How was your bank holiday? Mine was rather…interesting. Apologies in advance to vegetarians, animal lovers…and those who have a delicate stomach…
I went out for the afternoon yesterday while DJ took the car and went fishing. By 8pm I returned home late and grumpy after problems with the local trains on the bank holiday, a particularly annoying replacement bus journey spent in the company of a group of American musicians, and footsore after foolishly wearing uncomfortable shoes in the heat. As I approached home I spied a black object hidden carefully behind a plant pot on the doorstep. My heart leapt…Could it be what I suspected? I approached with trepidation. How long had it been sitting out in the sun?
The handwritten note stuck to it caught my eye. “Shot at 5pm. Nice and fresh, hope you enjoy it! John.” I picked it up and it felt surprisingly light but warm. DJ was not back so I had no choice but to take it indoors myself. Steeling myself, I laid it on the work surface and gingerly peered inside. Sure enough, there were two grey squirrels, perfectly intact, if a little bloody. I was surprised at how little revulsion I felt, considering my fondness for small furry animals.
The gift from John the Poacher wasn’t entirely out of the blue. He popped round last week asking how we’d got on with Mr Bunny and cautiously sounded out our attitude to something more exotic. Grey squirrels are a notorious pest and game keepers are only too happy to be rid of them. However, eating them isn’t as socially acceptable as eating rabbits. In his book Cook on the Wild Side Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says was once reviled by his local press for shooting and cooking a ‘flightless partridge’ as they are known. One woman complained it set a bad example to children and that anyone who killed a squirrel should be forced to eat it. Er…wasn’t that the point?!
DJ had asked whether the grounds where John shoots might lay out poison for them, but fortunately they don’t so the squirrels should be safe to eat.
I waited for DJ to get home before tackling them – never having gutted or skinned anything in my life – and praying we wouldn’t also have to gut some trout. But fortunately for me – rather than him – he hadn’t caught a thing. After a late meal we set to work. This time I wasn’t about to get away with not participating in the skinning and ‘paunching’ (gutting) process, and I suddenly regretted eating so much at dinner as I greenly surveyed DJ laying out the squirrels on the draining board.
The little fellas were surprisingly difficult to skin, perhaps because it was now a few hours after they’d been shot, much harder than the rabbit had been, DJ said. And for less meat as you can only eat the meat on the haunches. I was game initially, but after watching DJ skin his I began to lose heart. “I’m not sure I can do this,” I said faintly. However, I pulled myself together and managed to skin most of my one, although I turned green at the paunching bit and DJ took over.
Now we have to decide what on earth to do with them. For now I think we’re going to do a casserole – probably similar to rabbit recipe as we already have the ingredients – because there isn’t much meat so we need to bulk it out. Especially as John rang asking if we could save a little bit for him!
I’ll let you know how we get on…
Would you eat squirrel or does it go against the grain?