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Monday, May 12, 2008

Ethical Meat: Squirrel?

Maybe I'm "ahead of the times", but I recall spending many an hour on the APPLE II at school playing Oregon Trail and testing my hunting skills by shooting every moving critter - including the squirrels. Sure, it wasted some bullets, and sure, it only netted me 1 or 2 pounds of meat with each kill, but I knew that squirrel meat must have tasted yummy, and I like to think it led to my family staving off the cholera and dysentery until I slammed the wagon into a rock on the last river just to be a jerk. Then again, I'm he type of jerk who would name their family members after the various health problems just to see messages like "Cholera has a broken leg" and "Broken Leg has cholera" flashing on the screen.

I digress. As it turns out, squirrel meat isn't just a hilarious appetizer on an old-school computer game. It's turning up as a delicacy in England. That's right, I've been able to bring you stories of dogmeat in Korea, Aussies eating feral cats, rat buffets in China and now of Grey Squirrel Pasties in merry ol' England!

Once again, I have to state: I've always advocated the notion that things made of meat (other than humans) can be eaten. I will admittedly draw the line when it comes to humans - not out of any ethical or moral reasoning, but because that would mean that I could be eaten and that doesn't benefit me in the least. I'm also not that hugely in favor of eating things that could become extinct. However, I do believe that those animals should be bred in captivity like you would on any farm, just to keep the numbers up and set aside a nice fat percentage for consumption.

The grey squirrel - not to be confused with the red squirrel, an endangered British creature - is apparently low in fat and high in flavor. Since they're free-range and have low "food miles" (which I believe is a term describing the distance between the kill and the store), grey squirrel is being declared an "ethical meat". Butchers can't keep them on the shelves, either.

"We put it on the shelf and it sells. It can be a dozen squirrels a day - and they all go," said David Simpson, the director of Kingsley Village shopping centre in Fraddon, Cornwall, whose game counter began selling grey squirrel meat two months ago.

There's no disagreement on whether or not the meat should be sold and consumed - since customers have been gobbling them up ever since they appeared in the shops - but there is some disagreement on the taste. Some say it's a taste like wild boar. Others would liken it to duck or lamb. All in all, everyone agrees that it's tasty - possibly because the squirrel's diet consists of nuts and berries which leave the meat tasting sweet and moist.

Butchers are even selling them as patriotism, that for every grey squirrel being killed and eaten, that's food and shelter that is now available for the endangered red squirrels. The motto is, of course, "'Eat a grey and save a red." Of course, it's pretty obvious that most British squirrel-buyers aren't really doing it to "be green" or patriotic or anything like that. It's probably purely the novelty of eating squirrel meat. And even though it's a niche market in the meat world, there's plenty of room to expand. After all, there's about five million grey squirrels in England and they've been selling at 3.50 Euro (about $5.25 USD) apiece.

The meat itself is akin to rabbit, with most of the meat coming from the rear legs. So far, the meat has been used to popularize recipes such as Southern-fried squirrel, tandoori-style squirrel and fricasseed squirrel with Cornish cream and walnuts. The most popular seems to be Cornish squirrel pasties. Thanks to Kevin Viner, former chef-proprietor of Pennypots who now runs Viners bar and restaurant at Summercourt, we have a recipe for this squirrely dish:

Squirrel Pasties

Ingredients:

140g squirrel meat cut into 1cm cubes;

100g sliced potato; 100g sliced swede; 50g diced onion; 30g smoked bacon;

15g chopped hazelnuts; 75g butter;

5g chopped parsley; a good pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

· Egg wash edges of pastry circles.

· Place the potato, swede, hazelnuts, parsley and seasoning on to each circle followed by the bacon, squirrel meat and, finally, the onion.

· Place butter in each pasty, then fold over the pastry and crimp the edges.

· Put the pasties on to a greaseproof baking tray, egg wash both pasties well, place in a pre-heated oven at 180C or gas mark 5.

· Bake for 45-50 minutes. The juices should start to boil and the pasties should be able to move on the tray with ease.

So we've now got yet another country willing to eat meat from animals that we in America still shun the idea of consuming.

When are we going to be able to eat horse, dog, cat, squirrel and rat meat? It's working in other countries! They're not riddled with such a huge hunger problem because they have all of these viable options for meat! Maybe it's because other countries don't have our problem of huge uprisings of uppity PETA members getting in our faces and shoving their noses on our dinner plates!

What do you think? Is it finally time for the U.S. to stop turning up our noses at the thought of other edible critters on our plate? Don't you just hate PETA?

(The squirrelly-tasty article from the UK)


2 comments:

Rubyfruit said...

Hmm...

This entry is interesting, but I have to ask you one thing:

As squirrels are, like rats and mice, wild rodents, should one worry about the risk of rabies when eating or serving squirrel meat?

If not, then I'd love to try that recipe for squirrel pasties. Sounds tasty.

tim said...

Good Job! :)