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How do you clean and cook a squirrel?

Dear Cecil:

With the price of meat as high as it is these days, I wondered how I, as a city dweller, might hunt and eat my own game. I'm thinking of squirrels. There seem to be enough to go around. Assuming I could catch one, how should I clean and cook it?

E. Hemingway, Los Angeles

Cecil replies:

Dear E.:

This isn’t such a hot idea. City squirrels are inordinately fond of rabies and other diseases, some of which can be transmitted through mere skin contact. If your diet lacks meat protein but you lack cash, I suggest you develop a taste for a meat substitute, such as soybeans or Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers.

Country-bred squirrels are another matter, however, and if you ever have the chance to try one you might wish to employ the following foolproof preparation method (note to weak-stomached readers–skip to the next question pronto):

Wearing gloves at all times (to protect against other, less insidious, infections), take a sharp knife and cut lengthwise through the squirrel’s tailbone from the underside, stopping before you reach the skin of the back. Next, hold the tail away from the body (the squirrel’s) and make slices across the lower back to widen the strip of skin that connects the tail to the body. You can now peel your squirrel like a banana–grasp the hind legs, step on the tail, and pull slowly, peeling the skin off the head and front legs.

After cutting the remaining skin from the hind legs, remove the head and feet, then slit the body down the front and remove the internal organs. The squirrel has small, elusive glands in the small of his back and in the pits of his forelegs–these too must be removed. Wash the body thoroughly with a mixture of water and vinegar.

So, your mouth is watering, right? OK, now you can cook the squirrel meat just as you would cook chicken, using whatever your favorite recipe may be. (Shake ‘N’ Bake, however, is not in keeping with the true spirit of the endeavor.) The tastiest squirrels are the grey ones, red squirrels being both too skinny and too gamey. For a more tender squirrel, hang the cleaned body up by what’s left of the legs for two or three days.

Bon appetit.

Cecil Adams

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