by Dave Kraft
Squirrel season is always a chance for me to get my kids in the woods and do some scouting for deer at the same time. Often I’ll end up with only a couple of squirrels and came up with this recipe to get a full meal or appetizers out of a couple of squirrels. The start of squirrel season also usually lines up with flushes of all kinds of wild mushrooms in the Midwest. The other inspiration for this one was filling a game bag with Hen of the Woods while out carrying the shotgun along for squirrels.
1 12 oz. beer
½ cup apple cider
4-6 oz. wild mushrooms (I prefer hen of the woods)
¼ cabbage OR 4 oz. sauerkraut OR 4 oz. brussels sprout kraut
Splash of rice vinegar
1-2 cubes venison demi-glace
1 package egg roll wrappers
First you need to braise the squirrels, as these are made with the shredded meat from them. It’s not particularly critical how many pieces you break them down into, and I’ve even done them whole. I keep it simple. A little salt and pepper and brown the pieces with some olive oil in a small dutch oven.
Once the squirrels are browned, I’ll pour in a beer, the apple cider and water
to cover them if need be based on the size of the vessel. Then into the oven covered at about 275 degrees. Usually this takes around two hours until you can shred the meat from the bone, but it may vary. An Instapot will get this done in about 15 minutes, but I usually go the old fashioned route.
Once the squirrels are cooled, shred all the meat from the bones and reserve. Be careful to pick out the small bones, and any shot you may find if you got them with a shotgun.
While the squirrels cook, break down the hen of the woods into small pieces for browning. You could do this with any number of wild or store-bought mushrooms, but I like the connection of finding the hens on the oaks where I’m chasing squirrels.
I also like to have some kind of cabbage in for texture and some brightness. After some experimentation I’ve settled on kraut. Usually I have some brussels sprouts ready in the garden around the same time and like throwing those in a lacto-ferment for a week to 10 days with some chilis for some spice, but store-bought kraut works just fine.
Start by browning the mushrooms in some butter in a pan. I throw the kraut and squirrel meat in once the mushrooms start to get a little color on them, salt and pepper to taste. After browning everything, I deglaze the pan with a splash of rice vinegar and a cube or two of frozen venison demi I usually have in the freezer. This isn’t critical, but adds a little depth to the mixture.
I let everything cool enough to handle and then wrap the rolls with the mixture. I can usually get somewhere between eight and 12, depending upon the size of the squirrels and how full I make them. After that I fry them up in canola or peanut oil at around 350 degrees, and they’re ready to serve.
I usually make up a batch of the wild grape sweet sour sauce below, but the packets from Chinese takeout or whatever you can find at the store will work just fine too.
Wild Grape Sweet Sour Sauce
¾ cup wild grape juice
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tbsp siracha
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
Combine everything in a small sauce pan and bring to a low boil on medium and reduce for approximately 5 minutes until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.