Squirrel is one of the most adorable wild animals with their distinct fluffy tail and their intriguing ability to run up the tree with minimal effort. However, that may not be everything you know about your Sciuridae companion.
Squirrel meat may be something that is alien in an average American restaurant, but it is apparently not the same case in many other countries. Squirrel meat has found large acceptance in many cultural cuisines around the world both due to its unique taste and the sustainability factor as well.
So, what does Squirrel taste like? And why do people eat it?
What is Squirrel & Squirrel Meat?
Seems more like a stupid question to ask what is a squirrel? Isn’t it? Squirrel belongs to a classification of the wild animal family called Sciuridae. This family includes Rodents such as mice, shrews, chipmunks, ground squirrel, tree squirrel, etc.
Contrary to what you may know, there are over 200 different species of squirrels around the globe. However, only 5 species are commonly found in America. Squirrels are usually of various sizes and weight. The smallest type is the African pygmy Squirrel (7-10 cm long), and the Malabar giant Squirrel (35-50 cm) is the largest.
Squirrels are easily distinguishable by their furry tails, slender bodies, and big eyes. The color of the coat and patterns vary from one type to another.
What Does Squirrel Taste Like?
For some people, just the thought of tasting squirrel meat may be unappealing. After all, they do belong to the family of rodents. However, if you can get past that mental image, the taste of squirrel meat can be quite a unique experience.
Coming from people who have previously tasted rabbit meat, they claim squirrel share striking flavor similarity. However, the gamey texture is more subtle in squirrel meat as compared to a rabbit.
Some even describe the squirrel meat as a hybrid of chicken and rabbit flavor. They also have a sweet and nutty taste, primarily due to their natural food routine that includes walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc. In brief, the meat of the Squirrel has a more "conventional" taste similar to the ones you may already be having; but with the addition of a dominant nutty flavor.
As sweet and flavourful a squirrel might taste, it is more popular due to its several health beneficial aspects. In fact, its rich nutritional content is one of the primary reasons why people chomp down the meat even if they find the concept of eating a squirrel meat offensive. Squirrel meat is a low carb and saturated fat diet.
According to nutritionvalue.org, a pound of squirrel meat contains around 6g of protein 0.9g fats, and 34 calories.
How to Cook Squirrel
You can cook squirrel meat in a vast multitude of ways, especially due to its striking flavor similarity with chicken. You could even try swapping out your usual chicken for a squirrel in one of your favorite recipes. You only have to cook for a longer duration.
The earliest recipes suggest squirrels have been roasted and fried for consumption.
One of the earliest culinary using squirrels exists in the form of Brunswick stew which is essentially a stew dish containing various vegetables and slow-cooked squirrel meat. Another traditional recipe that was found on many cookbooks dating back to the late 20th century is the squirrel fricassee.
The meat should be first pan-fried till it obtains a brown color. After that, you can transfer the meat to the pot containing vegetables, wine, and stock. Slow-cook the entire mixture over a low temperature (about 100°C - 150°C) for about 4-8 hours.
Due to its high bone-to-meat ratio, squirrel meat in specific is ideal for slow-cooking methods. Make sure you use a sharp knife to remove all the bones before cooking.
Squirrel meat is one of the ideal means of obtaining a sustainable protein meal. If you have been avoiding cooking squirrel meat at home or is just skeptical of ordering it in a restaurant, it’s about time you give this exotic meat a try.