Squirrel meat tastes sweet, the sweetness ranging between that of duck and lamb meats; the meat is acquired from wild squirrels. Hunters shoot squirrels during the hunting season and these are sold in local stores as a food source. Commercial farming of squirrels as a food source has not yet been started and wild squirrels are the only source of the meat at present.
History of Squirrel Meat Consumption
Red meat was very expensive during the Great Depression and World War II. Squirrels were an easy source of meat as men could hunt the small animals quite easily. Red squirrels in Europe and grey squirrels in North America were actively hunted during this period of time. During World War II, the British Ministry of Food actively promoted dishes made from squirrel like squirrel pie and soup. Native Americans also used to actively hunt the animals as a food source during the summers. However, apart from a few areas, squirrel meat did not pick up in popularity.
In recent years, grey squirrels have actively bred and overgrown the red squirrel population in the UK. As a result, local conservation groups in the UK are pushing for a cull of the grey squirrel population through licensed hunting. Hunters, gamekeepers and the UK Forestry Commission have now allowed hunting of the grey squirrel only to reduce its population in the wild.
Popular Squirrel Meat Recipes
- Brunswick stew is a very popular dish prepared with small game during hunts. The stew contains all the meat shot during a hunt like rabbit, dove, woodchuck and squirrel.
- In the UK, squirrel meat is roasted whole. The meat is seasoned, wrapped in herbs and oil, and then placed on a bed of onions. It is roasted whole and served with red wine. Casseroles with squirrel meat are popular too as the meat is cooked with porcini mushrooms, peeled shallots, and wilted watercress. The meat may also be layered in to a meat and hazelnut terrine as a dish for special occasions.
- At the famous UK Wild Boar Hotel located at the Britain’s Lake District, squirrel is roasted in the Peking-duck style and served with pancakes and sweet-sour sauce.
- Squirrel meat pasties, where the squirrel meat is layered into a pastry shell, along with sliced potatoes, Swedes, onions and bacon are very popular in the UK.
Preferable Cooking Methods for Squirrel Meat
Squirrel meat is tender with a light nutty taste. However, the small size of the animal results in a large amount of bones in the animal. Most gourmands suggest that wiping the animal with oil and roasting it will retain the texture and taste of the meat. Another popular method of cooking the meat is by simmering it in wine and spice gravies or baking it in a pastry shell to retain the moisture and taste of the meat.
Squirrel Meat Buying Tips
Frozen squirrel meat is easily available during the autumn and spring when the leaves on the trees are fewer. New squirrel meat season starts in September. Hunters can then easily see and shoot the animals. Ideally, hunters have to shoot the animal in the head as a body shot destroys the meat in the small body. Trapping of squirrels is also popular but it is illegal in several countries. Squirrel meat is supplied to large supermarkets like Budgens, UK which supplies skinned; jointed and frozen squirrel meat priced at £3.50, a portion. Online websites like ExoticMeats also supply fresh squirrel meat directly to homes on ordering.
A biography of the celebrity singer Brittney Spears states that they were so poor that they could only afford to eat the meat that her dad Jamie Spears hunted. As a result, they used to eat a large amount of squirrel meat.