The grey squirrels were imported from North America during the Victorian era. Since then, they have become one of the largest pests in the whole of the UK. They cause considerable damage to woodlands, houses, and our native wildlife.
Greys are carriers of the squirrel pox virus, which is fatal for native reds, outcompete the smaller cousin for food and are known to predate on chicks and eggs of our native bird species. Their population needs to be widely managed.
Despite all of this, the flavour and texture of their meat is hugely underestimated.
This potted squirrel dish makes for a perfect starter, and you will be doing our native woodlands and wildlife a huge favour by serving squirrel for dinner. Squirrels don’t have a lot of meat, but with some careful preparation and slow cooking, you can get most of the meat off the bones.
Potted squirrel with chutney and toast
Sometimes, it is better to use squirrel as a starter than commit a whole main course to the species. This dish can be prepared well ahead of time and makes the most of the squirrel. Serve with your favourite fruity chutney.
- 2 oven-ready squirrels, jointed into 3 pieces each
- 150g smoked streaky bacon
- 500ml dry white wine
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 celery stick, sliced
- 1 brown onion, roughly diced
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs of sage
- 1tsp black peppercorns
- 50g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 small handful parsley, chopped
- 100g salted butter
- 1 ciabatta loaf
- olive oil
- apple chutney and salad leaves to serve
This recipe is perfect for the slow cooker, however, it is equally suitable for the traditional pan on the stove.
- Tie 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs rosemary and 2 sprigs of sage together.
- Add the wine, squirrel, bacon, chopped vegetables, garlic, the bundle of herbs, and the peppercorns to the pot.
- Season generously with salt and bring up to temperature on the highest setting (or to the boil on the stove).
- Once it starts to bubble, check that all the meat is covered. If not, add a small amount of water.
- Leave on a medium temperature if using a slow cooker, or transfer to the oven at 130°C for 5 hours until the squirrel is very tender, the vegetables are soft, and the bacon is starting to fall apart.
- Carefully remove the squirrel pieces from the pot and place on a tray. Allow to cool slightly.
- Lift out the bacon and shred it with two forks. Transfer to a mixing bowl, strain and reserve the liquid (it makes a fantastic soup, but we may need a little for this recipe, too).
- Once the squirrel cooled down, carefully pick the meat off the bones and mix with the bacon. Be careful to check and discard any small bones that might have been left with the meat.
- Mix the squirrel and bacon together, shredding the meat as you go. Add the chopped hazelnuts and chopped, check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if required.
- If your mix is very dry, add a small amount of the liquid you’ve saved earlier to moisten the meat (add a tablespoon at a time until you are happy with the consistency).
- Divide the mixture between four ramekins. Allow a small amount of space at the top for the butter seal. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the meat to begin to set.
- Gently heat the butter on a low heat. Skim off any scum on top as it melts and allow the milky residue to drop to the bottom. Pour the clarified butter over the top of the meat mix to top off the ramekins.
- Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The flavour will improve with time, so we recommend making these well in advance, as they’ll keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- To serve, remove the ramekins from the fridge 10 minutes prior to serving to allow to warm slightly.
- Slice your ciabatta loaf, rub with olive oil and grill on each side.
- Serve the squirrel with fruity chutney, dressed salad leaves and grilled ciabatta.