • From what I’ve heard, those commercial meat processing operations have problems of their own. I certainly enjoy watching the birds, and sometimes the squirrels, if they don’t do too much damage. The article was about a situation where they were trying to save the native squirrel species, which required them to reduce the grey squirrel population.

  12. I’ve always enjoyed watching the squirrels in the garden although they definitely can be pesky (and overly abundant). I had squirrel stew one time (a grad student in my husband’s department made it) and it was quite tasty, I thought. And having just read an article in the NYT about millenials taking up hunting to eat wild meat; well, it does make sense if the resource is abundant and there are interested hunters. I’d hate to be the one preparing them, however.

  13. Years ago I heard that Russians were bemoaning their loss of squirrels. I don’t know what kind they were. Even pre-vegetarian I don’t think I could eat squirrel. Either way I’ve given up on being annoyed with the squirrels in the yard and tend to think of them as our equivalent of monkeys.

  14. Squirrels seem to be such a nuisance everywhere, but I don’t think I would want to eat one.

    • Rabbits are rodents, too, aren’t they? People eat all kinds of things that sound pretty strange to us: dogs, crickets … but I’ve never heard of rats except for extreme circumstances, like cities under siege.

      • No, rabbits aren’t rodents, they are Lagomorpha. Rabbits are raised for meat. They are breeds that do not make for good pets in the least. I wouldn’t raise them and eat them, but I have had hare in a restaurant. Hare is more common in Europe than in the US.

  15. For me, it’s more about the taste than the act. I’m willing to try any veg or fruit, but when it comes to meat, I’m picky – any hint of gaminess and I push it to the side of the plate. I have a feeling squirrel may fall in that category 🙂

  16. Squirrel are notoriously lean here, not because there is not enough for them to eat, but because they do not need to hibernate through long winters. The flavor is also not all that great compared to that of other regions, mainly because of the coast live oaks that provide most of their acorns. Those in town eat trash.

  17. I can’t wait for Squirrel to become fashionable and common on restaurant menus, the ones in my garden that have dug up an eaten all the crocus bulbs I planted last autumn are fair game and are fat, tender and juicy from the glut they’ve helped themselves to this year at my expense!

  18. What a great idea to cull an invasive population! Grey squirrels are native here, but they are still little pests. I’d try some squirrel stew! Not sure about the popcorn popper method of cooking, though…

  19. I couldn’t eat squirrel, but then I’m vegan, for those who do eat meat I suppose it’s no different from any other animal.xxx

  20. When I lived in South Carolina, I once called the cops because my redneck neighbors were shooting guns in their back yard and I was worried about my children. The cop told me that they were allowed to shoot on their property, that the kids were probably ok, and that squirrel meat was mighty tasty served with rice. I moved.

  21. OK, this is going to sound weird, but I CAN imagine eating rabbit but NOT squirrel. I have this thing about eating animals that I perceive as smart or animals that I get attached to. I love to watch the squirrels’ antics out in the garden and they seem very smart. Rabbits, on the other hand, seem stupid and they eat every plant in sight. I know this doesn’t make sense, but … what can I say? I understand why folks in the UK would want to hunt/eat gray squirrels over there, though. (BTW, people here in my neighborhood do hunt squirrels with BB guns.)

  22. Squirrels haven’t ever been too numerous in my garden. I think I owe that to the openness, hawks, and little boys with bb guns. Apparently it’s still a thing to eat them here as well, for which y garden is grateful!

  23. I have never eaten squirrel, but my husband hunted and ate squirrel as a child. He says it tastes good in soups and stew. We have plenty of gray squirrels around here, but we also have resident hawks that keep the population under control. I once raised a squirrel from earliest infancy after my son found it fallen from a tree after a storm. Its eyes were still sealed shut. I was the first thing he saw after he opened them, and he thought I was his mama. He was amazingly intelligent and extremely cute. As he grew, I gradually introduced him back into the wild. He would play outside during the day but come inside to his cage when I called him at the end of the day. I finally let him stay out all night after I found him refurbishing an old squirrel nest. I no longer called him inside. But for a long time I would occasionally see him sitting on our picnic table, looking into the kitchen window.

  24. Écureuil bourguignon sounds delicious! 🙂
    I believe the grey squirrels haven’t arrived to Finland yet, but I agree that trying to reduce their number in Europe is important.
    Thank you for the interesting and entertaining post!

  25. I’m still trying to figure out how the grey squirrels migrated to Europe–did they build tiny boats?:) I think your idea of giving squirrel meat a French name is a great idea–look at all the people who enjoy Escargot. But I won’t eat snails either:)

    • Those grey squirrels are craftier than people imagine. Maybe they were stowaways on ships, or people brought them for research or as pets? I dunno, it’s a good question.

  26. My father was an avid hunter, he also raised rabbit for eating. We ate rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, quail, duck and venison. My mother made the best rabbit pot pie. Fried squirrel with cornbread and gravy.
    My father also fished. I miss the perch and bluegill he would give me.
    Once upon a time this is how people fed themselves.
    No one in my family hunts now and I truly miss it.

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