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Squirrel a tasty treat for stew lovers all over

The Westmoreland Journal of Westmoreland, Virginia

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Things have changed in the past 40 years.

Long ago, if your family faced a bit of a financial shortcoming, you grew a garden, fished a bit more or hunted more. Often suppers were made of small game, such as squirrels, out of necessity. Even in homes that were not necessarily facing financial hardships, people saved money by doing a little small game hunting on the side and growing a garden.

One small game animal that is nearly always overlooked as a good, lean food source is squirrel. I told some young people not long ago how good squirrel was and my comment was met with, "0oooh! You eat that?"

I most definitely eat squirrel and I actually love it Many people that have tried it after I made a soup or stew from squirrel have commented how good it was. I doubt my cooking skills are such that the "0oooh" factor is suddenly gone.

Squirrels eat shoots, nuts, berries and other vegetation. The meat is very lean with almost no fat. They are relatively abundant and quite fun to hunt. No extravagant gear is needed either. Hunting squirrels can be done with a shotgun or 22 rifle, where it is safe to do so. In areas where houses are nearby, 22 rifle shots need to be taken downhill into the side of the hill for safety, not up in the air to let the bullet land who knows where. Right now, there are lots of squirrels to be had. They are scurrying around gathering nuts for the winter, burying them for later and storing them in trees too. With the leaves falling, squirrels are somewhat easy to spot as they go up and down the trees and dig on the ground.

When using a shotgun, use #4 or #6 shot. Try to aim for the head. Most of the choice meat is in the rear legs but the front legs are not to be overlooked. A 22 rifle shot can be taken at the head or behind the shoulder. A scoped rifle is even better as long shots can be taken effectively.

Look for squirrels near hickory, beech and oak trees. Walk slowly and watch for movement going up and down the trees. Confirm it is a squirrel before shooting and take careful aim. The bag limit is 6 per person per day. Don't overlook simply sitting in a grove of nut bearing trees and out waiting squirrels. They often will head to the tops of trees when danger lurks and then come back down when they feel danger has passed. That is usually within 10 minutes or less. Move slowly, quietly and wear cameo if possible. Remember, blaze orange is necessary to be legal during firearms and muzzleloader deer season when moving.

Skinning a squirrel is not too difficult, particularly if you do it soon after getting the squirrel. Make a slight cut perpendicular to the backbone and work your fingers under the skin. Pull the skin apart and work down to the wrists and ankles and cut off. Cut the tail off and then remove the four legs. Place the quarters or legs in a bowl in the refrigerator and let them chill for a few days. This will help tenderize them a bit. Then either freeze them or use them. Three or four squirrels are all that are necessary for a good batch of soup. Use more meat if you prefer. Squirrel soup

Place squirrel legs in slow cooker for at least six hours with a cup and a half to two cups of water. Season with steak seasoning or favorite cooking seasoning Kenny's Original or Creole makes a good taste.

Remove when meat is tender, pull out the bones and place back in the cooker.

Add in a healthy helping of sweet corn, a can of green beans or okra, barley or cut up potatoes, diced onions and small carrots. Let the soup simmer for a few more hours. A clove of garlic and some Anouilh sausage really livens the soup up. Biscuits or cornbread are a welcome addition.

If you have never tried squirrel before, I encourage you to give it a shot and enjoy some soup on a cool fall or cold winter day. You won't regret it.

Copyright 2015 The Westmoreland Journal, Westmoreland, Virginia. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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