Conservation and Trapping Science

Trapping and eating muskrat and (recipes) on the Eastern Shore
Jan 26, 2022 06:33 ET

[Reprinted from original]

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I had a younger brother who would trap and hunt whatever was in season. My dad was very happy when he came home with rabbits and squirrels. He would also clean them for mom. The only thing he could not get my dad to eat was the muskrat, better known as the marsh rabbit. He sold the meat to local folks who loved it, and mom loved it because he sold them as fast as he trapped them. My brother would save the hides and stretch them on a special piece of board designed to fit the hide. He had them drying out for a certain number of days and then would package them up and ship them to his buyer. His buyer was the late Mr. Clark Harrison Sr. of Preston.

After several shippings, Mr Harrison would send my brother a check. Preston seemed like a faraway town back then, and now I live just a few miles away. Years ago I contacted Mr. Harrison and told him the story of my 14-year-old brother, who later retired from the United States Army and did three tours of duty in Vietnam in the 1960s. I will dedicate today’s column to those two men — the late Clark Harrison Sr and the late USA Retired Ollie Lowe Hitchens Jr.

You guessed it — I never tasted muskrat or marsh rabbit, but I cooked it. The first one I ever cooked was right in my Preston Road kitchen under the guidance of my late husband, John Williamson Sr., who loved them and knew how to cook this marsh rabbit. So here we go ...

JOHN R.’S FAVORITE MUSKRAT

Trap, clean and cut muskrat in half. Soak in a large pot of cold salted water for several hours — changing water several times. Finally, after draining well, place the meat in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, boiling for 5 minutes.

Remove meat from the pot, rinse and clean out the pot well. Then spray the pot with a non-stick cooking spray, add the meat, half cover with water. Cook until meat falls apart.

Add to taste, sage, red pepper, salt and bacon or sausage grease. Don’t be afraid of adding any of these ingredients and just keep adding until you can taste all of them.

Cook down as much as you want, but do not let it cook dry.

Serve with a favorite potato dish of your choice and a green vegetable.

MUSKRAT STEW

Clean, cut in pieces, and soak three muskrats in cold water and salt. After at least two hours, drain water off and rinse meat well.

In a large pot, place the meat and just enough water to cover them. Add 2 teaspoons ground sage, 1/2 teaspoon bacon grease, salt and pepper to taste.

Let cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 hours. Start on high heat until it starts boiling, then reduce heat to simmering. Let cook until meat is falling off the bone.

Serve over cooked rice.

FRIED MARSH

RABBIT

Clean, cut up and soak 1 or 2 marsh rabbits in salty water for several hours — changing water several times. Rinse well in several changes of water. Remove from water and pat dry.

In a large bowl add flour, sage, salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces of meat in the flour mixture and place in a fry pan with cooking oil and add 2 or 3 strips of bacon.

Brown on both sides, adding sage if needed. When meat is browned on both sides, add some water to the pan, turn heat down and let simmer as the meat becomes tender and a gravy forms.

MUSKRAT

MEATLOAF

You can make just about anything nowadays into a meat loaf. Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs. ground muskrat, 2 eggs, beaten,1/8 c. dry crumbs, 1 c. evaporated milk, 1/4 onion, minced or grated, 1/4 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce.

Soak muskrat overnight in salted water 1 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water. Remove meat from bones and grind. Mix thoroughly with other ingredients. Place in meat loaf dish. Bake in a oven, 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hours to 2 hours.

To end today’s column, I found a recipe my mom wrote down for me back in the 1970s. I used it many times and have it preserved in plastic because it is in her handwriting and brings back memories. It is simply titled “To Cook Muskrat.”

TO COOK MUSKRAT

Soak in salt water, changing the water 3-4 times or until water is clear. Rinse the carcass to get out some of the salty taste. Cut into pieces as you would a chicken.

Pat dry and place in a large mixing bowl. Add coat with white flour, salt to taste, black pepper and sage to taste — about 1 tablespoon. Coat well and place in a frying pan with hot oil. Fry as you would chicken, turning on both sides.

Drain on paper towels when done and make a gravy with the drippings.

Check out your local fire departments for upcoming muskrat dinners as they are very popular. Many local waterman and farmers trap this delicacy in the winter and sell the hides and meat to many who love this dish