How to cook a squirrel
An increasing number of chefs are including squirrel on the menu. But what is it like and how do you cook it? Fergus Collins tried his hand at squirrel rillettes
I live in a Welsh woodland. It's a beautiful place but huge numbers of young trees are damaged, many mortally wounded, by the actions of grey squirrels. They can be a problem. Recently I watched Gill Miller cook squirrels at the Abergavenny Food Festival and I began to think that perhaps some of these cheeky tree-acrobats might provide a few meals in the winter months.
Uncannily a few days later, my dog Idris, a whippet lurcher who can run 100m in about 4 seconds caught a squirrel while on a walk. By the time I caught up with him, he'd injured it so I had to put it out of its misery. I do not enjoy killing things but I decided to take the little creature home and put it to good use.
I found a few ideas online and this is what I came up with: a sort of squirrel rillettes/paté cooked in my pressure cooker.
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 rashers of bacon, chopped
5 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
Sprig of marjoram
glug of olive oil
500 ml dry cider
salt and pepper
2. Fry the bacon in olive oil
3. Add carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf and juniper berries
4. Add the squirrel
5. Pressure cook for 30 minutes
6. Leave to cool then pick the meat off the bones.
7. Spread on toast and serve.
I thought it was delicious – slightly gamey but sweet and full of flavour from the herbs and cider. It might have benefitted from a slice of cornichon served on top.
I offered squirrel on toast to the Countryfile Magazine team and others in the office and, of those who tried it, nine out of 10 said it was delicious. There was some trepidation about eating squirrel but I would rank it higher than supermarket chicken or wild rabbit in terms of flavour.