• Waste Not, Want Not Squirrel Rillettes {Charcutepalooza}

    by  • October 15, 2011 • charcutepalooza, Local Food, Meat • 17 Comments

    squirrel rillette charcuterie platterWhen you think of squirrel, what comes to mind?

    Do you picture a cute fluffy tailed animal, some backyard wildlife? Or  is your vision something more sinister? Are your squirrels tomato thieves, bird feeder destroyers, and dog taunters?

    Is anyone thinking savory and delectable? I am.

    About Squirrel Meat

    While squirrels are ubiquitous in most American neighborhoods, they are almost never on the dinner table. Why? It has nothing to do with the outstanding dark meat, smooth textured, rich taste.

    Squirrels are tiny animals when skinned, about 3/4 of a pound including bones. Though ‘tree rats’ are more numerous than HRC stickers in my liberal neighborhood, harvesting and processing enough to feed a crowd would be arduous.

    Speaking of the bones, they are numerous. Wine braised squirrel is every bit as tasty as duck (I swear) but eating around the needle thin skeleton is a royal pain.

    Then there’s the concern about safety. Could something that runs around alleys, tree lines, and lawns be good to eat? I myself wouldn’t touch the first few squirrel Alex made.

    After a whole summer witnessing the beasts steal my garden produce and hang off bird feeders, it hit me: squirrels eat very well. They are not rats eating trash at all – they scavenge abundant wild nuts, seeds, and veggies. Most of what they eat is as untouched from chemicals as the pasture ranged meats I pay so much for at local markets.

    Stretching

    The October Charcutepalooza challenge was to make an appetizer of rillette, confit, gallentine or roulade, to stretch a single cut of meat into a dish that would feed many. I extended the stretching theme to include my food budget. What delicious small bite could I create without purchasing ingredients?

    I immediately thought of squirrel because 1) we had one in the freezer and 2) making it into confit and then rillette would be the perfect way to enjoy the meat without the annoyance of the bones.

    squirrelseasoned squirrelgoose lard for rillettesquirrel rillette cooking

    Alex flavored a backyard harvested squirrel overnight with garden herbs and garlic. Next, I put the squirrel in goose lard from last year’s Xmas Eve roast with a few end bits of pork belly leftover from making bacon for a long warm bath. Alex picked the meat, pulsed it quickly in a food processor, and packed it into containers. He capped the rillette with excess goose fat.

    To serve the rillette,  I continued with the waste not, want not theme. I made homemade crackers with the amount of sourdough starter I would have discarded when feeding the fermented goodstuff this morning. Home grown, home canned cornichons and homemade cranberry sauce completed the platter.

    squirrel rillette on cracker with cranberry

    Would you try a bite?

    About

    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.

    http://www.harmonioushomestead.com

    17 Responses to Waste Not, Want Not Squirrel Rillettes {Charcutepalooza}

    1. October 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Rachel, Thanks for your comment over on my post. I love yours as well! Using squirrel was a great idea. Living in nyc, I’m always tempted, but then I actually see these guys scavenging through the trash. Wish I had my own backyard squirrel so I could give this a try.

    2. October 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      I applaud your resourcefulness. It’s a very compelling post and I just might be willing to try a taste. Great work, Rachel. Thanks so much for playing along.

    3. October 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      More people should eat squirrel. They’re great!

      • October 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm

        I’m glad you agree!

    4. October 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      I applaud you! Squirrel are not pests in my neck of the woods; rather, they are fodder for all cats. However, I once felt the same way about wild turkeys and if I could see well enough, I’d shoot and smoke the bothersome beasts. You have outdone many of us. Great job!

      • October 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        I would love to hunt wild turkeys! We’re too urban to get any game birds here.

    5. Martha
      October 16, 2011 at 7:04 am

      Excellent! I fully agree that squirrel is probably one of the most organic meat sources around. I cooked 6 last year that my neighbor boys brought over, braised with wine, garlic, tomato, herbs. Yummy!

      • October 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

        Braising in wine does pair well with the rich meat of the squirrels. We’ve never added tomato but I’ll try that next time.

    6. October 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      As a teenager, I remember reading my mother’s copy of The White House Cookbook and finding a recipe for squirrel soup. My mother’s maid, a native of Georgia, told me that her mother used to make it for her and her brothers and sisters when they were sick. It was supposed to be especially nourishing. Here’s a link to a fairly recent article the the Los Angeles Times about squirrel soup. There’s a picture of a clipping from the 1970’s which has a picture of The White House Cookbook that my mother had.

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2010/09/mmmmm-squirrel-soup.html

      • October 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

        Fascinating! I wonder what’s in it other than the meat?

    7. October 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      I might be more dubious of squirrels in NYC. I’m pretty certain ours are fat and happy on fresh nuts and garden produce.

    8. October 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Thank you for organizing us, Cathy!

    9. October 18, 2011 at 1:27 am

      You had me at eliminating garden thieves but then the goose lard cinched it. I actually have a butchery book that includes squirrel. But I’m with you – I would never eat a NYC squirrel.

    10. Kristin
      October 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      So did he grind up the meat with bones included? DH has said many times that he could come home with dozens of squirrels when he goes deer hunting, but I am basically too lazy to do much more than field dress them. If I could just grind them up with the meat grinder, that would be swell.

    11. Pingback: A Six Year Old Makes Lardo & Rat Creature Quiche {Charcutepalooza} | Hounds In The Kitchen

    12. Pingback: Sweetheart, Sweet Heart {Charcutepalooza} Beef Heart Confit | Hounds In The Kitchen

    13. Alex
      February 19, 2014 at 2:10 am

      Damn. I googled squirrel rillettes to see if it had been done before. And behold… I am not really upset though, just even more inspired to make my own.

      Thank you
      Alex

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *