Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jane’s Varmint Vittles

Last night was a first for us! I love trying new foods, and this was a doozy.

Our friend Jane P. lives in a nice, wooded neighborhood in sophisticated, college-town Columbia (so don’t be going on about hillbillies here); she’s a foodie, I suppose—though she goes far beyond simple classifications like that.

Anyway, Jane has a couple of dogs, Wagner and Porter, and they . . . well, hunt things. They’re dogs! And this week a woodchuck had the misfortune, or the poor judgment, to get caught inside their dog-fence with them.

When Jane came upon the situation, the dogs were playing tug-o-war with the deceased woodchuck.

Most people would have chucked the woodie into the woods, or thrown it in the trash, or buried it, but not Jane, oh-no-no-no. Jane drained and skinned and gutted it, and made it into a stew!

And not just any stew, mind you—this was fantastic stuff, with big chunks of carrots and onion, as well as fresh local chanterelle mushrooms (yeah, in nice big pieces).

So she had us and her friend Rod over for dinner last night, to sample the culinary wonder that is woodchuck. Groundhog. Whistle pig. Land beaver.

“What did it taste like?” you ask.

It tasted great! Better than beef, in my opinion. Tender and rich, kind of sweet in a way. Yes, slightly “gamey,” but not overly so; in fact it was quite mild. And not stringy or tough at all.

As we ate, Jane explained that part of its tastiness might be from it being a fairly young animal—probably in its first year of life—and a female (thus less musky). Also, Jane had done her homework on cooking woodchuck and had removed the creature’s scent glands prior to any cooking, which probably helped the flavor immensely.

To round out the meal, Jane also served us fresh cooked greens, a medley of diced squash and red bell peppers, roasted potatoes and onions, and a bowl of fresh wild persimmons. It was a truly special, delicious meal, and we felt like royalty.

I had asked what we could bring, and Jane—based on a sample she’d tasted—suggested an “old-vine Zinfandel.” Which I promptly went out and bought. Although I did ask the lady at the wine department, anyway: “What can you suggest: I’m looking for a wine that would pair well with woodchuck . . .” Yeah, I asked just to see the look on her face.

I also brought a blackberry pie that I picked up from a Mennonite lady at the Cole County Farmer’s Market.

It was all incredibly delicious . . . and the dogs got to lick the plates.

Epilogue. Four minutes after we said goodnight and left, Jane tells us, the dogs had murdered an opossum in their enclosed area. Jane was tired; it was a work night. . . . She flung it over the fence!


Anonymous said...

Comment from a retired game warden: Groundhogs may be taken and possesed in any number from the closing date of the spring turkey season until February 15 by the holder of a hunting permit. A landowner or lessee does not need a permit if hunting on property of 5 acres or more. I suppose using dogs is OK.

Julie said...

Thanks for the official word on Missouri's groundhog hunting regulations. Now, if we could only get Jane's dogs to bone up on all those rules!

BonnieChasteen said...

Oh, this is a good one! Especially the epilogue! Groundhogs, yummy--possums, eeeew!

Ry said...

What a wonderful contrast to the wasteful ways of people these days. Sounds yummy, tastes like squirrel? If the scent glands had been punctured by the canines would it have been a different story?

Julie said...

It's been a long time since I've eaten squirrel, so I can't say. And I'm not sure about the scent glands--I think the main idea is to not STEW the scent glands along with the rest of the meat. Sue's dad used to boil woodchucks he'd shot on his farm (in farm-land, they're good-fer-nothin varmints, ya know) and feed the meat to his hunting dogs. Apparently he didn't remove any scent glands, and Sue said the boiling meat really didn't smell very good. At ALL.

Agreed about the waste. Around here, woodchucks are quite commonly killed by cars. But there's a huge taboo against eating roadkill!

Anonymous said...

I feel bad about wasting a perfectly good opposum. - Jane P