How to Cook a Groundhog

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
following ways:

  • 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)





9 thoughts on “How to Cook a Groundhog”

  1. I have set a live trap at the church I attend, because one whistlepig has made his den (with two entrances/exits) under the corner of the church foundation. After two days… he laughs at me from the middle of the church yard. I have off Monday. Time to lay in wait. I may add garlic and cayene pepper to the stew.

  2. Well,if you are of a mind to invite folks for supper,could I bring some wine?Got a good batch of sweet blackberry going,but the raw honey mead I did might go better.

  3. Thanks for your advice. were about to try our first groundhog tonight. he was about 8 pounds and we’re going to try to grill him whole in aluminum foil for the first try.
    I’m going to fill the ribcage with new potatoes and white onion.
    My papaw did beaver this way.

  4. Thank you so much for this article. Thanks to my husband and a hunting buddy, I’ve had two groundhog carcasses sitting in my deep freezer with no earthly idea how to prepare them. Now I know, AND I now have some helpful tips (i.e., cutting off excess fat first, soaking overnight to tenderize, and caution on portion-size). Very helpful information!!!

  5. I have eaten lots of groundhogs without removing any scent glands and never thought the meat had an objectionable scent or taste. I have also never removed any of the fat because, as is the case with all meat, that’s where the flavor is. We country boys simply skinned and gutted the critters, and placed the disjointed carcasses in water (with no presoaking) and boiled them until the flesh was tender enough to pull off the bones. Then we put the pulled meat in an aluminum roast pan which was set on one side of a grill rather than directly over the coals where it was dried out a bit and smoked. Stir in your barbecue sauce of choice and make yourself a groundhog sandwich. Never heard any complaints from those that ate this.

  6. I have been hunting and eating ground hog for years and I am 82. After skinning , you usually can only eat the legs, put the meat in a pot of boiling water with a quartered potato. Let it cook for 30 to 45 min. Then you. can cook it any way you wish, fry, bake, bar be que. Hope you like this. Thanks.

  7. The first time I had groundhog, it was in a small tavern in Whitmer, (not sure about the correct spelling) WV, and boy was it good! I was in the Army and stationed at Ft. Myer, VA at the time and went with a friend to his home there over a weekend. This was in 1975.

    Those people there in that small town treated me like Family and really made a lasting impression on me, to say the least!

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