Squirrel Hunting: Getting Started
remove the chest and abdominal organs so the body cools quickly. If you accidentally shoot a squirrel through the abdomen, removing the viscera and rinsing the body cavity with water is critical to prevent gut and bladder contents from tainting the meat.
To remove the entrails, use the tip of a small, sharp knife, and make an incision where the ribs meet the abdomen. Cut toward the animal’s hindquarters, taking care not to puncture the internal organs. Once the viscera is exposed, look for the urinary bladder. If it is full, pinch the neck of the bladder between thumb and forefinger and carefully cut to remove it. This prevents spills. With the bladder removed, split the pelvis and pull out the rest of the insides. That’s all there is to eviscerating a squirrel.
Skinning a squirrel is tougher. Done wrong, the meat will be covered with loose hair — a real mess. Follow this method to leave squirrel meat free of hair and ready for cooking. First, immerse the animal in a bucket of water. Slosh it around a few times to ensure that the water soaks all the way to the squirrel’s skin. This causes the hair to hold together and reduces the chance of hair contacting the meat while you skin the squirrel.
With this done, make a slit along the hide beneath and at the base of the tail. Cut through the tail but leave it attached to the back skin. Cut an inch or so further up the back and extend the cut along the squirrel’s flanks. With these cuts made, step on the tail and pull on the skin attached to the hind legs. This will strip the skin nearly all the way down the hind and forelegs.
Pull the skin over the forelegs and hind legs, then cut off the head and feet with a knife. During this process, frequently dip your hands and knife in the bucket of water
to rinse off any squirrel hair that could cling to the meat. This method greatly reduces the number of hairs that stick to a squirrel’s carcass.
Next, cut off the front legs, hind legs, and back meat below the ribs. You will see gland tissue on the front legs where they joined to the body. Remove them. Also, on the inner joint of the hind legs, find a small, triangular patch of light tissue. Cut into it and remove the small, round gland found there.
To remove any hair that still adheres to these pieces of meat, place them under slowly running water and pick the hair off by hand. Though tedious, this work is necessary if you wish to turn a squirrel into fine eating.
In the Kitchen
When you clean squirrels, separate the young ones from the old ones. Young squirrels are for frying. How do you distinguish young squirrels from old? Old male squirrels have a large scrotum with well-developed testicles, young males don’t. Old females often lack hair around their nipples from having nursed young, whereas young females show no signs of nursing. Young squirrels are often smaller than old ones, and the skin of young squirrels pulls off more easily than that of old squirrels.
To fry, dredge squirrel pieces in flour mixed with pepper and plenty of seasoned salt. Taste the flour. The flavor of seasoned salt should be distinct. Pour enough vegetable oil in a skillet to cover the bottom to a depth of about 1⁄₃ inch and heat to 350 degrees. Cook on one side for about eight minutes, or until you can see the sides browning. Gently turn the pieces over and cook for six or seven minutes, or until evenly browned. Remove from pan and drain well on paper toweling.
This recipe will make any old squirrel tender and delicious. Place squirrel pieces you wish to cook in a large pot. Cover with water and add enough seasoned salt to tinge the water orange. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Lay two large pieces of heavy-duty tinfoil across each other on top of a large serving tray. Remove the squirrels from the pot and place them evenly on the tinfoil and serving tray. Add 1 cup broth and 2 tablespoons of butter. Fold edges of tinfoil over squirrels and place tinfoil and squirrels on grill over low coals. Cook for 45 minutes.
Remove squirrels from tinfoil and place directly on grill. Brush on barbecue sauce and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove and serve.