Reaction to last week’s column (“Ever Eat a Groundhog?”) was interesting, to say the least. While most people turned up their noses at the notion of feasting on Punxsutawney Phil’s kinfolks, those who confessed to have partaken of groundhog claimed that it’s more than tolerable.
It’s downright tasty.
“My granny cooked groundhogs all the time when I was a kid,” one friend, who insisted on remaining anonymous for the purposes of this column, told me. “We thought they were delicious.”
That may be because, like squirrels and rabbits, groundhogs are “clean eaters” who munch only on vegetation. Which is one reason farmers and gardeners hate them. Henry David Thoreau famously said that “a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across my path is enough to make me want to seize and devour him raw.” Thoreau added that any groundhog who ate his green beans would likely find itself the main course at the supper table.
Those who wish to walk on the culinary wild side by sampling groundhog can, thank goodness, legally help themselves to road kill in Tennessee. A
groundhog-slaying dog like Sophie is another option. Or a .22-rifle. I won’t go
into the gory details of how to field dress a groundhog once it’s dead, but it’s
pretty much the same as for any other wild game. Drain the blood, gut it, skin
it. And be sure to slice off the groundhog’s scent glands, which are located
under the forearms and in the small of the back.
Then into the kitchen the groundhog goes. Not surprisingly, young groundhogs are the choice of discriminating chefs because they’re more tender than older, bigger ones. But whatever the groundhog’s age and size, it’s important to remove all visible fat before cutting the carcass into bite-sized pieces. Some cooks suggest soaking the meat overnight in milk, but most prefer a half-and-half
solution of vinegar and water.
After the tenderizing is done, it’s time to cook. Most recipes recommend parboiling the groundhog as Step One. Then it can be prepared it in any of the
- Put it in a pot with potatoes and carrots and onions and simmer into a delicious stew.
- Bake it in the oven in a brown paper bag, which will absorb the grease and seal in
the juice. Add sweet potatoes to the sack if you wish.
- Dredge it in flour and fry it in Crisco, just like chicken.
- Shish kabob it on the grill with bell peppers and pineapple chunks.
Whatever method you choose, most cooks recommend that you not tell your dinner guests what they’re eating. Some people get squeamish over the silliest things. It’s also wise to warn them not to overindulge, as groundhog tends to have a laxative effect.
I’ll close by recounting one of those I-can’t-believe-this-happened coincidences that make me shake my head in amazement and gratitude. About an hour into writing the first draft of this column, I took a break and let Sophie out for a quick romp in the pasture. Can you guess what happened? Yep. She killed yet another
groundhog. Because it was relatively small and because it’s cookout season, I’ve decided to prepare this one as shish kabobs.
Supper’s at six. Come on over, if you dare.
(June 16, 2013)