For those of you who went to elementary school in the 90s, perhaps you can reminisce with me about playing the good ole Oregon Trail computer game. I remember several things about the game – seeing the little covered wagon bump along the trail, “burying” those who died along the way, trying to feed my oxen, and trying to shoot squirrels and deer for food. I have this mental image (from the hunting part of the game) of the little man on the computer screen with his rifle with bullets emitting each time you pressed the space bar. The faster you pressed, the faster the bullets came. (Thus, my opening line for this blog post.) So, when you saw some squirrels or deer, you blasted a stream of bullets at them (remembering, of course, that your bullet supply was limited).
I had a flashback to playing that game the other day when, lo, and behold, the Russell men brought me some game….
The pride on their young faces at bringing home some meat was too much. I cautiously mentioned that I had just seen a recipe for squirrel stew in my Mennonite Country-Style Recipes cookbook. That was the all the encouragement my dear husband needed to butcher the critter.
I smiled bravely as I carefully washed the squirrel. (Let me insert here that before this experience I had never eaten squirrel meat.) Thoughts ran through my mind, such as how I encourage other people to branch out and try new things like venison and goat milk; the old saying, “waste not, want not;” if I were really hungry, I would eat this, and how happy I was in the Oregon Trail game when my hunting yielded some squirrels. Hmm, could I practice all I preached and eat this creature?
I read a few tips online and soaked the squirrel in a water, vinegar, and salt solution for a few hours. Then I poured it off and soaked it overnight in just salt and water. The next day, I simmered that little guy for about an hour to make it really tender. I deboned it, and it yielded about ¼ cup of meat that looked and smelled somewhat like dark chicken meat. I put it back in the fridge for about 2 days soaking in Worcestershire sauce. And, then….then…I made squirrel stew.
I used a recipe from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, but I adapted it so much that I’m not going to quote the original recipe. (I do want to give credit to the cookbook, and I highly recommend it because it is loaded with tips for from-scratch cooking. If you have the cookbook, the recipe I used is on page 511; it is called Brunswick Stew.)
Russell Homestead Squirrel Stew
1 cup cooked and shredded squirrel and/or chicken meat
1 potato, diced
½ cup chopped onion
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 quart of canned tomatoes
Salt, pepper, & seasoned salt to taste
Directions: Put all ingredients in a kettle and cook until potatoes are tender.
Notes: The canned tomatoes were my own. I can chunked tomatoes with peppers and onions. I did use chicken meat in addition to the squirrel meat because the squirrel was so small. We could not tell a difference between the chicken and the squirrel in the stew. (However, I will note that there was hardly any squirrel meat to speak of, so I won’t say that it tastes like chicken! It simply pretty much hid in our stew.)
Other options: The Brunswick stew recipes also called for bacon, lima beans, cayenne pepper, and corn. The options are endless, provided you have squirrel meat available.
The conclusion of all this – it was worth it! My boys felt like men who provided meat for the table. The stew was quite tasty, and everyone enjoyed it. I will definitely use this recipe again if any other unfortunate squirrels meet my Russell men. And, since I'm an animal lover who could never bring herself to shoot any animal, I feel good when a harvested animal does not go to waste.
If anyone reading this has any tips on cooking squirrel, I would love to hear them! Thanks for stopping by!
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
Independent Field Representative