Steven Rinella grew up searching and consuming squirrel in rural Twin Lake, Mich.
So when he moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, six years in the past, and squirrels started exhibiting up by the dozen to steal the ripening tomatoes from his condominium’s 800-square-foot backyard, he figured he’d make a meal out of them, too.
“Generally, I get such a yearning for squirrel meat that I’ll go to extremes to get it,” writes Rinella, 38, in his new searching memoir, “Meat Eater,” out Sept. 4.
That features rigging up snap-type rat traps to seize the small recreation, skinning them over his kitchen sink, cooking them with a “Jamie Oliver-inspired” recipe and serving the ensuing dish — lemon-thyme squirrel — to his spouse, Katie.
“The strategy is of very questionable legality,” he admits within the guide.
Searching squirrel by entice is technically unlawful in New York state (and the state-approved strategies of seize — by searching bow or firearm — are banned in New York Metropolis) — however, since they’re nuisance animals, in line with the state’s Environmental Conservation Legislation, they could be killed at any time in any method by the house owners or occupants if they’re injuring property.
The meal of alternative can also be of questionable style — however not for Rinella.
“Squirrel was a factor folks ate the place I lived. It was a part of the culinary lexicon,” says the suntanned and athletic hunter as he drinks espresso within the spacious kitchen of his new Brooklyn Heights condominium.
He’s no off-the-grid kook — even when skulls and antlers do adorn the partitions of his front room.
His highly effective fashionista spouse — who heads p.r. at Amazon and is 5 months pregnant — is even identified to partake in his meals.
“I used to be reticent,” says Katie, 33, of her first squirrel-eating expertise. “But it surely was a gradual construct [to acceptance].”
Squirrel, she says, “tastes like hen,” with a shrug.
In line with Rinella, it’s additionally completely fit for human consumption — so long as you cook dinner it correctly and observe fundamental kitchen sanitation guidelines (e.g., washing your palms). And its eating regimen — fruit, nuts and seeds — is much more healthful than most New Yorkers’.
Relatively, the true challenge is notion.
“We affiliate some animals with our personal filth,” says Rinella. “We’re disgusted by one thing we expect lives off our refuse. Consider watching a pigeon eat the muffin you simply dropped at an out of doors cafe.”
However a pigeon is simply an grownup squab, he factors out.
Town is teeming with animals that may be eaten, in line with Rinella, together with unprotected species like English sparrows, starlings and — sure — pigeons that may be taken at any time with out restrict (although, as with squirrels, there’s a grey space when it comes to authorized strategies for capturing them).
In-season, you may legally hook fish and internet, hand-capture or entice diamondback terrapins (now we have them right here in Jamaica Bay and the Hudson River).
Or you may deliver your weapons and bows to city-owned water provide lands outdoors metropolis limits reminiscent of these in New Croton and Turkey Mountain in Westchester.
“Hunters [and fishermen] are among the many finest conservationists on the market,” he says, noting that self-imposed excise taxes on gear, about $250 million yearly, goes to preservation.
Nonetheless, it’s important to do your analysis correctly earlier than setting out.
“If somebody wished to expertise some kind of searching life-style [here in NYC], they first should make a research of the legal guidelines and determine what they’re comfy with. Some [laws] are open to some extent of interpretation,” explains Rinella.
As a part of his job because the host of the Sportsman Channel’s present “MeatEater,” Rinella spends his time touring to the world’s premier searching places. (He simply acquired again from three weeks in Alaska, the place he hunted for dall sheep, black bear and caribou.)
And he’s acquired a 27-cubic-foot freezer full of huge recreation to show it.
“After I get again from a searching journey, I’ll usually stroll outdoors and catch myself questioning what the neighbors would take into consideration what I’ve been doing. I can’t assist however think about some stage of disapproval or a minimum of utter bafflement. New Yorkers are extraordinarily different, after all, however we’re typically sharing an city and civilized expertise.”
Even his spouse will be squeamish.
“The entire skinning — I don’t have to see that,” she says, including she’s primarily a takeout eater of the non-squirrel and non-pigeon selection.
Nonetheless, Rinella does all of the cooking when he’s house, whipping up dishes reminiscent of smoked black bear ham and cottontail rabbit hasenpfeffer.
And he says his life-style isn’t as absurd for New Yorkers as it’d initially appear.
“Urbanites are inclined to view consuming as an occasion, a type of leisure,” he says. “They need issues which are new, refreshing, mind-bending. It’s not an enormous stretch for them to take their meals pursuits in a brand new route with wild recreation.”
However he understands his neighbors have their limits. Even he struggles with culinary taboos.
When he was given the chance to eat canine in Vietnam whereas doing a narrative for Outdoors journal on the topic, “I started to sweat simply eager about it,” he says. “We come to consuming with baggage.”
HOW TO EAT SQUIRREL
Although squirrels in different areas have been identified to hold fibromatosis (the South) and babesiosis (California), no such circumstances have been discovered regionally, in line with the NYC Bureau of Communicable Illness.
Rinella recommends cooking squirrel till it’s well-done, in order that the meat tenderizes and is fit for human consumption. The longer you may cook dinner it with out drying it out, the higher.
Steven Rinella’s recipe for Lemon-Thyme Squirrel
1. First, reduce via the cover across the animal’s waist, going all the best way round like a belt. Peel every half of the cover off the squirrel, like eradicating pants and a shirt. As soon as it’s skinned, take away the squirrel’s entrails by making a gutting incision that begins on the pelvis and ends on the sternum. Snip the squirrel up the backbone with kitchen shears, then reduce into quarters by severing every half between the flank and the rib cage.
2. With a fork, pierce every quarter a few dozen instances.
3. With a mortar and pestle, mash coarse salt, recent thyme and garlic right into a pulp. Add olive oil and lemon juice to style.
4. Marinate the meat for a minimum of three hours, however no more than 12.
5. Warmth open grill to a medium-low warmth. Grill squirrel till performed, about 20 minutes, flipping items usually.
HOW TO BAG A SQUIRREL
Cornell College’s Northeast Wildlife Injury Administration Cooperative suggests snap-back rat traps, field traps or cage traps, and says efficient bait consists of apple slices, unshelled walnuts, peanut butter, corn and sunflower seeds. When utilizing field or cage traps, tie the entice doorways open for 2 to a few days, to permit squirrels to turn out to be accustomed to feeding there. Then set the traps and verify them twice a day.